Year 1: Research Rotations, Coursework, & Join a Thesis Lab

Research Rotations.  Rotations help students make an informed decision regarding their thesis lab.  Students must complete at least three six-week rotations in their first year.  Opportunities to rotate are available both on Washington University’s Danforth and Medical Campuses, as well as at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Missouri Botanical Garden.  At least one rotation must be conducted at Washington University with a mentor whose primary affiliation is with the PMB Program.  In addition to rotations, students take two PMB core courses, one required course in the division, and one advanced elective during their first year.


Coursework.  Click here to read more about the PMB program coursework.

Year 2: Teaching, Coursework, Qualifying Exam (QE), & Thesis Proposal

Coursework and QE are completed during the second year.  Students then develop a thesis proposal and devote their efforts almost entirely to research, with participation in journal clubs and seminar series providing ongoing education and the development of public speaking and presentation skills.

Teaching Experience.  During the 2nd year, students participate in a mentored teaching experience.  Course assignments are made with the student’s background and interests in mind.  Students can also pursue more in-depth teaching professional development opportunities through The Teaching Center.

Qualifying Examination (QE).  This exam is a literature-based “general” exam testing the ability to read primary research articles, synthesize information, and apply critical thinking and analysis to important biological questions across disciplines.  Generally, QEs take place in January/February of year 2.

Thesis Proposal.  Before June 1st of the student’s second year, they must assemble a Thesis Committee, prepare a written thesis proposal, and give an oral presentation to the committee.  You can read more about the thesis committee, thesis proposal, and thesis updates in the program guidelines.

Years 3-5:  Thesis Research, Publications, and Defense

A student’s Ph.D. thesis is expected to be of high quality, acceptable for publication in reputable, refereed journals (typically, students have one or more first-authored papers published prior to the thesis defense), and original.  The thesis defense is a public seminar followed by a closed question and answer session with the examining committee.