The first year of graduate study is spent completing coursework, exploring research opportunities and doing laboratory rotations.

Core Classes and Electives

Graduate students in the Biological Sciences Division are required to take nine credits of coursework for the Ph.D. program. Each class is one credit.

  • 4 required courses in Genetics
  • 4 electives
  • 2 graded lab rotations for 1/2 credit each

In addition to the course requirements, students attend the Faculty Research Seminar Series (also referred to as “AllStars”), to acquaint themselves with the research community and potential mentors. All first year students in the Biological Sciences Division are required to attend a scientific ethics course.

Required Courses

  • Genetic Analysis of Model Organisms   PLUS
  • Genomics & Systems Biology    PLUS one of the following three courses:
  • Molecular Biology I OR Molecular Biology II

Students must then choose one of the following to satisfy their final course requirement:

  • Fundamentals of Molecular Evolution  OR
  • Principals of Population Genetics I  OR
  • Evolutionary Genomics  OR
  • Human Variation and Disease

Click below for a list of GGSB course descriptions, elective and student tracks:


Students are required to undertake short research projects in at least two different laboratories before beginning their dissertation research. These rotations occur during the Spring and Summer quarters of the first academic year. Spring quarter rotations are 10 weeks long (part-time). Summer quarter rotations are five weeks long (full-time).

Preliminary Exam

In September of the second year of the program, students take the Preliminary Exam as a first step towards candidacy for their Ph.D. This is an oral exam in front of an exam committee during which students present answers to questions