FAQ - Specific Questions About Our Program

The cluster system was developed to coordinate the activities of the many Ph.D. granting programs in the Biological Sciences Division. The key function it serves is a shared recruiting and admissions process and a shared annual retreat. In addition, the Molecular Biosciences Cluster has an open policy which allows for the transfer of students from one program to another within the cluster to accommodate students whose academic interests shift during the first year.

As far as students are concerned, Departments and Committees are essentially the same; both types of groups run Ph.D. training programs. Departments control faculty hires and allocate lab space. Committees are interdepartmental groupings of faculty who share common research approaches and interests.

GGSB is designed to provide broad, in-depth training in diverse areas of genetics. These areas include population genetics, evolution, molecular genetics, genomics, systems biology, transmission genetics, model organism genetics, and human genetics.

Yes. Although it is often desirable to find the right home during one of the first two rotations, an additional rotation is allowed and sometimes recommended for the second half of the summer (5 weeks). Decisions about rotations are made in consultation with members of the Student Affairs Committee.

The objective of the Preliminary Exam is to determine the strength of a student’s general knowledge of genetics as well as his/her ability to synthesize an overview of literature on a particular topic of interest. This exam is taken in September following the student’s first year and before the start of the student's second year. Students are given a list of questions to choose from and have two weeks to prepare. They give an oral presentation of their answers to a committee of three faculty members.

Yes. In the event the student chooses to work with a faculty member who does not have an appointment in the GGSB, the student must petition the Committee for approval.

The Qualifying Exam evaluates the student’s ability to propose and defend a doctoral thesis research plan. It occurs at the end of the second year after the student has spent approximately 10 months in his/her thesis lab. Students prepare a written research proposal and also present their proposal orally. The Exam Committee is chosen by the student and mentor in consultation with the Student Affairs Committee. After the Qualifying Exam, the Exam Committee becomes the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee.

The student and mentor propose three to four faculty they feel are best suited to advise on the research topic. The Student Advisory Committee reviews the proposal and sometimes recommends an additional member be added. At least three members of the Thesis Advisory Committee must have appointments in the GGSB.

After the initial meeting at the Qualifying Exam, students meet at least once a year with their Thesis Advisory Committee. A brief written report is provided to the committee members before hand to help them prepare for the meeting.

The ability to communicate verbally and teach is important for a successful research career. All students are required to serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) for two quarters. The TAship requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the fourth year of study.

The average time to a degree in GGSB is 5.5 to 6.0 years.

Master’s Degrees – Transitional and Terminal

The Committee on Genetics, Genomics & Systems Biology gives Transitional and Terminal Master's Degrees.

Transitional Master’s Degrees

Upon completing all course requirements with a “B” average and successfully passing the Preliminary and Qualifying Examinations, GGSB students will receive a Transitional MS degrees.  However, the Transitional MS Degree will only be issued once the student has successfully defended his/her thesis (not after Qualifying Exams). 

Terminal Master’s Degrees

A student who decides not to complete his/her Ph.D. candidacy (or who loses Ph.D. candidacy status but has completed all course requirements with a “B” average) and has successfully passed the Preliminary Examination may be eligible for a Terminal Master’s degree.  The Steering Committee makes final decisions with respect to the granting of Terminal Master’s degrees.

Learn more about housing offerings for graduate students. Be sure to explore the city of Chicago’s many distinctive neighborhoods, which offer a wide variety of housing options. Whatever your lifestyle, there is a housing option accessible to campus that meets your needs.