Education


If you are searching for outstanding training in biochemistry and molecular biology, you should explore what we have to offer....

Program Description

The Department of Biochemistry offers a graduate program leading to the M.S. degree. This is a research-oriented degree program comprised of graduate course work and supervised research leading to a Master's thesis. The Master of Science program involves approximately one year of course work and a research thesis performed under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The M.S. degree can be completed on a part-time basis. After consultations with faculty and the Chair, students should choose an advisor as quickly as possible. The Advisor assists the student with selection of a Graduate Advisory Committee which consists of the Faculty Advisor, at least one member of the Biochemistry faculty and at least 1 member from another department. The Graduate Advisory Committee assists the student with their course plan, advises on the thesis project, approves the thesis, and conducts the final examination. After the committee has been formed, the Graduate Student Advisory Committee must be submitted for approval. This information is submitted by the student through GradTrak. Full-time students can begin immediately to carry out supervised research in the laboratory of their advisor. A thesis project should be chosen by the student by the end of the first semester in consultation with the advisor.


Final Oral Examination

MS candidates must pass a final oral examination. The Graduate Advisory Committee must meet during the semester in which the student intends to defend and approve the student’s request to file a graduation application. The student’s advisory committee must approve of the filing of a graduation application before the graduate program director can sign the graduation application. Departmental approval forms can be obtained from http://www.biochemistry.vcu.edu/Education/forms.html). A Dean’s representative must be present at the final MS examination. This individual should be a member of the graduate faculty who does not hold a primary appointment in the Department of Biochemistry. The student should schedule the Final Oral Examination using an Exam Scheduling Form (available on GradTrak). A written thesis approved by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee completes the requirements leading to the M.S. degree.


Thesis

Upon completion of their research project, the student writes a thesis which is reviewed by the Graduate Advisory Committee. In addition, the committee must approve of the thesis before the final exam scheduling form can be submitted and approved by the Program Director. The student must submit the thesis to his/her Committee at least 10 working days before submission of the final exam scheduling form which, in turn, must be submitted at least 10 working days before the defense. As such, students should allow approximately 20 working days between submission of the thesis and the date of the final defense. Departmental permission forms for filing of the graduation application and final exam scheduling form are available at http://www.biochemistry.vcu.edu/Education/forms.html. The thesis is then defended in a final oral examination which is open to the public, but only the student's Graduate Advisory Committee votes on passage of the exam.


Biochemistry & Molecular Biology MS Program

Support/ Financial Aid-Students in the M.S. program do not receive financial support from the Department of Biochemistry, although a student working on a thesis project can be employed as a research assistant on their advisor's research grant. In addition, various forms of financial aid are available for graduate students through the University Services/Financial Aid Office. A form to request financial aid through that mechanism is included in the application package.


MS Curriculum in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

MS students in Biochemistry take courses designed for graduate students with an emphasis on research design and experimentation. MS students must amass at least 24 credit hours (exclusive of research credits). The VCU School of Graduate Studies stipulates that “Generally, a maximum of one third of the didactic hours required for a master’s degree or any graduate certificate program may be transferred from another VCU program or outside institution. Acceptance of transfer credit is made at the school level.” The GPC will review all requests for transfer of credit and forward them to the School of Graduate Studies for approval. For students holding the MD, DDS, or other professional degrees, successful completion of biochemistry/ cell biology is equivalent to the BIOC 503-504 series.


The following graduate courses are required and constitute the core courses of the curriculum:

  • BIOC 505: Experimental Biochemistry (research rotation) (typically year 01)
  • BIOC 503: Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology I (typically year 01)
  • BIOC 504: Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology II (typically year 01)
  • BIOC 602: Physical Properties of Macromolecules (1-4 modules, typically year 01)*
  • BIOC 604: Enzymology (1-3 modules, typically year 02)*
  • BIOC 690.901: Biochemistry Seminar (each semester)
  • BIOC 691.901: Special Topics in Biochemistry / Student Journal Club (each semester)
  • BIOC 691.904: Special Topics in Biochemistry: Critical Thinking (typically year 01)
  • MICR 512: Laboratory Safety (typically year 01)
  • OVPR 601: Scientific Integrit, or OVPR 602: Responsible Scientific Conduc, or OVPR 603: Responsible Conduct of Research (typically year 02)
  • BIOC 697: Directed research in Biochemistry (each semester)

* Students will select modules from 602 and 604 to get 4 credits (at least 1 credit from each)

The core set of required courses can be supplemented with elective courses offered by the department of Biochemistry or other departments. Electives may include: Enzymology, Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology, Signal Transduction, Techniques in Molecular Biology & Genetics, Bioinformatics, Statistics, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, Mammalian Physiology, Advanced organic and Physical Chemistry, among others.

A typical course plan for the full-time M.S. student is described below.

Credit Hours
First Fall Semester

BIOC 503 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology I

5.0

MICR 512 Laboratory Safety

1.0

BIOC 690.901 Biochemistry Research Seminar

1.0

BIOC 691.904 Critical Scientific Thinking

1.0

BIOC 505 Experimental Biochemistry (Laboratory Rotation)

2.0

   
First Spring Semester

BIOC 504 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology II

5.0

BIOC 602 Physical Properties of Macromolecules
Students will select modules from 602 and 604 to get 4 credits (at least 1 credit from each)

1-4.0

BIOC 690.901 Biochemistry Research Seminar

1.0

ANAT 691 Scientific Writing

2.0

BIOC 691.904 Critical Scientific Thinking

1.0

BIOC 505 Experimental Biochemistry (Laboratory Rotation - Optional)

2.0

   
Second Fall Semester

BIOC 604 Enzymology
Students will select modules from 602 and 604 to get 4 credits (at least 1 credit from each)

1-3.0

MICR 507 Techniques in Molecular Biology & Genetics

2.0

OVPR 601: Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602: Responsible Scientific Conduct, or OVPR 603: Responsible Conduct of Research

1.0

BIOC 690.901 Biochemistry Research Seminar

1.0

BIOC 691.901 Special Topics in Biochemistry / Student Journal Club

1.0

BIOC 697 Directed Research in Biochemistry

variable

   
Second Spring Semester

BIOC 690.901 Biochemistry Research Seminar

1.0

BIOC 691.901 Special Topics in Biochemistry / Student Journal Club

1.0

BIOC 697 Directed Research in Biochemistry
Optional Course

variable


MS candidates are required to amass 24 credit hours (exclusive of research credits). More advanced or other courses can be added by approval of the student's advisor.


MS Student Goals

Train Biochemistry researchers
The program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as bioscience researchers/trainers in a broad spectrum of positions. The provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology, an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation/experimentation in bioscience. The program relates the above framework to the development of the ability to design, implement, and interpret experimental approaches which address the questions identified. In addition, program will develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of bioscience knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.


MS Student Learning Outcomes

The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and / or create and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments.

Oral Communication Skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of oral communication skills with respect to the content, organization, logical flow, presentation and appropriate use of language incorporating the use of visual aids.

Written Communication Skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information including the use of figures, tables and citations.

General Knowledge of Science: The candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of the biosciences as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications.

Problem Solving Skills: The candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in bioscience research, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems.


Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Beginning in Fall 2005, all MS students are required to complete the following training in the responsible conduct of research:

  1. OVPR 601 (Scientific Integrity) or OVPR 602 (Responsible Scientific Conduct) or OVPR 603 (Responsible Conduct of Research), 1 CR, Fall Semester, year 02


  2. Collaborative Investigator Training Initiative (CITI) : this is an on-line course that provides training in Human Subjects Research. The course must be completed during the Fall Semester of year 02. Students should submit the “Certificate of Completion” before starting the Spring Semester of year 02. Consult the following link to access the course: http://www.research.vcu.edu/irb/education.htm

  3. Research Training. Org: this is an on-line course that provides training in Animal Subjects Research. The course must be completed during the Fall Semester of year 02. Students should submit the “Certificate of Completion” before starting the Spring Semester of year 02. Consult the following link to access the course: http://www.research.vcu.edu/iacuc/lata.htm

Continuing for the PhD

Students who plan to eventually work towards the Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at VCU should apply directly to our Ph.D. program and forego the M.S. degree. Applicants who are unsure if they want to earn a Ph.D., and desire experience in biomedical research before making this decision, will be well served by our M.S. program. Outstanding performance in our M.S. program can help students gain admittance to a doctoral program at VCU or elsewhere.

MS students wishing to gain admission to the PhD program should submit the following documents to the Graduate Program Director: (1) letter making this request which should include justification for the request, career goals, name of proposed PhD advisor, and brief description of proposed PhD research project, (2) VCU graduate transcript, and (3) letter of support from proposed PhD advisor. Additional admissions requirements include (1) Grade of “A” in BIOC 691.904, Critical Scientific Thinking, (2) Grade of “A” in BIOC 505, Experimental Biochemistry (laboratory rotation), (3) final score in the top 50% of scores in BIOC 503 and BIOC 504 (Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology), and (4) GRE scores of at least 1150 (verbal + quantitative)/ 4.0 (analytical).

Certificate student who wish to transition to MS

Certificate students who continue into a second year for the M.S. degree (CERT/MS) program in Biochemistry need to identify an individual faculty member. In their second year, CERT/MS students focus almost exclusively on experiments in their mentor's laboratory, with minimal course work. The following courses are required:
a. BIOC 690.901: Biochemistry Research Seminar, (each semester)
b. BIOC 691.901: Special Topics in Biochemistry / Student Journal Club, (each semester)