Jul 16, 2024  
2023/2024 University Catalog 
2023/2024 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biology (Cell and Molecular), Ph.D.

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(Major Code: 04011) (SIMS Code: 771402)


The cooperating faculties of the Departments of Biology at the University of California, San Diego and at San Diego State University offer a joint doctoral program in biology (cell and molecular). The research interests of the participating faculty members cover a wide range of biological problems.

At SDSU, the major areas of research at the graduate level and the participating faculty members include:

Biological structures: Huxford, Love, Sohl.
Cancer biology: House.
Cardiovascular molecular biology: Cripps, Glembotski, Sussman.
Cell and molecular immunology: Luallen, McGuire, Roach, Tsoukas, van der Geer.
Cell and molecular oncology: House.
Gene expression: Cripps, Harris, Luallen, Stumph, Zeller.
DNA recombination and chromosome structure: Segall.
Microbial molecular ecology: Dinsdale, Edwards, Forsberg, Roach, Rohwer.
Molecular biology of viruses and bacteriophage: Feuer, Kalyuzhnaya, Perrault, Roach, Rohwer, Shikuma, Swairjo, Wolkowicz.
Molecular evolution: Kelley, Waters.
Molecular microbiology: Lipson, Luallen, Maloy.
Neurobiology: Zayas Ventura, Zeller.
Stem cell biology: Sussman, Zayas Ventura.
Substructure and function in motile cells: Bernstein, Bizzoco, Cripps.


Undergraduate Preparation for Admission. Applicants for admission to the doctoral program offered jointly by UCSD and SDSU must present evidence of adequate preparation and capacity for advanced work in biology. There are no inflexible requirements for entrance to graduate study in this program, but a strong background in biology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics is recommended. The applicant must have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution of higher learning with training comparable to that provided by the University of California’s and San Diego State University’s undergraduate programs. Admission to the program requires acceptance by each institution on recommendation of the participating departments at UCSD and SDSU. It is understood that acceptance of a student into the joint program by each of the departments will be conditioned by their respective standards for graduate admissions and also by available facilities.

Residency Requirements. After formal admission to the joint doctoral program, the student must spend at least one academic year in full-time residence at each of the two campuses. The definition of residence must be in accord with the regulations of the University of California, San Diego, and San Diego State University.

Course Requirements. There is no specific number of courses required for the doctoral program in biology, except a one-year graduate course including genetics, cellular and molecular biology. Prior to taking the qualifying examination, every student is expected to have a firm understanding of modern biological principles. Usually students will be expected to complete a set of at least three laboratory rotations at SDSU.Coursework may be selected from offerings at either UCSD or SDSU.

Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying Committee. The qualifying committee consists of five faculty members, at least two from UCSD (one of whom must be a full-time faculty member in the Biology Department). The dissertation adviser may be a member of the qualifying committee. The members of the qualifying committee will be selected by the student in consultation with the dissertation adviser. In order to provide continuity between examinations, at least one member of the qualifying committee shall be a member of the SDSU Executive Committee. Final appointment of qualifying committee members will be made jointly by the Graduate Deans of SDSU and UCSD.

The qualifying committee will be responsible for carrying out the qualifying examination, and the chair of this committee will report the outcome of the examination and any related academic recommendations to the Executive Committee. The chair will also provide a written evaluation of the student’s performance. The chair of the qualifying committee is responsible for notifying the members of the time and place of the examination, and the student is responsible for obtaining all required documents necessary for the examination four weeks before the scheduled examination time.

Qualifying Examination. The examination consists of two parts, which may be completed at separate times.

First Part: Oral presentation of dissertation research results and proposed dissertation plan (duration is 40-50 minutes, similar to a formal seminar presentation, slides, etc.). The student should come prepared to defend the overall experimental design, including possible outcomes and interpretations, and be thoroughly familiar with the literature in his or her chosen field. A major portion of this examination will be devoted to background information so that a student can demonstrate the context in which the proposed research project lies. A succinctly written version of the proposed dissertation plan (maximum 14 double spaced pages) should be provided to committee members at least two weeks before the presentation. Prior written approval by all SDSU Qualifying Committee members stating that the written dissertation proposal is sufficiently developed must be obtained before the oral presentation takes place.

Second Part: In consultation with the Executive Committee or dissertation adviser, the student is required to write and ideally submit a pre-doctoral fellowship application. Examples of the type of fellowship applications a student is expected to write include the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship Program or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award. A major goal of this portion of the examination is to help the student become knowledgeable of the literature in their chosen field, understand the existing knowledge gaps, and identify a compelling research question and hypothesis. Students are provided guidance on how to write fellowship applications in the required graduate courses at SDSU and will have the opportunity to fulfill this requirement in the first two years in the program.

The qualifying committee may specify a course of study to strengthen any weaknesses identified during the qualifying examination. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination the student must make application to the office of Graduate Studies at UCSD for advancement to candidacy. Upon payment of the candidacy fee to UCSD, and after approval by the graduate deans on both campuses, the office of Graduate Studies at UCSD will notify the student of advancement to candidacy.

Joint Dissertation Committee. After a student is admitted to candidacy, a dissertation committee consisting of at least five faculty members is nominated by the student in consultation with dissertation adviser and appointed jointly by the Graduate Deans at SDSU and UCSD. The student’s dissertation research adviser will be the chair of this committee. At least one member of this committee must be from SDSU and one member must be a full-time UCSD biology faculty member.

Dissertation. Following successful completion of the qualifying examination, the major remaining requirements for the Ph.D. degree will be satisfactory completion of a narrative evaluation at least once per year during a meeting with the adviser and other faculty committee members and a dissertation consisting of original and significant research carried out under the guidance of a faculty member. Requirements currently in force at UCSD and SDSU must be met for completing and filing the dissertation.

Award of the Degree. The Doctor of Philosophy degree in biology will be awarded jointly by the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of The California State University in the names of both institutions.

Financial Support. The Department of Biology at SDSU endeavors to provide adequate support for all students so that full time can be devoted to research, training, and study. During 2019-20, support package included tuition, a stipend (approximately $27,192-$28,372), health coverage, and funds for research supplies. All students are required to obtain teaching experience, which is normally accomplished by appointment as a graduate teaching associate.


The following faculty members of the cooperating institutions participate in the joint doctoral program being available for direction of research and as members of joint doctoral committees.

San Diego State University:

Graduate Adviser: R. Zayas Ventura.

Faculty: Bernstein, Bizzoco, Cripps, Dinsdale, Edwards, Feuer, Forsberg (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Glembotski, Harris, House, Huxford (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Kalyuzhnaya, Kelley, Lipson, Love (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Luallen, Maloy, Roach, Rohwer, Segall, Shikuma, Sohl (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Stumph (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Sussman, Swairjo, (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Tsoukas, van der Geer (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Waters, Wolkowicz, Zayas Ventura, Zeller.

University of California, San Diego:

Graduate Adviser: J. Pogliano.
Faculty: Participating UCSD biology faculty

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