2013-2014 Program Requirements for UCLA Graduate Degrees
Applicable only to students admitted during the 2013-2014 academic year.
College of Letters and Science
The Molecular Biology Program offers the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Molecular Biology.
Molecular Biology is an interdepartmental program. Interdepartmental programs provide an integrated curriculum of several disciplines.
Applicants may apply to the Ph.D. program in Molecular Biology through UCLA ACCESS to Programs in the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences, the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) for medical students seeking M.D./Ph.D. degrees, or the Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program for M.D.s seeking a Ph.D.
168 Boyer Hall
611 Charles E. Young Drive East
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1570
Leading to the degree of
Admission Limited to
Deadline to apply
Consult UCLA ACCESS
GRE (General and/or Subject)
GRE: General and subject in Biochemistry, Chemistry, Biology or Physics. MCAT scores may be submitted by applicants with M.D. degrees.
Letters of Recommendation
In addition to the University's minimum requirements and those listed above, all applicants are expected to submit a joint MBIDP Student/Mentor departmental application and a statement of purpose.
MSTP Ph.D. and STAR Program applicants: Applicants are expected to have identified a dissertation supervisor (chair of the doctoral committee). In addition to the applicant's submission of the Application for Graduate Admission and the MBIDP Student/Mentor application, the applicant's prospective mentor must complete and submit the MBIDP Mentorship Application
Under extraordinary circumstances, the program admits Ph.D. applicants directly. Applicants applying directly to the program must have, in advance, the agreement of a faculty adviser to sponsor them academically and financially. Applicants should consult the graduate adviser for further information.
After entering the Molecular Biology program, the student, in consultation with the dissertation research adviser, convenes a five-member doctoral committee composed of the research adviser and four other faculty members. This committee advises the student throughout the remainder of graduate study. The doctoral committee administers the University Oral Qualifying Examination and the final oral examination (defense of the dissertation), and meets yearly with the student to evaluate progress and offer suggestions for the direction of study. An appointed Molecular Biology Program Graduate Adviser and Ph.D. Committee oversee all academic policies and procedures, and are available for consultation at any time.
Major Fields or Subdisciplines
Foreign Language Requirement
A minimum of 12 units per quarter must be maintained during graduate study. A grade of B or better must be received in all courses. Any grade less than B will require a repeat of the course, or its equivalent, as per the approval of the Molecular Biology Program Graduate Adviser.
MSTP Program students: Students complete required or recommended courses by the end of the first year of graduate study, and three Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses by the end of the second year. A course on research integrity - Chemistry 203A or 203B or Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics 234 (Spring Quarter) - also must be completed in the first year.
STAR Program students: Students complete required or recommended courses by the end of the first year of graduate study, and three Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses by the end of the second year.
ACCESS Program entry students: Most course requirements are completed during the first year of study through the UCLA ACCESS Program. During the second year following entry into the graduate program, ACCESS Program entry students are required to complete three Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses.
MSTP students: Students complete lecture courses as required by the MSTP Program or recommended by the Molecular Biology Program Graduate Adviser and/or student mentor. In addition, during the first year student must complete one or more of the required Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses and a course on research integrity - Chemistry 203A or 203B or Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics 234 (Spring Quarter) - also must be completed in the first year.
STAR Program students: Students complete lecture courses as required by the STAR Program or recommended by the Molecular Biology Program Graduate Adviser and/or student mentor. In addition, during the first year student must complete one or more of the required Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses
ACCESS Program entry students: Students complete the ACCESS first-year curriculum.
MSTP and STAR Program students: Students complete the remaining Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses.
ACCESS Program entry students: Students complete three quarters of Molecular Biology 298 (or equivalent) courses.
Second through Fifth Years
MSTP and STAR Program students: Students conduct intensive year-round research under the guidance of the permanent research adviser. Students are expected to complete dissertation research by the end of the fourth year.
ACCESS Program entry students: Students conduct intensive year-round research under the guidance of the permanent research adviser. Students are expected to complete dissertation research by the end of the fourth or fifth year.
Students who enter the program through the MSTP and STAR Programs may teach but teaching is not a degree requirement. Students who enter the program through the ACCESS Program are required to gain two quarters of teaching experience through service as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses by the end of the fourth year of graduate study.
Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations
Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.
Written Qualifying Examination
MSTP and STAR Program, entry students: The written qualifying examination is composed of three brief research proposals, two based on a topic discussed in the first and second year seminar courses, and one based on the student's dissertation research project. The format should follow the outline of a typical research article or grant proposal. Proposals are graded on a pass, rewrite, or no-pass basis. The seminar proposals are evaluated by the course instructor(s) during the quarter(s) of enrollment and the dissertation proposal is evaluated by the student's mentor and at least two other members of the student's committee. A constructive critique is provided to give students the opportunity to improve their skills in critical analysis and experimental design. All three proposals must receive grades of pass before students take the University Oral Qualifying Examination and advance to candidacy.
ACCESS Program entry students: The written qualifying examination is as described above, however, ACCESS students are required to submit only two brief research proposals, one based on a topic discussed in the second and third year seminar courses, and one based on the student’s dissertation research project
Oral Qualifying Examination
MSTP and Star Program students: After passing the written qualifying examinations, students take the University Oral Qualifying Examination in the second year of graduate study. The examination includes preparation of a written research proposal submitted in the form of a typical NIH F31 Fellowship application, which gives the doctoral committee the opportunity to judge the student's ability to think creatively and formulate significant ideas for research. The written proposal may be related or unrelated to the general interest of the laboratory. however, the proposal cannot focus on the student's proposed dissertation research or a reformulation of any proposal written by any member of the laboratory. The topic selected must be approved by the student's research adviser and by the Molecular Biology Program Graduate Adviser. The oral examination will cover the student's proposal as well as general scientific background in a time period of two to three hours.
ACCESS Program entry students: The oral qualifying examination is as described above but is held at the beginning of the third year.
Annual Committee Meetings
Beginning in the latter part of the third year or early in the fourth year, and in each year thereafter until completion of the degree program, students are required to meet annually with their doctoral committee. At each meeting, students give a brief, 30 minute oral presentation of their dissertation research progress to their committee. The purpose of the meeting is to monitor the student's progress, identify difficulties that may occur as the student progresses toward successful completion of the dissertation and, if necessary, approve changes in the dissertation project. The presentation is not an examination.
Annual Progress Report
At the end of each year all students are required to submit a brief report (a one-page form is provided) of their time-to-degree progress and research activities indicating the principal research undertaken and any important results, research plans for the next year, conferences attended, seminars given, and publications appearing or manuscripts in preparation.
MSTP and STAR Program students: In Winter Quarter of the third year students are required to give a 30-minute presentation of their research project at the Molecular Biology Program student seminar series, held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month beginning in Winter Quarter of each academic year. Students also are required to attend a minimum of six of the 12 yearly Molecular Biology Program student seminars and two more of the Molecular Biology Institute annual retreats.
ACCESS Program entry students: Program participation is required as described above; however, two presentations at the student seminar series are required, once in Winter Quarter of the third year, and once in Winter Quarter of the fifth year.
Advancement to Candidacy
Students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.
Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student's ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.
Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Dissertation)
Required for all students in the program.
MSTP and Star Program students: These students are expected to file their dissertation by the end of the fourth year of graduate study.
ACCESS Program entry students: These students are expected to file their dissertation by the end of the fifth year of graduate study.
Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination
A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.
Special Departmental or Program Policy
A recommendation for termination is made by the chair of the interdepartmental degree committee, after consultation with the student and the student's adviser (or the student's guidance committee). In addition to the standard reasons outlined above, a student may be recommended for termination for failure to participate in required elements of the program, including laboratory rotations and seminars.
A student may appeal a recommendation for termination to the entire interdepartmental committee. If the student so requests, the opinions of other interested faculty members are considered by the committee.