The objective of the graduate program in Biochemistry & Cancer Biology (BCB) at the Augusta University is to train students to be outstanding and independent scientists that effectively compete for contemporary biomedical research positions. The program is underpinned by the notion that training involves several equally important skills and focuses on academic, ethical, technical and presentation development. Training in the BCB program is designed to address each of these areas, and the key elements and expected timeline are outlined below:
Shortly after joining the BCB program, the student should immerse themselves in primary literature relevant to the systems under investigation in the laboratory and should gain first-hand expertise in a wide array of techniques. In the spring semester, students should enroll in BCMB 8201, which will complement learning of laboratory methods (see below). Students are also required to audit the BCMB 8340 course, which will strengthen their presentation skills. Within the first few months the student and mentor should establish a student advisory committee (SAC). The student should feel comfortable in reaching out to SAC members for technical or other advice at any time so that they are familiar with the student’s research efforts and progress. This is imperative to the student who must satisfy SAC member’s expectations during three important landmarks: the comprehensive exam, the research proposal and the thesis defense. It is also helpful to the mentor to have a committee that is aware of the efforts and experimental results that have directed the student’s progress over time. It is a mandatory CGS requirement that the student convenes at least one official (documented) SAC meeting within a 12 month period. The accompanying timeline indicates that this could be optimal if held in the spring to correspond with other requirements. During this first year in the program, students should be working toward the preparation of their comprehensive examination (see below). CGS guidelines make the successful completion of this important landmark mandatory by the end of the first year in the BCB program (second year in the PhD program).
After the first year in the BCB program, students will have established a SAC, completed the mandatory BCMB 8201 course, and passed their comprehensive examination. The second year should focus on experiments that will form the basis of their research proposal. In the fall semester of the BCB student’s second year (7th semester) students should officially register for the second mandatory course BCMB 8340. CGS mandates that the research proposal must be completed by the end of the second year in the BCB program. It is recommended that the coursework proposal (see below) and the research proposal be discussed together in the spring SAC meeting.
Effort in third year in the BCB program will mainly involve carrying out the proposed research and publishing results where possible. Students will generally also enroll in another elective course as decided upon in the previous SAC meeting.
Students in the fourth year of the BCB program (5th year at Augusta University) generally complete experimental work whilst preparing their thesis, which on average is defended by the end of the year. During this year it is a program requirement that the advanced students present their research in the regularly scheduled and campus-wide advertised BCB seminars. This is a great opportunity for feedback, presentation experience and for focusing thoughts on thesis defense. During this final year (on average), students should also be considering post-graduation plans, such as identification of a post-doctoral position.