The DSCB program offers a diverse curriculum in the form of core biological science courses and advanced topics courses. During the Fall and Winter quarters of the first year, students will take courses in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Developmental and Stem Cell Biology. In the Spring quarter, students take three 2-week long mini-courses offered on a wide variety of topics by the various graduate programs at UCSF. First and Second year students are also required to participate in the DSCB Seminar Series and Journal Clubs. See the Academic Program page for more information about the curriculum.

Lab Rotations and Choosing a Thesis Lab
Each first year student completes three laboratory rotations. The goal of rotations is to provide broad laboratory experience and to allow students to explore laboratories in which they might wish to do a thesis. Rotations begin in the Fall quarter of the first year and are chosen in consultation with faculty and graduate advisors. By the Spring of the first year in the program, students typically choose a PhD thesis laboratory.

Qualifying Exam 
After joining a thesis lab, DSCB students will prepare for and take a qualifying exam. The purpose of this exam is:

  1. To test whether a student has sufficient knowledge of developmental and stem cell biology to identify an important problem and plan an original experimental approach for its solution.
  2. To provide experience in writing and orally defending a hypothesis-based grant proposal.

Students assemble an exam committee consisting of 4 faculty members and typically schedule their qualifying exam by the Spring quarter of their second year (or within 10 months of joining a thesis lab). The laboratory faculty mentor is not a member of the Exam Committee but works with the student on the development of a proposal. Students must advance to PhD candidacy by the beginning of their third year. Students who do not pass their qualifying exam on their first attempt have one additional opportunity to do so.

Formation of a Thesis Committee
Upon successfully passing the qualifying exam, each student forms a PhD thesis committee and files the paperwork to advance to candidacy. The graduate advisor and PhD thesis director are consulted in forming the thesis committee, which may or may not contain the same faculty members as the exam committee. Students must meet formally with their thesis committees at least once a year.

Submitting the PhD Thesis and Final Seminar
Students submit their PhD thesis to the UCSF Graduate Division. The PhD degree is conferred on the last day of the quarter in which the student submits the thesis to the Graduate Division office. After the thesis is written, the student must present a thesis talk to the DSCB community.