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Biomedical Sciences

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School of Medicine
Basic Science Building, Room 5008

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

The graduate program offered by the group in Biomedical Sciences (BMS) is designed to lead students to the PhD through a combination of didactic study, laboratory rotations, and thesis research in basic and translational biomedical sciences. Research opportunities in BMS span a wide spectrum of biological and medical sciences, permitting students the options of selecting molecular, cellular, organismal, and integrated systems approaches in their research projects. Students are encouraged to design and execute original and creative research in a self-critical and independent manner. Undergraduate preparation must include courses in mathematics (through calculus), chemistry (including organic, physical, and biochemistry), and preferably participation in research. Students whose undergraduate backgrounds are significantly different will be considered provided there is sufficient evidence of interest in cell and molecular biology, genetics, pathology, physiology, pharmacology, or other disciplines in biomedical sciences, and a strong commitment to enter a field of active research and academic excellence.

Doctoral Degree Program

During the first year, the students enroll in two core courses followed by specialized courses associated with BMS training. In a required laboratory rotation program, students develop laboratory skills and the ability to formulate scientific hypotheses and become familiar with the research activities of the faculty. Students will have access to research organization in nine areas: cancer biology, computational biology and data science, genetics and genomics, cell and developmental biology, immunology, microbiome and microbial sciences, molecular and structural biology, neurobiology of disease, and molecular pharmacology and drug discovery. Students can also access training opportunities associated with organized research units led by BMS faculty such as the Glycobiology Research and Training Center (GRTC) and the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). Required advanced courses and electives in subsequent years are chosen to develop students’ interests and specialized knowledge in the thesis and research areas. PhD specializations in Anthropogeny, Bioinformatics, Multiscale Biology, and Quantitative Biology, which have distinct elective requirements, are also available. BMS students are required to select their thesis advisers and begin their thesis research by the end of the first year in the program, and the average matriculation time among BMS students is between five to six years.

The graduate program is interdepartmental and interdisciplinary; it includes faculty in the Departments of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Medicine, Pathology, Pediatrics, Pharmacology, Neurosciences, Reproductive Medicine, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biology, Bioengineering, Psychiatry, Orthopaedics, Anesthesiology, the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Sanford-Burnham Institute, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The graduate program in biomedical sciences is also designed to educate physician-scientists and pharmacist-scientists through the School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and the School of Pharmacy PharmD/PhD Program, respectively. Students already admitted to the School of Medicine or School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are eligible for admission to the BMS program for doctoral training in order to receive MDs and PhDs or PharmDs and PhDs. Such students generally apply in the first or second year of their medical studies or pharmacy studies and enter graduate studies following completion of their second year. Normative time for MD and PhD and PharmD and PhD students is seven years.


Students obtain letter grades in the core and research area courses. Candidacy for the PhD is granted following the successful completion of two research-oriented examinations. The first examination, the Research Proposition Exam, tests the student’s preparation for his or her thesis research. Preparation for the Research Proposition Exam begins as soon as students join their thesis laboratories during the first summer quarter in the program. Students prepare a written research proposal and defend the proposal in an oral examination conducted by a program-approved exam committee. The second examination is the Advancement to PhD candidacy, which takes place after the students finalize their thesis research plan, and should be completed by the end of the third summer quarter. Thereafter, the students’ thesis research progress is reviewed annually by the thesis committee. The thesis committee also approves the final dissertation. After the preparation of the dissertation, a public oral defense of the thesis completes the requirement for the PhD in the Biomedical Sciences Program.

Specialization in Immunology

A graduate specialization in immunology is offered as part of graduate training in the biomedical sciences (BMS) and School of Biological Sciences (BioSci) graduate programs. Students accepted to the biomedical sciences (BMS) graduate program will satisfy all of the degree requirements of that program. In addition, the specialization will promote an immersive educational experience in immunology that includes participation in immunology course work, seminars given by renowned speakers, biweekly research presentations by peers, a weekly journal club, and a yearly areawide immunology conference.

Admission to the Specialization and Course Requirements

Students admitted to the BMS program may enroll in the specialization in immunology after entering the program or after the first year with rotations complete. Admitted students will have satisfied the requirements for admission specified for the BMS program. Also, we expect students in graduate studies with a specialization in immunology to have completed an undergraduate course in the field or the equivalent before enrolling in the specialization.

Application Requirements

Prospective students should apply to and are admitted into the School of Biological Sciences doctoral program and can choose the specialization in immunology by notifying the immunology specialization program administrator upon admission or at any time up to completing their rotations and choosing a lab for thesis research.

The following items should be combined into a single PDF document and submitted to the program administrator (

  • Student’s CV or unofficial transcript with proof of undergraduate course work in immunology**
  • Up to one-page statement of student’s interest in interdisciplinary immunology research including career goals
  • Nomination letter from adviser acknowledging student’s academic ability and immunology interest

**For matriculation in the specialization, students just starting in the BMS graduate program should have taken the equivalent of at least one undergraduate course in immunology. Those otherwise qualified students who have not taken an undergraduate course in immunology can fulfill this requirement by taking the week-long American Association of Immunologists introductory course in immunology, presently held during the summer at the UCLA campus. Students can also fulfill this requirement by taking an upper-division summer course in immunology at any accredited college or university. Students enrolling in the specialization during or after their rotations can satisfy the requirement by completing graduate course work in immunology. The program administrator will work with admitted students to make sure they fulfill this requirement.

Specialization Requirements

  • Complete all course work and other requirements for the biomedical sciences doctorate
  • Completion of at least three approved immunology elective courses, for example: BGGN 225, Graduate Immunology, BIOM 253, Pathogens and Host Defense, BGGN 232, Innate Immunity, or Bioinformatics for Immunologists (to be added to registrar).
  • Thesis research must be completed in an approved immunology laboratory

Time Limits

Students admitted to the specialization in immunology must meet the time limit requirements as all other doctoral students in the BMS program. It is expected that students will retain the same time to degree as students not pursuing this specialization.