PhD Program

MPP 1st Year Students 2018-2019The MPP graduate program offers students an intimate, congenial and collaborative learning environment that draws upon faculty experts from the life and physical science departments as well as physicians at Brown's affiliated hospitals. Together, students and faculty form a community of scholars committed to Brown's core mission: advancing knowledge and scientific discovery.

Students must complete didactic courses (with a grade of B or better), as follows:

  1. A course in molecular pharmacology & physiology (BIOL 2170), which provides basic background.
  2. A course on the development of molecular targets for drug discovery (BIOL 2145).
  3. A course on signal transduction that teaches rigor and reproducibility in science (BIOL 2410).
  4. A quantitative course in experimental design and analysis taken as a short, intensive course in January of the first academic year (unlike the other didactic courses, this course is only taken as pass/fail).
  5. One elective course based on the student's research and career interests; more electives can be taken if desired. See below for a list of some available elective courses.

The students are also required to take a professional development course (BIOL 2190), which improves students' skills in oral presentations and scientific writing (e.g., conference abstracts and grants), provides interactions with scientists from many careers, including academia, industry and others.

Course credits are also obtained for graduate independent study (research) throughout the Ph.D. process. These credits are taken every semester as BIOL 2980, Graduate Independent Study (research).  During the Covid-19 pandemic, BIOL 2980 is designated as a hybrid course, which involves a combination of in-person (in laboratories) and remote learning.

  • Three research rotations within the first academic year to find the best "fit" in a lab for thesis research; the lab placement is decided after the conclusion of the third rotation
  • Optional 8-10 week summer internship at Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company (see handbook)
  • Submission of an NSF predoctoral fellowship application (if eligible), written in collaboration with a rotation advisor and as part of the professional development course
  • Presentation of two department seminars, one very short (15 minutes) at the end of the first year along with the other first-year students; and one full-length (45-60 minutes) seminar during the 3rd year of study
  • A preliminary or "qualifying" exam at the end of the second academic year of study; this involves the writing of a 10-page thesis proposal, in NIH grant style, an oral presentation of that proposal, and an oral examination by the student's newly formed thesis committee.  This process ensures that the student has a rational research plan early on, and that the student is prepared to pursue PhD research
  • Service as a teaching assistant for a single one-semester course in the second academic year of study
  • A written PhD thesis and oral defense of that thesis, usually in the fourth or fifth (terminal) year of study; publications are expected to result from the thesis work

Brown is famous for its outstanding curriculum and the competence and devotion of its teachers, as well as for its close-knit, personalized, collegial environment.  Consistent with this reputation, the MPP PhD program provides access for its students to numerous exciting and varied courses.  Here are some examples that our students may choose as electives:

  • Physiological Pharmacology (BIOL 2160)
  • Drug and Gene Delivery (BIOL 2110)
  • Pharmacokinetics and Drug Design (BIOL 2135)
  • In vitro Models for Disease (BIOL 2167)
  • Biomolecular Interactions: Health, Disease and Drug Design (BIOL 2300).
  • Stem Cell Engineering (BIOL 1150)
  • Cancer Biology (BIOL 1290)
  • Advanced Biochemistry (BIOL 2270)
  • Advanced Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology (BIOL 2030/2040)
  • Chemical Biology (CHEM 1230)
  • Quantitative Approaches to Biology (BIOL 2010)
  • Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (BIOL 2860)

The MPP Graduate program provides various mentoring and student support activities, such as:

  • Orientation for First Year Students
  • Fall Welcome Dinner
  • Faculty-Student Breakfasts
  • Annual MPP Graduate Program Retreat
  • Monthly Data Club
  • Weekly Seminars
  • Student-Organized Peer-Mentoring Lunches and Dinners
  • Monthly T32 Training Grant Dinners
  • Early Academic Advising
  • Research Advising
  • Peer-to-Peer Advising

Please see the MPP Graduate Program Handbook for more details about these items and links to other advising and mentoring resources.