Curriculum Overview

Students in the Ph.D. program will enroll as full-time students in the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope. The program offers a series of core courses and laboratory education for the first-year students. The core curriculum aims to develop students into a responsible scientist, expose students to the main research areas of City of Hope, train students in critical reading of primary literature, guide students to acquire necessary skills for formulating a hypothesis and experimental design, and articulating significance and innovation of their studies. In addition to the core curriculum, first-year students will conduct three laboratory rotations to receive complementary training in these skills, and to identify their dissertation laboratory. In the fall trimester of the first year, BIOSCI 520 is concurrent with the first rotation, and BIOSCI 521 with the second. In the spring trimester, BIOSCI 544 is concurrent with the third rotation, and is followed by BIOSCI 550, which is a full-time course. The summer trimester begins with BIOSCI 565 for three weeks, followed by starting their dissertation research. In the spring trimester of the second year, BIOSCI 600 focuses on scientific writing skills.
After successfully completing the core curriculum and beginning their dissertation research, students will be required to pass Qualifying Exam in their second year to advance to doctoral candidacy. In addition to the core curriculum, students are required to complete one advanced topics course before graduation. Students in their second year and beyond are expected to concentrate the majority of their time on their individual dissertation laboratory research project under the guidance and tutelage of their faculty advisor/research director. Time to complete the program varies, depending on a student’s previous experience and the dissertation project chosen. The 2020-2021 core curriculum and graduation requirements outside of dissertation research are summarized below.


The purposes of the laboratory rotations are to help students find the research area and lab in which they want to conduct their thesis research, learn experimental techniques, and expose students to a broad range of intellectual and technical approaches to address current research challenges. Each laboratory rotation lasts for approximately 9 weeks. Students are expected to spend approximately 25 hours per week in the laboratory, and each graduate student must complete a written report, and short speaking presentation, at the end of each rotation.
This 2.5-week course aims to help students navigate the ethical decision making through a combination of lectures, discussions and writing assignments. The key areas to be addressed are ethics and the scientist, ethical use of animals in research, ethical use of humans in research, conflict of interest, mentor/mentee responsibilities, responsible authorship and publication and peer review, record keeping, ethical issues surrounding cloning and transgenics and stem cell research. Issues surrounding best laboratory practices, as well as rigor and reproducibility will also be discussed
This course will provide a graduate-level foundation of key concepts in molecular and cellular biochemistry. Furthermore, this course aims to stimulate the acquisition and utilization of essential concepts and terms; to encourage the transition from passive learning from textbooks to active learning from the primary literature; to provide the students the opportunity to begin interpreting experimental results within the context of a body of work; and develop the skills of articulating the concepts of hypothesis, significance, and innovation. The topics presented will include key concepts in gene expression, protein structure and post-translational modifications, and their relevance to Cancer Biology. A key learning goal is application of the fundamental concepts that will be guiding their own experiments.
This course is an extension of the learning goals of BIOSCI 521, with additional topics that are also central to molecular and cellular biochemistry. The topics presented will include key concepts in metabolism, cell signaling, pancreas function, Immunology, and their relevance to Metabolic Disorders
The purpose of this course is to combine biostatistics and computational molecular biology to make one integrated course that includes didactic lectures and hands-on silico laboratory sessions. This course will cover the statistical methods relevant to biological data analysis, and introduce the range of computational methods and their applications from sequence-based methods to atomistic to tissue level modeling. 
The goal of this course is to foster the development of essential skill set for the professional scientist, and this includes reading the scientific literature, writing, discussion, critique, and debate. This course will also permit students to leverage their prior training toward deepening their fund of scientific knowledge and developing greater independence in evaluating the merits of different experimental approaches and bodies of work. An additional goal of the course is to expose students to major areas of Biomedical Research at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope.
The goal of this course is to apply the skills attained in the prior core courses, and BIOSCI 550 in particular, and demonstrate proficiency in developing a hypothesis and associated experiments, and articulating the significance and innovation of the hypothesis. Students will meet these learning goals by identifying a recent primary literature paper that is of interest to the student, critiquing that paper, identifying an unanswered question from the paper, and developing a hypothesis and associated set of experiments to address such a question. Students will prepare a written document with these elements, and defend them in a speaking presentation, each using a predetermined format.

Second Year

The ability to write high-quality, professional manuscripts and grant proposals is a necessary skill for biomedical researchers. This course addresses advanced topics in scientific writing, with a focus on developing, organizing, and writing larger documents for logical consistency and readability. The course incorporates lectures, discussions, and “hands-on” writing assignments to help students understand the importance of strong writing skills and preparation and organization in scientific writing. Students will learn how to develop major sections of common scientific documents (e.g., manuscripts, grant proposals, and fellowships). The course provides students with the experience of writing longer scientific documents and having their work critiqued.


Second-year students will be tested rigorously on their capacities to survey the literature and identify knowledge gaps in the dissertation research area; to establish an initial plan for dissertation research, formulate a hypothesis and choose experimental models; to evaluate approaches and design experiments to test the hypothesis with preliminary data; to discuss potential pitfalls and alternative approaches; and to demonstrate a capacity to address the dissertation research area in writing, presentation, and responses to questions.
Students are required to complete one Advance Course prior to graduation. Available topics for the Advance Courses include Comparative Medicine - Mouse in Biomedical Research, Cancer Biology, Immunology, Virology, Stem Cell Biology, RNA, DNA Repair and Epigenetics and Cancer, Cancer Metabolism, Mathematic Modeling and Methods for Biomedical Science, and Medicinal Chemistry – Drug Delivery. 
Every student after the first year is required to participate in a journal club, where members take turns presenting a current research article to the group. Participants must attend all seminars and make at least one presentation. Available topics for the journal clubs are Comparative Medicine, Current Science, DNA Repair and Recombination, Epigenetics and Chromatin Structure, Immunology, Protein Post-Translational Modification, RNA + Epigenetics and Chromatin Structure, RNA, Signal and Regulation with Translational Focus, Stem Cell Biology, Structural and Chemical Biology, and Tumor Immunology. 
The Leading-Edge Lectures (LEL) is sponsored by the students.  Each year the students select outstanding biomedical scientists to present a research seminar. Before each talk, the students and the faculty administrator will meet for a presentation and discussion session.  Here, the student sponsor will summarize one or two of the most relevant articles by the invited scientist and lead a discussion of the techniques and data with the other students. Students will then attend the seminar and lead the question and answer session that follows.

Credit Hour Policy  

Trimester: Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope is on a trimester system. Each trimester (Fall, Spring, Summer) is approximately 17 weeks. Once students advance to candidacy they are expected to perform research for 17 weeks per trimester unless on leave.  

Credit Hour: Per WSCUC “Except as provided in 34 CFR 688.8(k) and (l), a credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than – (1) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or (2) At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.”  
Classroom hours: class or supervised meeting times for lecture, exams, or classroom discussion.  
Non-classroom hours: supervised or non-supervised student work out of classes.  
Credit Hours Policy  
All full-time students at Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope are required to be enrolled in a minimum of 10 credits per trimester.  
Each course provides the student with 1-5 credits. Each seminar and journal club will provide one credit per trimester of attendance at City of Hope's Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. Laboratory research shall have an equivalent level of effort, with one credit hour being awarded for forty-five hours of research or study.  
Course syllabi should clearly indicate the credit hours and expectation of effort of the class. The Curriculum Committee will annually review the application of the policy on credit hours for accuracy and reliability. 
  • Transfer credit policy, criteria, articulation agreements as Required in accordance with U.S. Department of Education regulation 668.43(a)(11): transfer policy needs to be publically disclosed; must include criteria regarding transfer of credit and a list of institutions with which it has established an articulation agreement.