Doctoral Program Requirements

University Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded to students based on an accumulation of course credits and on superior accomplishments in a field of cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology and/or neurobiology. A minimum of one year of full-time study in residence at Tulane University is required. The Ph.D. degree must be completed within 7 years from the date of matriculation in the graduate school. Graduate students beyond their 5th year are no longer eligible to receive teaching assistant stipends. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained. If a student receives 2 grades of B- or a single grade below a B-, then he/she is placed on probation and considered for dismissal by the Graduate Dean in consultation with the Department.

To be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D., a student must have completed course requirements and passed a qualifying examination. The qualifying exam, which is taken prior to the end of the 5th semester. The qualifying exam may be postponed to the end of the 5th semester under certain circumstances with the approval of the student’s advisor and thesis committee. By the end of the third year, each student must submit to the graduate school a written research prospectus, which has been presented to and approved by the student's dissertation committee. The recommendation for admission to candidacy is made by the department and must bear the signatures of the department chair and the chair of the dissertation committee. For students expecting to receive a degree in December, recommendation for the admission to candidacy must be submitted by September 15. For students expecting to receive a degree in May the deadline is December 15.

CMB Course Requirements

1. Remedial Courses
Prior to the beginning of the fall semester every incoming graduate student will meet with the graduate director to discuss the appropriate course work for the first year. Students are expected to have strong backgrounds in the basic sciences (physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics) as well as in genetics, cell biology and molecular biology. The Committee will determine if any weak areas exist and may require the student to take additional undergraduate courses to rectify any deficiencies. Such course credits will not count towards a higher degree. In addition, individual faculty advisors or the graduate director may recommend that students take other course work. For foreign students, this may include an English language course.

2. Graduate Core
The graduate core is a group of 3 to 4 courses required of all graduate students. The aim is to provide a basic core of knowledge in the general areas of cell and molecular biology.

CMB PhD Program Guidelines

1. Students will complete 48 credit hours of course work with at least a 3.0 GPA (FIRM). Credit hours should be complete by the end of second year (4th semester).

2. Core required courses include: Cell Biology CELL 6750, CMB seminar CELL 7860 (Select Ph.D. section), Advanced Molecular Biology (CELL 6440), and a journal club course – either Trends in Neuroscience (NSCI 6040) or Current Topics in Developmental Biology. Students admitted before the fall of 2016 and working in labs of adjunct faculty may attend the seminar series of their PI's home department and a more appropriate journal club if one exists. Seminar summaries should be sent to the graduate program coordinator. Students admitted fall of 2018 and beyond must also take Graduate Communications (CELL 7260) to fulfill core requirements.

3. Students admitted after the fall of 2016 are expected to complete dissertation work within core CMB faculty labs.

4. Students should pass a qualifying exam by the end of the 5th semester. The qualifying exam should consist of an NIH-style R01 grant application up to 12 pages (, and an oral defense of that grant. The purpose of the qualifying exam is to test the student's overall knowledge of the subject area and ability to develop hypotheses and design experiments to test the hypothesis. Failure to complete the qualifying exam by the end of the 5th semester or beginning of the 6th semester will result in the student being placed on probation status in the PhD program. Special exceptions will be granted with the approval of the departmental PhD program committee.

5. An ethics course should be taken before the qualifying exam. Courses are offered downtown over the summer and during the school year.

6. Admission to candidacy is granted when 48 credit hours have been completed, the qualifying exam has been passed and the prospectus is successfully completed.

7. Students in their third year and beyond are required to present their research annually in the CMB Seminar Series.

8. Students should pass a prospectus by the end of the student's 4th year (8th semester). The prospectus is the written proposal of the PhD project to be completed for the degree and will constitute an agreement between the student and the committee on the experiments required to obtain the PhD.

9. Annual meetings of the committee to report research progress are required. Meetings should be completed by the end of the spring semester. Annual progress report forms (in CMB office) should be signed by the committee members and given to the CMB office.

10. A formal oral dissertation defense is required to complete the PhD degree (no firm deadline, but before completion of the 7th year).

Please use the following numbers to register for research: (STUDENTS MUST REGISTER FOR 7110-7130 IN THE DEPARTMENT OFFICE. 2000 STERN HALL)

CELL 7110 – first semester (3 credits)
CELL 7120 – second semester (3 credits)
CELL 7130 – after the second semester until you have received 48 credit hours. 7130 can be taken for 2-10 credits. The number of credits in this section will depend on the amount necessary to achieve full-time status. (FULL TIME STATUS FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS IS 9 CREDITS)

***After students have earned 48 credits, they will register for CELL 9990 Dissertation.  It is absolutely necessary to register to maintain full time status.  Registering for CELL 9990 AUTOMATICALLY MAKES A STUDENT FULL.  Students will register for CELL 9990 online.


Recommended courses for first semester PhD students:

Neuroscience Track:

  • Cellular Neuroscience (CELL 6310) or Graduate Neuroscience (must obtain approval from instructor)
  • Developmental Biology Track:
  • Developmental Biology (CELL 6160)

All first year students are required to take:

  • Current Topics in Developmental Biology (CELL 6840)
  • Seminars in Cell and Molecular Biology (CELL 7870)
  • Research Rotations (CELL 7110)

Other required courses:

  • Cell Biology (CELL 6750)
  • Advanced Molecular Biology (CELL 6440)
  • Graduate Communications (CELL 7260)