Primary emphasis is placed on independent research on a thesis topic. The student chooses the thesis topic in consultation with the faculty advisor. After passing the qualifying exam on the thesis topic by the end of the second year, students devote full-time to their research. A committee of 4 faculty members, including the advisor, meets with the student every year to provide guidance and to ensure adequate progress.
Students design their curriculum based on their individual needs and interests, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Only five courses are required, including core courses in molecular cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry, an advance seminar course, plus an elective in any area of the student's choosing such as in development, neurobiology, and immunology. Most students complete the course requirement in the first year.