The training faculty of the interdepartmental Molecular Microbiology Program is drawn from the Departments of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Biochemistry, Pathology and Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and includes two Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators and two members of the National Academy of Sciences. They are united by a common interest in the biology of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) and the effects of microbes on human and animal hosts. The strong interactions among the faculty make it possible for students to freely seek advice from all members of the faculty in addition to their thesis mentors and thesis advisory committees. The weekly journal club and research report programs are attended by students, faculty, postdoctoral fellows and technicians, creating an atmosphere of shared learning and enthusiastic discussion.
Students join research labs for laboratory rotation starting on their first day at Sackler and complete four such rotations during their first year. These experiences allow students to try out various mentors, lab groups and research projects, while becoming acquainted with basic techniques in microbiology, biochemistry and genetics. Many students earn authorships during their rotation experiences.
The first-year curriculum also includes required courses in that provide foundational knowledge in biochemistry, genetics, microbial physiology, microbial pathogenesis, animal virology, plasmid biology, or eukaryotic gene expression, and participation in the journal club, research report and seminar series. Students complete nearly all their course work during their second year by fulfilling requirements for electives and quantitative biology. At the end of the second year, students must pass the qualifying exam by submitting and defending an acceptable research proposal on a topic unrelated to their thesis research. The proposal is judged on its clarity, logic, significance and feasibility. A requirement for completion of a course in scientific ethics is usually met in the third or fourth year.
The principal component of the graduate training is thesis research guided by a mentor and an advisory committee of three additional faculty members. Students choose their thesis labs at the end of the first year with the advice of the student advisor and with the consent of the proposed mentor. The committee meets once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester. For each meeting, the student prepares a summary of the thesis goals, progress made to date and proposed approaches for the future. The committee members discuss the past work and future plans in detail, offering technical help, a critique of the project and ideas for consideration. The project should be novel, address an important issue in microbiology, and lead to a new depth of understanding of the issues being addressed. When the committee decides that the student’s work is adequate to support a dissertation, the student is given permission to write and defend his/her thesis. An outside examiner joins the thesis committee for the defense.
The Program in Molecular Microbiology is based in the Department of Molecular Biology & Microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine.