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First Year Curriculum


  Watson School Ph.D. students progress rapidly from coursework to laboratory rotations to doctoral research - all within the first year of the program. The program consolidates the core courses into the Fall Term of the first year, culminating in the Integrated Fall Term Exam. During this time, students have no research responsibilities, allowing them to devote their full attention to intensive course instruction and seminars.  In the winter and spring of the first year, students perform three six-week laboratory rotations, take a Topics in Biology course, and teach at the Dolan DNA Learning Center.  In May, students select their thesis research mentor and prepare for the qualifying exam, which takes place in late June or early July.  Once students pass their qualifying exam, they focus exclusively on their thesis research.

The core courses of the curriculum are:

Scientific Reasoning and Logic  In this core course students (1) acquire a broad base of knowledge about the biological sciences, (2) emphasize application of the scientific method, and (3) learn to think critically.  The modules include gene expression, development, protein structure, neuroscience, and cancer biology.  The course culminates with a mock grant study section.

Scientific Exposition and Ethics  This core course covers the fundamental elements of scientific exposition—writing skills and public speaking—and ethics. The ability to communicate effectively and to appreciate ethical issues in the sciences are essential for biologists.  Students are introduced to non-research scientific careers, such as publishing, writing, and law.

Specialized Disciplines courses  A series of core courses providing students with an in-depth consideration of key research areas, focusing on understanding experimental approaches and practical applications.  The courses include Systems Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, Genetics & Genomics, and Cell Structure & Function.

Topics in Biology courses  Intensive one-week courses focused on topics outside the main research areas of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, such as Evolution, Microbial Pathogenesis, Physical Biology of the Cell, and Immunology.

CSHL elective postgraduate courses  The program of postgraduate courses at the Laboratory provides training in interdisciplinary subjects that are either new or so specialized that they are not adequately treated by most universities.

Bootcamps   These are short, intensive courses aimed to get all students to a similar level of proficiency in a defined topic in preparation for the core courses.  Current bootcamps cover molecular and cell biology and quantitative biology/programming. 

Click here to view the "Curriculum at a Glance"