The Graduate Program in Molecular Medicine at the University of Virginia offers comprehensive PhD level training for individuals who wish to pioneer major advances in biomedical and translational research. Faculty-led research groups in this program use cutting-edge experimental approaches to understand the physiology of disease and to develop new diagnostics, potential therapies and cures. Students have the opportunity for joint mentorship by basic and clinical scientists. This allows an appreciation and broad-based understanding of key biomedical problems and facilitates the ability to perform basic research.
Mentors are drawn from many basic and clinical science disciplines, including pathology, pharmacology, physiology, microbiology, neuroscience, bioengineering, biochemistry, cell biology, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and metabolism, endocrinology, infectious diseases, immunology, and reproduction.
Experimental models include biochemical, cellular, tissue or organ systems, and transgenic animals which are studied by a wide variety of biochemical, biophysical, cellular and molecular biology techniques. Students are provided a thorough grounding in cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry, as well as exposure to a wide variety of key medical areas involved in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
The current funding package (2011 - 2012) for Molecular Medicine Program students assures that every MolMed student is fully-funded for as long as s/he maintains satisfactory academic progress. This package consists of a yearly stipend of $26,500 paid tuition and fees, paid health and dental coverage, and an educational travel allowance.
Students take a group of core graduate courses including "Cell Structure and Function" (BIMS 512), "Gene Structure, Expression and Regulation" (BIMS 811), and "Macromolecular Structure and Function" (BIMS 503), and chose from a list of electives including: Graduate Physiology, Pharmacology, Practical Molecular Medicine, Genetics, Molecular Pathogenesis, Immunology, Molecular Basis of Carcinogenesis, Vascular Biology, Neurophysiology, Development and Reproduction and others .
A course specifically developed for Molecular Medicine entitled "Molecular Basis of Human Disease" includes a series of joint lectures by basic and clinical scientists that focuses on the clinical context of a specific biomedical problem and the contemporary research that has resulted in major advances and treatment of the disease. Journal clubs and colloquia in specialty areas, a wide range of basic and clinical science seminars, and clinical grand rounds are also available. Other opportunities to supplement basic science training activities include workshops to promote skills in translational research, including Patents/Intellectual Property, Ethics, Grant Writing/Review, and others.
The training program is individually tailored to student needs and interests. Incoming students have an advisory committee that provides guidance in choosing courses and setting up research rotations. Generally, students complete 2-3 laboratory rotations in their first year. At the end of their first year students are expected to select their research mentor and choose the department from which they will receive their degree. During the second year, students take advanced electives in their specialty areas and conduct research leading to preparation of the thesis research proposal.
The student's thesis committee, consisting of the mentor and other expert scientists, advise the student during her/his thesis research. Students typically complete their thesis projects in 4-5 years and are expected to publish their findings in high quality peer-reviewed journals. Students graduating from this program advance to careers in biomedical research in academics, biotechnology, pharmaceutical industries, and government and regulatory agencies.
In addition, students participate in unique activities to augment the training in Molecular Medicine. These include a monthly Molecular Medicine Research in Progress dinner that focuses on student research presentations, weekly Molecular Medicine Mentor Lunches where students meet faculty in various research areas for informal discussions over lunch, a beginning Welcome Weekend where students meet each other in an informal setting, an annual research retreat with oral and poster presentations, and a Molecular Medicine lecture series with speakers who are leaders in biomedical research.