Molecular Pathology Curriculum
The Molecular Pathology Graduate Program provides academic training
for Ph.D. students with a primary emphasis on the molecular mechanisms of human disease (Curriculum Time-Table), offering introductory classes that emphasize development of scientific approaches (Modern Methods in Molecular Pathology, Molecular Biology of the Cell) and annual research-focused graduate
courses on the molecular basis of Cancer,
Neurological Disease, and Microbial Pathogenesis. Microbiology majors may select a customized focused training program (Microbiology Program Time-Table). Topical lectures are delivered by faculty who pursue related research questions, and each
lecture serves to expose students to potential research mentors. The educational approach of Molecular Pathology Program classes is not focused on memorization. Instead, identifying the
major unanswered questions underlying a human disease mechanism, formulating the most likely
hypothesis that could account for a disease phenotype, and deriving the best methodological approaches to
address these hypotheses constitute the important learning objectives. This is a thought process that must be acquired in
graduate school in order to perform productive thesis research, and ultimately to enjoy a productive research career.
A class in Modern Methods in Molecular Pathology is offered in autumn quarter, and describes a comprehensive
spectrum of molecular methods used to approach the open questions in human disease research. A second class in the
Molecular Biology of the Cell, offers a
concise overview of the biochemical basis of gene expression, of diverse signal transduction
pathways, and integrates these pathways in the context of cellular processes such as cell division, development,
cell-cell interactions, and inflammation. Relevant open questions are then defined in the
Neurological Disease, which are generally taken by all students, and in
Pathogenesis which is taken by all Microbiology major and may be taken as an elective by any student.
The link between molecular mechanism and human pathology is provided by two classes,
normal Histology and
Human Disease, autumn quarter courses given in years one and two respectively, which are taught by the clinical faculty of the Pathology Department. Once students have a comprehensive
understanding of research methods, have been exposed to the molecular mechanisms and open questions
of major forms of human diseases, and understand the basic principles of histology, they realize the importance of using mouse models as tools to research the cause and treatment of disease.
Mouse Models for Human Disease is therefore offered in the spring quarter, and focuses on how transgenic and knockout mice serve as models for the molecular analysis and treatment of human diseases.
Students familiarize themselves with faculty research through Website descriptions and through attending short research overview provided by faculty members during the Winter quarter (Seminars in Molecular Pathology). To select a laboratory for thesis research, students perform three 6- to 10-week
rotations in the laboratories of research faculty during the autumn, winter,
and spring quarter of their first year. By summer, students should have identified their thesis research laboratory, and
should start their thesis research projects. Students complete their thesis research and receive their Ph.D. degree
within 5 to 6 years.
Molecular Pathology graduate students take 6 units of Electives, which are offered by medical school departments (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacology, etc.)
and undergraduate departments (e.g. Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry). These classes may be taken as early as Spring quarter of the first year and as late as the end of the forth year. A variety of reasons are considered in choice of electives. First, they should be used to fill any
gaps in undergraduate education (such as immunology or virology). Second, students often wait to take electives until their second or third years so that they can confer with their thesis mentor and decide which course(s) would particularly benefit them in terms of understanding their thesis research field. Ultimately, the number and selection of electives is up to the student.
In the autumn of year 2, Molecular Pathology students perform their Minor Proposition Exam, in which they demonstrate their ability to construct an original scientific approach to addresses an open research question of their own choosing. This exam follows the written style of an NIH grant (although it is shorter at 10 pages) and is presented orally to a designated committee. Passing the minor proposition exam is a prerequisite for continuing on to thesis research.
Molecular Pathology Courses
(2 units, Autumn). This course is taken together with first year medical
students and teaches the structure of normal tissues. Emphasis is based on microscopic study conducted
in small laboratory groups under close faculty supervision. Understanding normal histology is a
prerequisite for understanding human disease histology, which is the focus of the clinical human disease
class (SOM TBA) taken in the first quarter of the second year.
Mechanisms of Neurological Disease
(4 units, Winter). This course explores the molecular
basis of various human neurologic diseases, beginning with the muscle (muscular dystrophy), moving to
the synapse (myasthenia gravis), the peripheral nerve (neuropathies), the spinal column (multiple
sclerosis), and the brain (Alzheimer's, Prion diseases, Parkinson's, stroke). Papers illustrating the
importance of identifying the key question and deriving a molecular approach to understand the question
will be discussed.
Molecular Pathology of Cancer
(4 units, Winter). This course presents the latest
developments in the understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. Lectures are given by faculty who
are experts in each area of carcinogenesis. They describe what is know in each area, what the unknown
questions are, and how their laboratories are pursuing these intriguing questions.
(4 units, Spring). Topics covered in this course include
molecular and cellular mechanisms of viral, bacterial and protozoan pathogenesis. Host response and
microbial mechanisms of evasion of host defense will also be discussed. Sessions will consist of faculty
and student presentations of current literature.
Mouse Models for Human Disease
(2 units, Spring). This class outline approaches to
constructing mouse models of human disease. Once normal histology and human disease histology are
understood, a clear understanding of murine phenotypes for human disease can be garnered.
(3 units, Autumn). An overview of the principles of pathology
of the important diseases. Examples of their application to specific organ systems will be included.
(1-4) - In Rotation Studies, students focus on a specific research topic under the direction of a faculty member. Path 296 also includes attendance at all faculty short research presentations (Autumn 2009 research presentation schedule). Students will be evaluated on the basis of their active participation at these research talks.
PATH 299. Thesis Research/Independent Study (1-12) - 12 units taken as thesis
research following first year classes. 1-12 units in the case of unique cases of independent study.