The Molecular Pathology Graduate Program for MSTP Students
Curriculum: With its primary emphasis on the molecular mechanisms of human disease, the
Molecular Pathology Graduate Program provides excellent academic and research training for MSTP students.
A modified curriculum has been designed for MSTP students. MSTP students are exempted from Molecular Biology of the Cell, Histology, and Human Pathology. They take Research Methods (autumn), the The Molecular Pathology of Cancer (Winter), and either Neurologic and muscle disease (Winter), or Microbial pathogenesis (Spring). Lectures in these classes describe the mechanistic background and major open questions related to each topic and are delivered by faculty who pursue research in a related field. Each lecture serves to expose students to potential research mentors. Research Methods is offered in autumn quarter, and describes a comprehensive spectrum of molecular methods used to approach the open questions in human disease research.
The educational approach of Molecular Pathology 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.
MSTP students take 6 units of Electives, which consist of graduate level class offered by the Molecular Pathology, Biomedical Sciences, or Neurosciences Programs at the SOM or offered by the Departments of Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, or Bioengineering. A popular 2 unit elective is Mouse Models of Human Disease, a course that focuses on how transgenic and knockout mice serve as models for the molecular analysis and treatment of human diseases. Generally, electives are chosen to provide additional training in a field related to that of the students thesis research. They may be taken anytime throughout the course of thesis research.
In the autumn of year 2, MSTP students perform their advancement to candidacy exam, in which they learn how to write a short NIH style grant. They present their proposal orally to a faculty committee. For the remainder of their program, MSTP students focus exclusively on thesis research. In accordance with NIH policy, the program strongly encourages MSTP students to finish their dissertation research within four years of entering the graduate program. The program director will play an active role in making sure that the mentors of MSTP students understand the importance of designing a focused thesis research plan in order to accomplish this goal.
MSTP students also participate in the annual Spring Research Retreat at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which provides a forum for students to present their work, discuss their ideas and hypotheses, and engage in some friendly scientific debate.
Faculty: The program recognizes that many MSTP students have already identified thesis research mentors by the middle of their second year of academic training, and therefore permits MSTP students to select any mentor located in departments at the medical school or basic science campus or located at our institutional affiliates (Burnham, Scripps, or Salk). For uncommitted students, the program emphasizes the research programs of its faculty, through their research presentations and participation as lecturers.
For more information concerning the Molecular Pathology Graduate Program for MSTP students, please contact the
Mark P. Kamps, Ph.D.
Director, Molecular Pathology Graduate Program