Programs of Study
Evaluation of ProgressThe Department of Genetics offers a broadly based program of instruction and research in genetics and molecular biology leading to the PhD degree, preparing its graduates for independent careers in research and teaching. The central component of the graduate program is the successful completion of original dissertation research and the preparation of a written dissertation under the direct supervision of a member of the faculty. Prior to undertaking full-time dissertation research, each student must successfully complete five graduate level courses, pass the departmental Qualifying Examination, and fulfill a number of additional requirements. Throughout a student's stay at Yale, he or she is expected to participate in departmental activities. Most students require five to six years to complete the program.
This Handbook, together with the Yale University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Programs and Policies 2013-2014 booklet are the sources of information on the requirements in Genetics. The student is responsible for knowing the requirements and for meeting them in a timely manner.
Formal Graduate Level CoursesBecause students enter the MCGD track with widely varying backgrounds and interests, each student's program of courses is designed individually in consultation with the DGS and must be approved by the DGS, who may require a student to take a specific course to correct a deficiency. The Department requires that each student pass at least five graduate level semester courses, and the DGS may require additional courses for individual students. Course grades in the Graduate School are recorded as Honors, High Pass, Pass, and Fail. The Graduate School requires doctoral students to achieve a minimum grade average of High Pass and to meet an Honors requirement Honors in each of the first two years of study.
Typically, our students take 2 or 3 courses each semester for their first three semesters. Research and some seminar courses are graded as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory and cannot be used to fulfill either the six-course or the honors requirement. For example, First Year Introduction to Research (GENE 900a and GENE 901b) and Graduate Student Seminar (GENE 675) may not be used to fulfill the six-course or Honors requirements. In addition, students must satisfy a departmental breadth requirement by demonstrating basic knowledge of genetics in at least three of four broad areas: molecular, cellular, organismal, and population genetics. Normally this requirement will be met by satisfactory completion of courses, many of which cover more than one of these areas. It is recommended that course requirements be completed by the end of the second term, so that students will be able to take the Qualifying Examination during the third term.
Research ConductAll students are required to take a course on scientific ethics in their first year (i.e., Gene 901b First Year Introduction to Research). This course does not count towards the five course or Honors requirement, and it is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Students must sign in to receive credit for this training; more than one absence results in a grade of unsatisfactory.
Graduate Student SeminarAll second-year students in the Genetics Department are required to take Gene 675 Graduate Student Seminar (GSS). In this seminar course, each student prepares and delivers a seminar based on the literature and discusses presentations by other students. See Appendix 2 for Guidelines for Graduate Student Seminar Presentation. Each semester, the seminar course is led by different faculty members, and the topics chosen reflect the breadth of interest in genetics within the department and elsewhere at Yale. This course does not count toward the five course or Honors requirement, and is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.
Laboratory RotationsAll students are required to carry out research rotations in at least three separate laboratories in their first year. This exercise is formally listed as Gene 911, 912 and 913 and is an MCGD Track requirement. Each rotation typically lasts between 8 and 12 weeks, during which time the student is expected to actively participate on a daily basis in a research project under the direction of a faculty member. This course does not count toward the five course or Honors requirement, and is graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.
A primary purpose of the research rotations is to identify a laboratory in which dissertation research will be carried out, so rotations should be performed in laboratories that are being considered as possible homes. Rotations allow the student to find out what particular laboratories and faculty members are like, and give the faculty a chance to assess how well a particular student fits into the laboratory. Rotations also serve to introduce students to a variety of techniques and scientific approaches. Therefore, the three-rotation requirement will not be waived merely because a student has already made a final decision concerning a dissertation laboratory.
Qualifying ExaminationThe qualifying examination is administered by the Department of Genetics for all students who have affiliated with the department. Students must have completed all course requirements and selected a thesis advisor before taking the qualifying examination. In addition, the exam should be scheduled after the student has obtained preliminary results on his or her thesis project. The examination is an opportunity for students to read in depth in areas of interest (including the thesis topic), to gain experience in the formulation and preparation of coherent research proposals, and for the faculty to identify whether areas of weakness exist in a student's knowledge that should be corrected. The qualifying examination is described in detail in Appendix 1.
TeachingAn important aspect of graduate training in Genetics is the acquisition of teaching skills through participation in courses appropriate for the student's scientific interests. These opportunities can be drawn from a diverse menu of lecture, laboratory and seminar courses given at the undergraduate, graduate, and medical school level. PhD students are expected to participate in two semesters (or its equivalent) of teaching. Students are not expected to teach during their first year or during their qualifying exam. The teaching requirement for Genetics students often includes GENE 500a, Principles of Human Genetics (A. Bale), the formal medical genetics class taught to medical students at Yale. Teaching assignments in fulfillment of the requirement must be approved in advance by the DGS.
Students teaching for the first time are required to participate in a session called Teaching at Yale Day conducted at the Graduate Teaching Center. This year the Teaching at Yale Day is scheduled for Monday, August 26, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. including lunch. Teaching at Yale Day is designed to help new teachers develop the skill and confidence to make an effective start to the semester. Typical themes include: establishing rapport with students, finding an effective style or teaching persona, setting expectations, and the Yale College system. Activities include: panels of experienced Teaching Fellows, small-group discussions with experienced facilitators, and skits and role plays.
Genetics students wanting to serve as teaching fellows after completion of their teaching requirement must complete a Teaching Approval Form and obtain the approval of their thesis advisor and the DGS beforehand.
The Genetics Graduate Program is a full-time commitment and any part-time jobs for pay, including tutoring to Yale College students, requires the approval of the thesis advisor and the DGS.
Dissertation ResearchThe centerpiece of graduate education is the dissertation research and the preparation of the written dissertation.
Selection of a Dissertation AdvisorThe single most important decision made by a graduate student is the selection of a dissertation advisor and laboratory. Each advisor has a distinctive style and approach to science and to graduate education, and it is important to carefully investigate potential laboratories before committing to that laboratory. The best way to assess a laboratory and one's "fit" to it is to carry out a research rotation in that laboratory. Students should talk to the current members of the laboratory: Are they happy and productive? What is the experience of the faculty member in having students successfully complete a dissertation? A student should consider whether he/she wants a big lab with lots of activity or a smaller lab with more day-to-day contact with the advisor. Some students prefer a lab with a high-profile director and potentially more visibility, whereas others thrive with a younger faculty member who is more accessible and who has a more recent memory of graduate student concerns. Other useful sources of information are more advanced students, the DGS, and other faculty. A student should discuss candidly with a potential advisor his or her goals and interests, and request the advisor to outline realistic potential projects. However, it is important to realize that a student is selecting an advisor and a laboratory, not a project, because several shifts of project may occur before a workable one is identified. The DGS must approve the selection of a laboratory. Occasionally an advisor may decide not to admit a student into a laboratory for any of a variety of reasons, such as lack of space, concerns about funding, or the belief that a particular student would fit in better in a different laboratory. Although students and potential thesis advisors are encouraged to discuss possibilities at any time, they are requested not to make a final commitment to each other for thesis research until the end of the last rotation.
On rare occasions, students switch dissertation laboratories after dissertation research has begun. When such a switch is contemplated, this should be discussed with the DGS as soon as possible, so that all options can be considered in a timely fashion.
The selection of a lab marks the assignment of a student from a BBS track to an academic department. Many MCGD students join the Department of Genetics. Students electing to be in the Department of Genetics but who join laboratories headed by faculty without appointments in the Department are expected to participate fully in the academic life of the Department. This includes attendance at journal clubs, research in progress talks, Genetics seminars, and the annual retreat. In addition, all academic requirements such as attendance at graduate student seminar must be met. As for all scientists at Yale, students are also encouraged to attend activities that are relevant to their particular scientific interests and to broaden their scientific knowledge.
Thesis Advisory CommitteeThe thesis advisory committee is an important body that helps each student navigate the shoals of dissertation research. The function of this committee is to periodically review and evaluate progress, provide advice and expertise about the project, and certify when a student has completed sufficient work to begin writing the dissertation. Therefore, the committee should be regarded as an ally and a resource, not an obstacle. On occasion, the thesis committee can help resolve differences between a student and an advisor.
Constituting a Thesis CommitteeThe thesis committee is chaired by the thesis advisor and normally is comprised of three or four faculty members, at least two of whom must have faculty appointments in the Department of Genetics. Additional members may be added at later times if deemed appropriate. The thesis committee is assembled by the student in consultation with the thesis advisor and approved by the DGS. Faculty who supervised first year research rotations and who served on qualifying examination committees are often appropriate as thesis committee members. Faculty members with expertise in the area of the dissertation research are particularly helpful and should be sought out as thesis committee members. A student should be cautious about suggesting committee members who are frequently unavailable, because their presence on the committee may make it difficult to schedule meetings in a timely fashion. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of committee members should be given to the Genetics Registrar, following approval by the DGS.
Thesis Committee MeetingsThe thesis committee must meet for the first time no later than August 31st of the spring term of the second year. The student should canvas the committee members and the advisor for acceptable dates and times and schedule a meeting. Subsequent meetings must be held twice a year from the fourth year on. Meetings should be convened more often if the research has run into difficulty or if a change of research direction is contemplated. If a student experiences difficulty in scheduling thesis committee meetings, he or she should inform the DGS immediately rather than delay scheduling the meeting.
Prior to the first meeting of the thesis committee, the student must prepare a 10-page thesis research proposal in consultation with the advisor and distribute it to committee members (see Appendix 3 for guidelines). This will normally be a revised version of the proposal prepared for the qualifying examination. Prior to subsequent committee meetings, each student should prepare a 2-3 page outline of progress made and of proposed research. This outline should be distributed to the committee members one week before the meeting and should be discussed with the committee during the meeting. After each committee meeting, the advisor must submit to the DGS a summary of progress and the discussion of the committee. In some cases a more detailed report may be required by the DGS. This report is also distributed by the DGS to the other members of the committee and the student. In addition to formal committee meetings, each student should keep in close contact with the individual members of the committee so as to make the best use of their expertise. Note: a student will not be permitted to register for subsequent terms unless an annual committee meeting is held and the report is submitted to the DGS.
Research-in-Progress (RIP) SeriesAll students, beginning in their third year, are required to present their research once a year at Graduate Student Research-in-Progress, held weekly on Tuesday morning during the second-half of the spring term. These presentations are intended to give each student practice in presenting his or her own work before a sympathetic but critical audience and to familiarize the faculty and the rest of the department with the research. Students should not feel compelled to present only polished, finished pieces of work, but also to present on-going projects including a discussion of difficulties, because useful suggestions are often made at RIP. Students in their sixth year do not have to present in this series if they will present their thesis seminar in that academic year.
Dissertation ProspectusBy May 15th of the third year at Yale, each student must prepare a written summary of the proposed nature and scope of the dissertation research, together with a provisional title for the dissertation. This document should be written in clear, plain English with minimal jargon, abbreviations, or colloquialisms. Because the prospectus is required fairly early in a graduate career and because of the uncertainties of research, the content of a thesis may change over time, and a student should not feel bound by what is submitted. The dissertation prospectus for Genetics students is usually an updated and somewhat abbreviated form of the thesis research proposal prepared for the studentís first thesis committee meeting. (Appendix 4 The Dissertation Prospectus, Suggested Guidelines from the Executive Committee of the Graduate School outlines the components that must be included.) The prospectus must be signed by the advisor indicating that the prospectus has been approved and submitted to the DGS. The DGS may require additional changes. Once the DGS has approved the prospectus, it will be submitted to the Graduate School Registrar.Students will not be admitted to candidacy, nor will they be allowed to register for the 4th year of study, without an approved Prospectus.
Admission to CandidacyAfter all pre-dissertation requirements are successfully completed (Course requirements, Honors requirement, Qualifying Examination, Dissertation Prospectus), a student will be admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. These requirements are normally met in three years. A student who has not been admitted to candidacy will not be permitted to register for the fourth year.Exceptions must be approved in advance by the DGS, the department faculty, and the Graduate School Associate Dean.
Master's DegreesM.Phil. The Master of Philosophy degree can be awarded to Ph.D students who have been admitted to candidacy. See the Yale University Graduate School Programs and Policies Degree booklet.
M.S. Students are not admitted for this degree but may be awarded this degree if they leave Yale without completing certain requirements for the PhD degree. See the Yale University Graduate School Programs and Policies Degree booklet.
Evaluation of ProgressStudents may view their academic record (unofficial transcript) on-line.
All students are encouraged to have frequent conversations with the DGS, course instructors, and (in later years) the thesis advisor as well as members of the thesis committee. In addition, students will receive a copy of the summary statement of each thesis committee meeting. In this way, students will develop an accurate, ongoing sense of their own progress. The department faculty will formally evaluate the progress of each student at the end of every academic year. The evaluation will be based on performance in courses, laboratory rotations, and the Qualifying Examination. In later years, the advisor and thesis committee will report to the faculty on the student's thesis research progress. If at any point the faculty finds deficiencies in a student's performance, a detailed letter will be sent to the student by the DGS describing those deficiencies and making suggestions to remedy them.
Finally, at the end of the academic year (May 31st) the Graduate School requires a Dissertation Progress Report from students in their 4th, 5th, and 6th year. This report must be completed and signed by the student, by the faculty advisor, and by the Director of Graduate Studies.
First Author Manuscript Requirement (applicable to 2013-2014 incoming students)
- The goal of the Genetics graduate program is to provide outstanding training to prepare students for successful careers in science and related areas. Training includes carrying out a research project that adds new knowledge tothe , and culminates in a publishable body of work. Thus, each student is required to have at least one first-author accepted or submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal before submitting his or her thesis to Yale Graduate School for the Ph.D. degree. This requirement will be waived for an individual student only with the approval of the student’s advisor, thesis committee, and the faculty of the Department of Genetics.