The CDB program offers advanced studies leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. All Ph.D. students are expected to complete a set of core courses during their first two years in the Program that includes cell biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, and lab rotations. The requirements include completing a series of core/elective courses and laboratory research (totaling a minimum of 72 credits), passing parts I and II of the qualifying examination, and writing and defending a research dissertation.

Entrance Requirements

First year admission to the CDB Program is handled by the Molecular Biosciences Program. However, transfer students apply directly to the CDB Program. A Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent with at least a grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale of 4.0) is required. The most appropriate preparation is an undergraduate major in biology (molecular, cellular, developmental, or microbiology), biochemistry, or chemistry. Applicants are also expected to have an adequate background in calculus and physics.

Admission is competitive and is based on academic work, letters of recommendation, and scores on the GRE General Test and Subject Test. TOEFL scores are required of students from countries on which English is not the native language.

Course Requirements

Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 72 credits is required for the Ph.D. degree. This is to include a minimum of 32 credits of course work and at least 24 credits of research (148:701, 702).

Transfer of Credit

Credit may not be transferred until 12 credits of graduate courses with grades of B or better have been completed in the Graduate Program. Forms for transfer credit may be obtained from the program Office of the Graduate School. The request for transfer of credits must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Program. A maximum of 24 course credits is transferable. Transfer of credit will be allowed only for those courses relevant to the student’s program. For transfer, courses must have been taken within the past 6 years and passed with a grade of B or better.

Graduate Advisor

The Molecular BioSciences Graduate Programs has a Faculty Committee of Advisors for the first year Ph.D. Students in the Molecular BioSciences Programs. Contact Ms. Carolyn Ambrose or Diane Murano for specifics.


Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D. The qualifying examination is divided into two parts: (I) a comprehensive examination of the student’s general knowledge in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and cognate disciplines (administered through the Molecular Biosciences Program), and (II) evaluation of the student’s research potential and dissertation potential. All Ph.D. students are required to take part I of the examination upon completion of either the first year of full-time study or the core curriculum, whichever comes first.

Part II of the examination should take place once the student has identified a thesis research laboratory (usually by the end of the second year of full time study). For the oral examination, the student shall prepare a written research proposal with a title, significance of the work, and plan for accomplishing the research proposed.  Members of the oral preliminary exam committee may or may not serve on the student¹s thesis committee. However if choosing a committee that will also serve as the thesis committee, the regulations of the Rutgers Graduate School state that at least one of the faculty must not be a member of the Cell & Developmental Biology Graduate program. The external committee member may be a member of another program in the Graduate Programs in Molecular Biosciences or from outside of RU or RWJMS.  The committee chairperson is to submit a written report to the program director of the result of this examination (pass/fail).

Requirements for admission to Ph.D. Candidacy are: (i) completion of the core curriculum, (ii) a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above, and (iii) satisfactory completion of Parts I and II of the qualifying examination. Following admission to candidacy the student is expected to keep his/her thesis advisory committee members informed of research progress in annual committee meetings.

The Thesis Dissertation Committee The student is to present his/her thesis dissertation before a committee of 4: Chair (the thesis advisor, CDB member), 2 faculty members from the CDB program, and an outside member*. The final draft of the dissertation should be prepared in strict accordance with the instructions given in the pamphlet Style Guide for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation, available at the Office of Graduate School. Two copies of the thesis are required to be submitted to The Graduate Office, and one copy to the Graduate Program’s office.

The dissertation itself must be a single entity and a clearly written account of the student¹s original research. In addition to a description of the details and results of the research, it should contain an appropriate general and contextual introduction, written at a level accessible to most other workers in the wider field. If the thesis consists of more than one piece of research, the elements of the dissertation must be related parts of a common research program and should be tied together in the introduction and the conclusion.

The final examination and dissertation defense is open to the public. An announcement of the final examination and dissertation defense must be posted and/or sent to the biosciences community via email listservs.

Policy on the “Outside Member”

The Graduate School requires that one member of a Ph.D. dissertation committee be an individual who is not a member of the student’s degree program. This individual may be a Rutgers faculty member or someone from outside the university. Outside members are intended to bring a fresh perspective to the supervision of a student’s research and also to bring an unbiased look at the quality of the work. Therefore, they must be people with no conflict of interest with regard to assessment of the student’s work.

In some fields, especially the biomedical sciences, there is such a broad inclusion of relevant individuals on program faculties that it has become quite difficult to find a faculty member to appoint as an outside member of a dissertation committee who is not already a member of the program faculty. At the same time, the membership of these programs is drawn from a wide range of units within Rutgers and RWJMS, such that there can easily be faculty members of a program who have little professional contact.

It is therefore permissible, in such situations, that the “outside” member be drawn from within the program faculty when it can be shown that that individual has no personal or professional ties to the student, the adviser and other members of the committee. In these cases the outside member may not be a member of a department already represented on the committee. In addition, the “outside” member may not serve as dissertation committee chair. Requests for these exceptions will have to demonstrate that this is the case and will require approval by the Graduate School. IN SHORT, THE OUTSIDE MEMBER CANNOT BE IN THE SAME DEPARTMENT, THE SAME BUILDING OR HAVE CLOSE SCIENTIFIC TIES TO THE STUDENT'S LAB.

*The outside examiner can be either outside the Program or the University. For appointments of “outside examiners” who do not hold any membership in the graduate faculty, approval of the Program Director and the Graduate School is necessary. The student and/or the advisor is to make the request to the Program Director, who in turn will forward to the Office of the Graduate School a letter requesting the appointment of this individual to the committee.