Required Courses

G&D trainees follow a required curriculum during the first two years of study. Elective courses may be taken in the third or fourth year and may be required if students are funded on certain training grants. Visit the Columbia University Directory of Classes for a complete listing of available courses.

Genetics and Development candidates must successfully complete the required courses listed in the following table with a grade of B- or better. Anyone receiving a C+ grade or below may be required to repeat a course at the discretion of the training committee. A cumulative GPA of B+ in required courses must be maintained to remain in good academic standing.

Course requirements are usually met within the first two years. Additional courses may be required by the training committee for individual students depending on the student’s interests and background.

First-Year Required Courses - Fall Semester

G6210x: Genetic Approaches to Biological Problems I (3 Points)

This course is designed to illustrate how genetic systems have played a fundamental role in our understanding of basic biological problems. Topics include: mitosis and meiosis, chromosomal linkage and mapping, consequences of chromosomal rearrangements, mechanisms of recombination and gene conversion, the use of mutants to study gene structure, regulation and the cell cycle, uses of recombinant DNA in genetic analysis, and the genetic analysis of development in Drosophila.

G4150x: Molecular Genetics (4 Points)

Basic aspects of prokaryotic molecular biology and genetics and modern molecular genetics approaches to complex biological phenomena. Topics include regulation of gene expression, molecular genetics of bacterial viruses, plasmids, and transposable elements.

G6300x: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Eukaryotes I (4.5 Points)

Covers information essential to successfully carrying out research in biological sciences. Topics include basic biochemical principles and processes common to all eukaryotic cells such as transcription, translation, the cell cycle, and mechanisms of cell-cell signaling, protein structure, nucleic acid structure, DNA-protein interactions, cooperative DNA binding, membranes, protein synthesis and degradation, DNA replication and repair, cell cycle, recombination in the immune system, genomic and bioinformatics.

G9321x: Seminars in Genetics and Development (1 Point)

Student-organized seminar series; presentation of selected research topics.

G4501x: Methods in Genetics and Development (4 Points)

A survey of laboratory methods used in research. Students rotate through laboratories of the Genetics and Development faculty and faculty of the Basic Sciences Departments.

First-Year Required Courses - Spring Semester

G6211y: Genetic Approaches to Biological Problems II (3 Points)

Basic principles and current areas of interest in mouse and human genetics. Topics include an introduction to mouse genetics, X-chromosome inactivation and genomic imprinting, genetic manipulation of the mouse, genetics of mouse coat color, genetics of sex determination, human linkage analysis, somatic cell genetics, physical mapping of the human genome, cytogenetics, mitochondrial genetics, and disease.

G6301Y: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Eukaryotes II (4.5 Points)

Topics include: chromatin/telomeres, transcription, RNA processing, apoptosis, imprinting, X inactivation, receptors, structure of signaling proteins, retroviruses/HIV, transcription factor signaling, cancer genetics, and oncogenes.

G4027y: Principles of Developmental Biology (3 Points)

The course emphasizes the molecular control of vertebrate embryogenesis. Divided into three main areas: early embryogenesis, developmental neurobiology, and the development and differentiation of specialized organs or lineages.

G9322y: Seminars in Genetics and Development (1 Point)

Student-organized seminar series; presentation of selected research topics.

G4502y: Methods in Genetics and Development (4 Points)

A survey of laboratory methods used in research. Students rotate through laboratories of the Genetics and Development faculty and faculty of the Basic Sciences Departments.

Second-Year Required Courses - Fall Semester

G4050x: Advanced Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics (4 Points)

Advanced treatment of the principles and methods of the molecular biology of eukaryotes, emphasizing the organization, expression, and evolution of eukaryotic genes. Topics include reassociation and hybridization kinetics, gene numbers, genomic organization at the DNA level, mechanisms of recombination, transposable elements, DNA rearrangements, gene amplification, oncogenes, recombinant DNA techniques, transcription, and RNA splicing.

G9321x: Seminars in Genetics and Development (1 Point)

Student-organized seminar series; presentation of selected research topics.

Second-Year Required Courses - Spring Semester

G4010y: Ethics and Policy of Scientific Research (1 Point)

Topics include: career paths in sciences, normative issues in authorship of scientific publications, data sharing and data secrecy, ownership of scientific and technical information, scientific misconduct, the historical record of conflict and consensus between science and the goals of government, and the relationship between federal scientific policy issues and academic scientists.

G8012y: Statistics for the Basic Sciences (1 Point)

This course covers the basic tools for the collection, analysis, and presentation of data. Central to these skills is assessing the impact of chance and variability on the interpretation of research findings and subsequent recommendations for public health practice and policy. Topics include general principles of study design, estimation, hypothesis testing, methods for comparison of discrete and continuous data including chi-square test of independence, t=test, ANOVA, correlation, and regression.

G9322y: Seminars in Genetics and Development (1 Point)

Student-organized seminar series; presentation of selected research topics.

Seminar Series

The course, G9321x/9322y Seminars in Genetics and Development, is organized and run by the students and postdocs in the department and features their work. It provides a forum to meet with peers and gain experience presenting and critiquing ongoing research. Faculty members are generally excluded from these sessions without special invitation. Thesis defense seminars, which are open to faculty and students, are scheduled as part of this seminar series. Attendance is mandatory for registered students, although 2 unexcused absences per term are allowed. The department has an active weekly seminar series with speakers from around the world. As part of this series, first and second year Genetics and Development students, as well as advanced students have the opportunity to select and host speakers.

Qualifying Exams

The Qualifying Examination in the Department of Genetics and Development is a two part process involving a presentation to a committee of the student's research activities in the laboratory: Part I should be completed by April 1st of year two. Part II must be completed by October 31st of year three. The Qualifying Exam has as its major goal determining whether a student is capable of Ph.D. thesis research. The Qualifying Committee is concerned with two questions in this regard: 1) Is the student expert enough in his/her field of research interest to pursue thesis research? 2) Is the student qualified to do the laboratory ‘bench’ research required for a Ph.D. project?

Part I

For Part I, a 5-10 page double-spaced research proposal for the ensuing 6-month period should be presented to the committee at least one week prior to the exam, which is an oral (PowerPoint) presentation with questions and discussion. The proposal should be in the format of a grant proposal or fellowship application covering the following:

  • Introduction and Specific Aims
  • Background and Significance
  • Preliminary Studies
  • Research Design and Methods
  • Literature Cited

Part II

For Part II, a 5-10 page double-spaced summary of research in the format of a progress report should be provided to the committee one week prior to the exam. It should include the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Results
  • Discussion and Future Plans
  • Literature Cited

The exam itself is an oral (usually PowerPoint) presentation to the committee with questions and discussion. Following the presentation of Part II, the student will receive a grade of Pass, Contingent Pass, contingent upon satisfying prescribed conditions, or Fail. In the event of a failing grade, the Training Committee, in consultation with the Qualifying Exam Committee and mentor, will determine whether the student leaves the program or is allowed a reexamination. There is no requirement for completion of a specific research project to pass the Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Committee must simply be convinced that the student is capable of undertaking thesis research by virtue of their evaluation of the student's research plan, laboratory work and understanding of the thesis research area. The program director may solicit information from the student’s mentor prior to Part II of the Qualifying Exam.