Graduate Degree Requirements

To obtain a Ph.D. in Biotechnology Science and Engineering at UAHuntsville, a student must satisfy the requirements of the School of Graduate Studies as well as those of the Biotechnology Science and Engineering Program. The requirements are as follows:

1. Successfully complete the core courses:

  • CHE 560: Introduction to Bioprocess Engineering
  • CHE 561: Bioseparations, Recombinant Techniques and Protein Engineering
  • CH 561/BYS 547: Graduate Biochemistry I
  • CH 562/BYS 548: Graduate Biochemistry II
  • BYS 519: Gene Structure and Function
  • BYS 543: Molecular Biology of the Cell

2. Pass the Cumulative Examinations (Cumes)

Each student must pass the cumulative examinations which has to be taken at the end of the first summer of residence, and will cover materials from the core courses in the areas of Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Genetics and Bioprocessing/Bioseparations. Students will take examinations in all three areas during the first attempt. Students are required to repeat only the part of the exams that they did not pass. Students will have a maximum of two attempts to pass the preliminary examination. Appeals to this policy must be filed with the Director of the Biotechnology Program who will consult with the Graduate Dean and the Deans of the Colleges of Engineering and Science.

3. Choose a dissertation advisor and committee

Students who qualify for the Ph.D. program by passing the preliminary examination will choose a dissertation advisor and a Supervisory Committee during the fall semester of their second year. The committee will meet for the first time with the student to review the initial research goals (Research Start Meeting).

4. Write and defend a research proposal

In consultation with the dissertation advisor and committee, the student will begin working on a research project which will subsequently lead to an NIH or NSF style proposal. This written proposal will be submitted to the committee by the middle of the second summer. By the first semester of the third year, the student will defend this proposal in a seminar, followed by questions from committee members (Annual Research Appraisal I) (ARA-I). Successful completion of the written and oral presentation of the dissertation proposal constitutes the School of Graduate Studies Qualifying Examination.

5. Complete an acceptable program of study

The program of study will consist of at least 48 semester hours of coursework at the graduate level including the core courses required to prepare for the preliminary examinations and courses required to prepare the student to conduct original research in their area of study. Students must register for a total of three hours of seminar. A maximum of three seminar hours may be considered towards fulfillment of the graduate course requirements. A minimum of 18 hours of BSE 799 must be included in the program of study.

6. Complete and defend a research dissertation

During the fall semesters of the next two years, students will meet with their advisors and committee for research appraisals (ARA). Following these annual evaluations, the student will begin writing the dissertation and plan to defend it before the fifth year after passing the preliminary examination. The primary dissertation advisor and the committee have the discretion to allow students to defend the dissertation earlier if the work is of high quality and sufficient progress has been made toward the goals stated in the research proposal.

All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed in no more than five years after the approval of the Research Proposal (ARA-I).

Program Content

The core curriculum will consist of 27 credit hours. This includes 3 semester hour credits each in the lecture courses Graduate Biochemistry I and II, Gene Structure and Function, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Introduction to Bioprocessing, Bioseparations and Current Topics in Biotechnology. Students will earn 3 credit hours by participating in two laboratory rotations lasting 6 weeks each in two selected faculty research laboratories. Students will earn 3 credit hours by working for 10 weeks with a mentor at a biotechnology company or business or a research laboratory that has specific relevance to the biotechnology science and engineering.

The laboratory rotations are designed to provide students with an opportunity to evaluate current research projects with different faculty and come to a decision about their dissertation project. Students who come to the program with a specific project and advisor in mind, can choose the laboratories through which they rotate in consultation with their major advisor and the thesis committee.

Students will be required to take a minimum of three seminar credits, one in each of the first two semesters, where they will hear presentations by invited speakers on various topics, and one at the end of the first summer where they will present a report to the faculty and students about their industrial rotation experience.

A qualifying examination, to be taken by each student at the end of the first summer of residence, will consist of three 3-hour exams in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Genetics and Bioprocessing/Bioseparations. Students will have to take all three exams during their first attempt. Students are only required to repeat the part of the exams that he/she did not pass. Students will have a maximum of two attempts to pass this qualifying examination.

Students who qualify for the Ph.D. program by passing this exam will then choose their advisor and a thesis committee during the Fall semester of Year II. The committee will meet for the first time with the student to review the initial research goals (Research Start Meeting). In consultation with this committee, the student will begin working on a research project which will subsequently lead to an NIH style proposal to be written in a semester's time. This written proposal will be submitted to the committee by the middle of Summer II. By the first semester of the third year the student will defend this proposal in a seminar, followed by questions from the committee members (Annual Research Appraisal (ARA I). Successful completion of the written and oral presentation of the thesis proposal will result in the student advancing to Ph.D. candidacy. During the fall semesters of the next two years, students will meet with their advisors and committee for a research appraisal (ARA II and ARA III). Following these annual evaluations, the student will begin writing the dissertation and plan to defend the thesis sometime during the fifth year of residence. The primary thesis advisor and the committee will have discretion to allow the students to defend the thesis earlier if the work is of high quality and sufficient progress has been made towards the goals stated in the research proposal.

The graduate school at UAH currently requires that students have a total of 48 credit hours in coursework plus a minimum of 18 thesis credit hours for a Ph.D. Once students have completed the core requirement of 27 credit hours of courses, they can satisfy the additional 21 credit hours by choosing courses from the areas of specialization under the direction of the advisor and the thesis committee.

The three principal areas of specialization will be Structural Biology, Biomolecular Sciences, and Bioprocess Engineering. The areas of specialization will be directed by faculty members experienced in these fields.

Structural Biology will include studies that provide insight into the molecular function of biological macromolecular systems through techniques such as spectroscopy, X-ray and neutron diffraction, NMR or computational chemistry.

Biomolecular Sciences will cover modern genetic analysis, gene expression, enzymology, drug discovery, bioinformatics and genomics .

Bioprocess Engineering will involve production and purification of proteins using genetic engineering techniques, drug delivery techniques, biocatalysis.

Each student that graduates from this program will have a Ph.D. degree in biotechnology with an emphasis in one of the three specialized area. The summary of the proposed program and a suggested path from admission to the program to a defense of the thesis is outlined below.

Core Curriculum

Name of Course Course Number Credits
Graduate Biochemistry I CH/BYS 560
Graduate Biochemistry II  CH/BYS 561 
Gene Structure and Function  CH/BYS 519 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  CH/BYS 543 
Introduction to Bioprocess Engineering  CHE 560 
Bioseparations  CHE 561 
Current Topics in Biotechnology  BSE 601 
Laboratory Rotations  BSE 602 
Internship at Biotech Companies or Government Labs  BSE 603 

Specialized Courses

Students can satisfy the additional requirement of 21 course credits by choosing courses tailored to the area of research by taking courses offered by other departments on the campus in consultation with the advisor or through Special Topics courses. Some of the specialized courses that will be offered by the faculty in the Biotechnology Ph.D. program are identified below. Some of these courses will be offered as Special Topics Courses subject to demand and student enrollment and therefore may have the same course number e.g. ChE 699 in Chemical and Materials Engineering.

Structural Biology

X-Ray Structure Determination CH 560 3
Macromolecular Crystallography CH (Sp Topics) 3
Advanced Topics in Crystallography CH (Sp Topics) 3
NMR Spectroscopy CH (Sp Topics) 3
Computational Chemistry CH 531 3

Bioprocess Engineering

Advanced Topics in Bioengineering CHE 747 3
Advanced Enzymology CHE 699 3
Drug Delivery CHE 600 3
Cell Biomechanics CHE 566 3
Fluid Dynamics and Transport in the Vascular Circulation CHE 651 3

Biomolecular Sciences

Molecular Biochemistry Lab CH 565 3
Modern Genetic Analysis BYS (Sp Topics) 3
Advanced Gene Expression BYS (Sp Topics) 3
Computational Chemistry CH 531 3
Organic Synthetic Reactions CH 631 3
Physical Organic Chemistry CH 632 3
Natural Products Chemistry CH (Sp Topics) 3
Medicinal Chemistry BYS (Sp Topics) 3
Biological Macromolecules CH 661 3
Tissue Culture BYS 690 3
Growth Factors and Oncogenes BYS 690 3