Graduate students are guided by one or two academic advisors who help them plan their coursework and guide them in the choice of first-year rotations. These research rotations facilitate their choice of a mentor and enhance their exposure to different research problems and techniques. The rotation experience enriches the student's awareness of the interactions between different research laboratories and often results in an initial publishable piece of scientific work.
During their first year, students generally complete the regimen, including laboratory rotation, which usually involves two or three laboratory experiences. Students who enter with focused disciplinary interests are welcome to affiliate immediately with a particular Multidisciplinary Training Area (MTA), though they will not declare that area formally until the end of the first year of study. Students who have completed relevant graduate coursework at other institutions can receive graduate credit for that work and may be exempted from specific core requirements.
Students are assisted by their academic advisors in the selection of interdisciplinary rotations with faculty. Advanced students together with their advisory committee will choose advanced courses, journal clubs, and seminars. Journal clubs and seminars are an important part of the training program. Students learn to analyze, evaluate, and prepare written and spoken research presentations.
Graduate students have numerous opportunities to meet with distinguished visiting scientists and discuss their own projects with them. Students complete the core requirement during the first year of the program. Progress toward the core requirement will be evaluated at the end of the first year in the program.
During the second year, students will complete MTA-specific advanced courses that are appropriate for their particular interests. Many advanced courses are modular: three one-credit modules are offered in a given semester, and students may register for all three or individually for one or two modules. This arrangement enables students to "mix-and-match" modules from different areas, e.g., an immunobiology module, a signal transduction module, and an oncogene module, to fit their interests best. By this time, the student will have moved into a mentor's laboratory and initiated his or her major research endeavor.
By the end of the third semester, the student must have successfully taken the qualifying examination that covers general knowledge of his or her field of interest. The thesis proposal must be successfully presented during the fifth semester in the program. The final examination is, of course, the dissertation defense. In addition to the actual defense, students present a formal public seminar as their work comes to conclusion.
Throughout their graduate education at ISMMS, students take advantage of the shared core facilities for special biophysical, molecular biological, and immunological techniques. They enjoy an outstanding library with a center for computerized learning programs.