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GBCB Degree Requirements

GBCB student Nuria Tubau Juni presenting her GBCB preliminary exam

Exposure to Breadth of Discipline

The interdisciplinary GBCB program requires coordination among several academic units, as it is important that students receive a broad exposure to the varied disciplines required for their degree. The courses taken will provide much of that exposure, and the research will be done across the boundaries of traditional fields. Some additional focused research experiences may be involved in complementing coursework and developing a dissertation project.

These research experiences will depend on a number of factors:

  • the student's level of preparation
  • the student's primary course of study (primary track)
  • the student's funding source
  •  the need to identify a dissertation advisor
Graduate Advisory Committes
  • Each doctoral committee will be chaired by a faculty member in the GBCB program.
  • The committee will  have a minimum of four faculty on it
  • Each committee will have a chair, or co-chairs, and members.
  • At least one faculty member must be from outside the student's primary track. This member will provide cross-disciplinary mentoring on the dissertation project.
  • If the student’s primary track is not life sciences, at least one member of the advisory committee must be from the life sciences.
  • The student will plan courses and research with the advisory committee
  • Students must meet with their committee at least once a year

Requirements for Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy

First year: At the end of the spring semester (the second semester), students will be evaluated based on their course grades. This may also include an assessment of research performance if appropriate.

Second year: At the end of the spring semester (the fourth semester), students will again be evaluated based on course grades, and an initial research proposal. This initial proposal is to encourage students to demonstrate some mastery of the relevant research literature,  and to present research ideas that they have formulated in the first two years. This proposal will first be presented to and discussed with the student's chair, and then with the full committee.

Third year: Students should strive to complete all coursework by the end of this year (if any coursework remains to be completed).
Concentration on research is paramount, and considerably more time will be spent in the lab. Weekly meetings with the advisor should take place, and a full committee meeting at least once in both fall and spring semesters.

Fourth year:  Two things are very important in this fourth year:
First, the preliminary exam. This is done after much consulation with the advisor and the committee to determine if/when the student should prepare for and schedule the preliminary exam.
Second, students should register for the GBCB Problem Solving course (GBCB 5874).  GBCB 5874 is a semester-long course that involves team projects that work on a real-world problem that throughout the semester.
GBCB 5874 provides an essential experience in bioinformatics research for graduate students.

The course is built around multidisciplinary teams of computer science, life science, and statistics researchers engaged in a bioinformatics project directed by one or more faculty members.

Each student joins a team and provides his or her expertise in a collaboration to accomplish a specified research goal. The student must report on the scientific findings, as well as his or her impressions of the experience. In turn, the other research team members provide feedback on the student’s performance for purposes of evaluation and improvement.

The student is exposed to the scientific method as it applies in the life sciences and bioinformatics; the nature of contemporary bioinformatics tools and their integration; strategies for publishing results in bioinformatics; and opportunities in research careers in bioinformatics.

Fifth year: Students should have completed all degree requirements (coursework + research) by the end of the fifth year of study (tenth semester). The final defense of the dissertation will take place during the spring-summer terms.

** Students seeking to complete degree requirements in fewer than five years (e.g., entering with Master’s degree or significant work experience) will be able to meet these milestones on an accelerated schedule. Coordination between the student, the committee, and the graduate coordinator is essential.

Dissertation Defense for Ph.D.

Upon completion of all coursework and the intended research, a doctoral student must prepare a dissertation describing the completed research using the format common to Virginia Tech. A dissertation defense, under the direction of the advisory committee, will be scheduled to examine the student’s research, dissertation documentation, and underlying fundamental knowledge needed to complete the research. Upon successful completion of the defense and dissertation, the doctoral student may apply for graduation from Virginia Tech with the Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology.