Academic Program

PhD Program Snapshot

MPS is a dual major program and all students have a primary department affiliation. Students normally enter the MPS program in the Fall semester. Students can enter at other times by special permission (go here for admissions information).

In the first year, students take core courses, including requirements of the primary department and do three 8-week rotations.

By the second year, students have found a dissertation advisor and formed a guidance committee. During the second year, students take one or more elective courses and start their thesis research.

By the beginning of the third year, students take the qualifying exam for admission to PhD candidacy, which has oral and written parts. Research and seminar courses occupy the third through fifth years.

In the last six months, students write and defend their dissertations.

At an early stage, applicants are encouraged to contact faculty in their areas of interest regarding potential openings in their laboratories. Not all faculty accept students every year.

The MPS program does not offer Master’s degrees at this time.


Go to the Coursework and Requirements page for information on MPS-specific courses and supplemental primary department requirements.


First Year:

  • 3-4 laboratory rotations, each 8 weeks. Most students will choose a lab after 3 rotations (approximately in mid-February).
  • Students have the option to do a fourth rotation.

Subsequent years:

Research is conducted under the supervision of a dissertation advisor and a guidance committee, including:

  • Preparation of research proposal
  • Experimental work
  • Writing of manuscripts and dissertation
  • Public research presentations


All students should receive teaching experience because of its importance to the career development of all scientists. The amount of teaching expected of MPS students will depend on the source of their funding and on the requirements of their primary department.