During the first year, this course meets daily for 15 weeks during the fall and spring semesters. Topics are presented through a mix of didactic lectures, workshops, and discussions focused on research papers. Students are expected to present papers and lead conversations in which the group analyzes research.
The course is divided into 5 sections:
- Experimental Biology teaches conceptual and practical aspects of 5 different research disciplines: imaging, genetics, biochemistry, genomics, and quantitative biology.
- Cancer Engineering provides students with a foundation in engineering principles that can be used to solve challenges in cancer biology and oncology. The curriculum includes 9 weeks of classes organized into three sections: Molecular and Nanoengineering; Cancer Imaging; and Genetic Engineering.
- Immunology familiarizes students with cellular, molecular, and biochemical aspects of the immune system and how immune responses function in physiology. It focuses on the development of the immune system and the biological functions of its major components.
- Entrepreneurship teaches the processes involved in developing a technology for the market, including understanding intellectual property; evaluating the market for a technology; building a basic financial model; establishing funding mechanisms; assessing regulatory issues; and developing a business plan.
- Cancer Biology teaches how to think about cancer as a disease and also as a biological problem. This course leverages the world-class research and clinical expertise at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Observing in the Clinic
An important aspect of integrating basic and clinical sciences is developing an appreciation of the human side of disease, observing real-life challenges faced by clinical practitioners, and understanding the gap between a good research idea and its execution in the clinic. During the first year of the program, students visit various clinics as observers.
Students rotate through at least two MSK labs, with the option of a third and fourth rotation. While the period of each rotation is relatively short, Our rotations are offset from classes so that students can concentrate on their research when they are in lab, and then they can focus on coursework when they are in class. Students have the opportunity to gain significant hands-on experience and develop an appreciation for the style of research and potential thesis projects in different laboratories. This enables students to start their thesis research in a serious and focused manner at the start of their second year. The school organizes a symposium at the end of each rotation for students to formally present their projects.
Logic and Critical Analysis
All first-year students complete this course during the first rotation period. Scientific papers are used to help set the foundation for students to develop their ability to think logically, critically analyze information and data, and present scientific results to a group.
Students are encouraged to develop an approach to understanding the scientific literature, which includes asking the following questions about each experiment: What is the question the authors asked? How was the experiment performed? What techniques were used and why? What is the nature of the data produced? What represents a significant result? What were the conclusions made by the authors? Does the authors’ data justify the conclusions made? What conclusions would the student make?
President’s Research Seminar Series (PRSS) Journal Club
First year students participate in a special Journal Club (one credit/semester) that brings some of the leading and most distinguished scientists in the world to MSK. On the day before the seminar, the students meet with the faculty host of PRSS to review some of the published works of the guest speaker. On a rotating basis, three of the first-year students also meet with the speaker on the day of the seminar. GSK students also choose and host at least one PRSS speaker each year. The topics represented are wide ranging and cover some of the most exciting fields in modern biology and cancer research, thus regular attendance of students serves to encourage them to broaden their viewpoint. This course is also offered as part of the CBGP curriculum.
Graduate Student Seminars and Chalk Talks
Developing the ability to present and discuss the results of your research in a coherent, logical and compelling fashion is an important feature of becoming a successful scientist. From the first through the fourth years in the program, all students are required to attend and participate in presentations that will help to develop these skills, from chalk talks in the first and second years, to formal graduate student seminars presented in years three and four. Each student presents his or her project, and fellow students provide critical feedback.
Current Topics Journal Club
Students participate in this student-run course beginning in the second year and continuing throughout their fifth year in the graduate program. There are eight sections of roughly five participants each. Students select papers of interest (based on the section’s topic) and present them to the group for discussion.
A journal club of this type is important in that it helps prevent the tunnel vision that can sometimes develop as students focus on their thesis research. Because the entire student body participates, the forum includes diverse topics and a continued exchange of ideas within the graduate community.