First Year

First Year

GSK students sitting at a table in class

New students receive the support they need to choose their research mentor and dissertation topic.

Students arrive on campus at the end of July. After a one-week orientation, they engage in their first five-week laboratory rotation. This rotation is organized prior to arrival on campus, in consultation with the student’s first year mentor and the dean.

The first year mentor meets with the student regularly to provide advice and guidance during the coursework, as well as to assist with the selection of laboratories for additional rotations.

During the first year of study, students complete:

  • the year-long Core Course, consisting of a combination of didactic lectures and discussions of research papers from the primary literature
  • the Responsible Conduct of Research course
  • a mini-course on logic and critical analysis
  • Biostatistics and Computational Biology practicum
  • two semesters of the President’s Research Seminar Series Journal Club
  • the first-year clinical program
  • three five-week laboratory rotations

All students enter our PhD program without a formal commitment to a particular laboratory. This allows our students the flexibility to explore potential research mentors, participate in the first-year curriculum, and learn about new areas of research through meetings with the faculty.

During the first year, students have a home in the Student Center, which is fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and provides individual study spaces for each student.

Students also visit several clinics as observers. In addition, they attend research seminars at Memorial Sloan Kettering – including the President’s Research Seminars – and meet with the speakers.

Following the end of the spring semester, students are expected to formally choose a research mentor and begin dissertation research.

First Year Core Course Curriculum

2019-2020 Academic Calendar

Monday, July 22 – Friday, July 26 Orientation Week
Monday, July 29 – Friday, August 30 Laboratory Rotation #1
Wed., July 31 – Wed., August 28 Logical & Critical Analysis Course
Monday, August 26 PyMol training
Monday, September 2 Labor Day Holiday
Tuesday, September 3 Section I Genome Biology & Proteins Begins
Monday, October 14 Columbus Day Holiday
Tuesday, October 8 Section II Gene Expression Begins
Monday, November 4 Section III Cell Biology & Cell Cycle Control Begins
Wednesday, Nov 27– Friday, Nov 29 Thanksgiving Holiday
Friday, December 13 Last Day of Classes
Saturday, December 14 – Wed., January 1 Winter Break


Thurs., January 2 – Fri., January 31 Laboratory Rotation #2
Monday, January 20 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
Monday, February 3 Section IV Development, Stem Cells and Morphogenesis
Monday, February 17 Presidents’ Day Holiday
Friday, March 13 Section V Immunology Begins
Sat., April 4 – Sun., April 12 Spring Break
Monday, April 13 Section VI Cancer Biology Begins
Friday, May 22 Last Day of Core Class
Monday, May 25 Memorial Day Holiday
Tuesday, May 26 – Friday, June 26 Laboratory Rotation #3
Wednesday, May 27 Commencement
Friday, July 3 Independence Day Holiday
Monday, July 6 Begin Full-Time Thesis Work

The Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences reserves the right to change this schedule. All students and faculty will be notified of such changes prior to their effective dates.