Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics
University requirements for the Ph.D. degree are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.
The Ph.D. program in the Department of Genetics offers graduate students the opportunity to pursue a discipline that encompasses both a set of tools and a coherent way of thinking about biology and medicine. All major areas of genetics are represented in the department, including human genetics (molecular identification of Mendelian traits and the pathophysiology of genetic disease, gene therapy, genetic epidemiology, analysis of complex traits, and human evolution), and application of model organisms such as bacteria, yeast, flies, worms, or mice to basic questions in biomedical research. The department is especially strong in genomic and bioinformatic approaches to genome biology and evolution, and includes several genome-scale databases such as the Saccharomyces Genome Database (SGD), the Stanford Microarray Database (SMD), and the Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics Knowledge Base (PharmGKB) and, administered through the Department of Biochemistry, the Stanford Genome Technology Center (SGTC).
Exposure to the intellectual scope of the department is provided by laboratory rotations, dissertation research, advanced courses in genetics and other areas of biomedical science, seminar series, journal clubs, and an annual three-day retreat of faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff scientists. Emphasis is placed on interactions and collaborations among students, postdoctoral students, and faculty within the department and throughout the campus.
During their first year, graduate students in the department take graduate courses and sample areas of research by doing rotations in three or four laboratories. At the end of the first three quarters, students may select a laboratory in which to do their dissertation research. While the dissertation research is generally performed in one laboratory, collaborative projects with more than one faculty member are encouraged. In addition to interacting with their faculty preceptor, graduate students receive advice regularly from other faculty members who serve as members of their dissertation committee. Study for the Ph.D. generally requires between four and five years of graduate work, most of which is focused on dissertation research.
Students are generally enrolled in the program to receive the Ph.D. degree, although a limited number of M.D. candidates can combine research training in genetics with their medical studies. Ph.D. candidates who have passed the qualifying exam in the second year can opt to receive the M.S. as a terminal degree.
There are opportunities for graduate students to teach in graduate-level and professional-school courses. In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in educational outreach activities coordinated by the department, which include opportunities to interact with secondary school students and teachers, lay groups, and local science museums.
Students who have recently received a bachelor's, master's, M.D., or Ph.D. degree in related fields may apply for graduate study. Prospective students must have a background in biology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Decisions for admission are based on comparison of the relative merits of all the candidates' academic abilities and potential for research and the department's interest in promoting a diverse learning environment. Interviews take place in late February or early March and successful applicants are offered admission by early spring. Students who wish to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree are considered for admission into the graduate program in the department after they have been admitted to the M.D. program in the School of Medicine.
Students begin graduate studies in Autumn Quarter. Prospective students are encouraged to start the application process early to ensure that they are able to submit a complete application by the December deadline. All students accepted into the Ph.D. program in the Department of Genetics are provided with full tuition and a stipend. Two training grants from the National Institutes of Health provide major support for the graduate training program in the department. Other student support is provided by departmental funds and from research grants, both federal and private, of the faculty. In addition, a number of graduate students are funded by fellowships, including those from the National Science Foundation and the Stanford Graduate Fellows program.