Curriculum | PhD in Tumor Biology

5 – 7 Years

33 Credits


T32 Training Grant

What You’ll Learn

Coursework during the first and second year of the Tumor Biology PhD training program provides students with a solid understanding of the cellular, molecular, biochemical, and pathobiological basis of cancer, combined with training in research methodology, and analytical and statistical techniques. Based within the NCI designated Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, there is a strong emphasis on the clinical-translational aspects of cancer biology with courses on the basis and application of current and developing therapeutic strategies, participation in clinical conferences, and health disparities. Students participate in laboratory-based research from the start of the program with laboratory rotations over the summer and throughout the first and second semester so that they can find a laboratory in which to conduct their thesis work as soon as possible.

Degree Requirements

The formal requirements for a doctoral degree in the Tumor Biology Program are the completion of 33 credits (with at least a B average), 3 different laboratory rotations, satisfactory completion of a comprehensive examination, a thesis proposal, a written dissertation, and a final oral defense.

Coursework is completed in the first 2 years of the program. Thesis research begins in the 2nd year.

View below for more information on each degree requirement.

Transfer Credit/Advanced Standing: A PhD student may make a written request for the transfer of credit for specific applicable courses or apply for advanced standing. Please speak with program leadership and review the policy on transfer credit and advanced standing.


☐ 26 credits of Required Courses

☐ 7 credits of Electives

☐ Laboratory Rotations

☐ Comprehensive Examination

☐ Thesis Proposal

☐ Written Dissertation

☐ Final Oral Defense

Students are required to complete 33 credits with at least a B average. Visit the PhD in Tumor Biology Courses page for more information about the required courses and electives.

PhD Lab Rotation Completion Report

Course Names
TBIO 9985: TBIO Lab Rotation – Summer
TBIO 9986: TBIO Lab Rotation – Fall
TBIO 9987: TBIO Lab Rotation – Spring

All students will follow a uniform format for this examination, which typically comes after spring semester of the first year. It will be a written and oral exam and is meant to be a test of critical thinking, experimental design, and application of learned knowledge. In order to adequately assess these skills.

Students who fail at this stage will result in termination of participation in the program.
Once students pass the comprehensive exam, they are in thesis research.

All students in their third year (second year for MD/PhD students) will write and defend a thesis proposal before a committee consisting of their dissertation mentor, three (3) program faculty members, and an outside reader. This should be completed within one year of passing the comprehensive exam, by the end of Summer 3. The Tumor Biology Oversight Committee must approve the Thesis Committee.

Students are required to meet with their Thesis Committee every 6 months and complete the PhD Thesis Committee Report.

Upon completion of a thesis project, a written dissertation must be approved by the student’s Thesis Committee.

The final stage of graduate training involves an oral presentation of the thesis. In attendance will be the Thesis Committee, program members, and interested Medical Center personnel.