Program Guidelines

Laboratory Rotations and Selection

Students in the IPiB program begin laboratory rotations during the first semester with a goal of selecting a laboratory in which to conduct Ph.D. thesis research. Our New Student Orientation Committee (NSOC) oversees the rotation process and offers guidance throughout the rotation period. Students rotate through 3 labs during their first semester with each rotation period lasting approximately 4-5 weeks. The laboratory assignments are based on student preference with the goal of providing each student with his/her first choice. Final lab preferences are based on both student and professor input, with the majority of our students receiving their first choice. By the second semester, most students have begun their thesis research. All degree requirements and expectations are the same for all IPiB students, regardless of their departmental affiliation.

Course Requirements

All IPiB students must meet curriculum requirements for graduation.

Required Courses:

  • Biochem 660: Methods in Biochemistry (2 credits)
  • Biochem/BMC 701: Professional Responsibility (1 credit)
  • BMC 720: Experimental Design and Paradigms in Cellular Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • Biochem/BMC Advanced Seminar
  • Breadth requirement: Students must complete a minimum of 2 additional graduate level (600 or above) didactic or laboratory courses at UW-Madison. Each course must carry 2 or more credits, and total of 6 credits. At least one of these courses must be in the Physical Sciences area, and another must be in the Biological Sciences area.

See the Student Schedule for the coursework of an IPiB student’s first two years.

Teaching Requirement

Students must participate in 2 semesters of teaching in a laboratory or lecture course, usually by the second and third years of graduate school. This requirement acquaints graduate students with education methods and provides important teaching experiences.

Thesis Committee

During the second semester, students assemble their faculty thesis committees and meet to determine overall curriculum. In consultation with their major professor, students select faculty members they would like to have serve on their committee. The first graduate committee is convened prior to the start of the second year to consult on coursework and discuss the student’s research program. Annual progress meetings are held until the time of the Ph.D. thesis defense.

Preliminary Exam

Students complete the preliminary exam by the end of the spring semester of their second year. The student prepares a written research proposal modeled after an NIH grant application. Successful defense of the proposal advances the student to dissertator status.

Thesis Defense

Successful completion of a research program culminates in the written and oral presentation of the work and its defense to the thesis committee. Students generally reach this final stage in 5-6 years.

Selecting a Minor

Minor courses are designed to provide educational breadth. Minor requirements can be satisfied by either Option A or Option B.

  • Minor Option A (focused) requires a minimum of 10 credits in a single department or field of study. With the advice of a "minor advisor", the student chooses courses from the offerings of a particular UW department (e.g., Chemistry, Bacteriology, Genetics, Physiology, etc.). The specific requirements, course work, and grades to be met are prescribed by the chosen department.
  • Minor Option B (distributed) requires a minimum of 10 credits in one or more departments and can include course work in the major department. At least 9 of these 10 credits must be in courses with a predominantly graduate enrollment. A minimum grade of B must be earned in every course. Many students select Minor Option B to fulfill the minor requirements because the program allows (nearly) all course work credits taken for the major to also count towards the Option B minor.