Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology

Program Learning Outcomes for MS and PhD Degrees in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology

Upon completing the MS and PhD degrees in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology, students graduating will:

  1. Develop knowledge of the breadth of topics within Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines that underlie the foundations of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology.
  2. Demonstrate the critical thinking skills and ability to integrate knowledge from diverse STEM fields to solve biological problems.
  3. Demonstrate the written communication skills required for a thesis describing independent research, published research, and external research proposals.
  4. Demonstrate the effective oral and visual communication skills necessary for articulating scientific findings and significance to diverse audiences.

Requirements for the MS and PhD Degrees in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology 

For general university requirements, please see Doctoral Degrees. The Graduate Program in SSPB offers Master’s and Doctoral degrees. Students will be directly admitted only to the Doctoral program.  For each degree, the student must fulfill the university requirements set forth in the General Announcements under which he or she entered. The semester credit hour requirements may be fulfilled both by classroom hours and research hours. Students are required to accumulate at least 25 semester hours of graduate approved courses while maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or higher.  Students must be enrolled for at least 12 credits each semester. 

Summary

Total Credit Hours Required for the PhD Degree in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology90

Degree Requirements

Required Courses for the PhD in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology
SSPB 501 / BIOE 502PHYSICAL BIOLOGY3
SSPB 502 / BIOE 552INTRO COMPUTATIONAL SYSTEMS BIOLOGY: MODELING & DESIGN PRINCIPLES OF BIOCHEM NETWORKS3
SSPB 503 / BIOE 508SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY3
UNIV 594RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH 11
SSPB 599GRADUATE TEACHING IN SSPB1
Advanced Topics
Select at least 3 courses from approved Advanced Topics in the SSPB field9
Seminars
SSPB 550GRADUATE SEMINAR (each semester of their first two years )Minimum of 4 credit hours
Elective Requirements
Select 2 open elective courses 26
Additional Credit Hours as Defined by Department64
Total Credit Hours90

Footnotes and Additional Information 

Other Program Requirements (MS students) 

The MS degree is a thesis master's degree. For general university requirements, please see Thesis Master’s Degrees. All students involved in research must complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Responsible Conduct of Research online course. Candidates for the MS degree also must:

  • Choose an advisor (PI) by the end of the first semester
  • Fulfill a teaching requirement 
  • Submit an original research thesis
  • Complete 30 semester hours of study (including thesis research hours)
  • Defend the thesis in a public oral examination. 

Other Program Requirements (PhD students) 

All students involved in research must complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Responsible Conduct of Research online course. Candidates for the PhD degree also must:

  • Choose an advisor (PI) by the end of the first semester or equivalent
  • Fulfill a teaching requirement 
  • Submit a thesis proposal that provides evidence of their ability to carry out original research in a specialized area of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology before the beginning of their fifth semester in residence
  • Complete 90 semester hours of advanced study (including thesis research hours)
  • Pass their qualifying exam which includes thesis proposal defense 
  • Defend the PhD thesis in a public oral examination.

Qualifying Exam (PhD students)  

Students are expected to pass their qualifying exam before the beginning of their fifth semester in residence unless an extension has been granted by the Program Director. Students may retake the exam up to two times if granted permission to do so by the Program Director. Students who do not pass the Qualifying Exam may exit the program with a MS degree if the appropriate requirements have been met.

Thesis Proposal Defense

Students are required to submit their written proposal to their Research  Progress Committee no later than two weeks before the scheduled exam. The proposal is expected to be in NIH NRSA-like format - limited to 10 pages (not including References) and include the following sections: Abstract, Background, Problem Statement, Research Plan, Preliminary Results, References, and Proposed Timeline. Students whose research area may not be suitable for this format may seek approval of an alternative format by their Research Progress Committee. On the day of the defense, students are expected to give an oral presentation of their proposal and answer technical questions. The student should expect to give a presentation, which if uninterrupted would last about 45 minutes, and be prepared for substantial questioning by the Research Progress Committee. 

Policies for the MS and PhD Degrees in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology 

Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology Graduate Program Handbook

The General Announcements (GA) is the official Rice curriculum. As an additional resource for students, Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology publishes a graduate program handbook, which can be found here: http://gradhandbooks.rice.edu/2017_18/Systems_Synthetic_Physical_Biology_Graduate_Handbook.pdf

Admission   

Applicants for graduate study in Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology must have:

  • BA or BS degree in natural sciences, engineering, or related field (or some equivalent)
  • Strong ability and motivation for research as indicated by academic record, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, and recommendations

Although the program offers an MS degree, only students who intend to pursue the PhD degree are admitted into the program. In rare instances, students who fulfilled the MS degree requirements and who do not wish to continue their studies toward their PhD degree may choose to graduate with MS degree. Information on admission to the program is available on the SSPB website.

Prerequisite Requirements

Students are required to have training in the following 5 foundation areas:

  1. Molecular Biology (Introductory Biology class, and at least 1 upper-level biology class such as Cell Biology, Genetics, or Biophysics)
  2. Biochemical Reaction Kinetics (Biochemistry, Bioreaction Engineering, or equivalent)
  3. Physical Chemistry or Thermodynamics or Statistical Mechanics
  4. Ordinary Differential Equations
  5. Statistics

If students are missing formal training in these subjects, they are required to take the equivalent background courses during their first year at Rice (no more than 1 of these classes can be taken as Pass/Fail). The corresponding courses at Rice include the following:

Required Prerequisites
BIOC 341CELL BIOLOGY3
Select 1 from the following:
BIOCHEMISTRY I
BIOREACTION ENGINEERING
Select 1 from the following:
PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY FOR THE BIOSCIENCES
BIOENGINEERING THERMODYNAMICS
PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY I
STATISTICAL & THERMAL PHYSICS
Select 1 from the following:
ORDINARY DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS AND LINEAR ALGEBRA
DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Select 1 from the following:
APPLIED STATISTICS FOR BIOENGINEERING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
INTRODUCTION TO STATISTICS FOR BIOSCIENCES
PROBABILITY AND STATISTICS

For additional information, please see the Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology website: http://sspb.rice.edu/ 

Opportunities for the MS and PhD Degrees in the field of Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology 

For additional information, please see the Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology website: http://sspb.rice.edu/