Choosing A PhD Graduate Program
A PhD Graduate Education program will take you anywhere from 4-7 years to complete, depending on the institution and the research you carry out. The curriculum of each program will be unique, but a typical program will entail 2+ years of coursework and an in-depth research project that culminates in the writing and defense of a thesis. Most labs will require that you publish manuscripts in addition to your thesis. A PhD in the biomedical and related sciences should provide you with a strong background in science and both sound general knowledge and an in-depth focus in one specific area. Exposure to science that relates directly or indirectly to understanding the pathogenesis of human disease is most helpful and is best obtained in a department of pathology.
The PhD degree provides you with a unique perspective as you carry out your training. It enhances your ability to problem solve and provides you with the skills and tools to perform hypothesis-driven research and investigate mechanisms of disease. While the project of your PhD is important and should be of interest to you, the main goal is to gain an in-depth knowledge and thorough understanding of experimental design and effective critical analysis. Your graduate courses and thesis work provide excellent training to carry out critical analysis of the medical literature, carry out well-designed experiments, and develop your skills as a biomedical scientist. Your graduate training should also provide the skills to be an excellent communicator - both oral and written. Graduate school is also an excellent time to gain a well-diversified knowledge in many areas of science. This can be achieved through course work and/or through attending lectures and symposia at your institution. Journal clubs and laboratory meetings are very important opportunities to develop these skills. There should be opportunities for you to attend local, national and international meetings to present your work as a poster or oral presentation. While many educational activities might not be directly related to your thesis project, the chances are high that you will stumble across them again during your career. Your research program should be productive with an important goal being the publication of high quality first authored peer reviewed original research. You should strive to publish in high impact general and subspecialty journals.