MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Who is required to take the course?

Most first year PhD students are required to take the course. See Dr. Swindell or Dr. Mattox in the office of Academic Affairs if you have questions.

I am not a first year PhD student, can I take the core course?

The course is also open to first year MS students. See Dr. Swindell in the office of Academic Affairs if you have questions.

How is the course organized?

The course is divided into 14 one-week units each covering a separate broad topic area (e.g., Cell Biology, Genetics).

  • Each week will be led by a Topic Leader (a GSBS faculty member) who has organized a team of expert faculty to participate in each week.

  • Each week will consist of daily lectures and breakout sessions.

  • The lectures will be concept-driven, focused on the big questions in the field, cutting edge findings/approaches, case studies, and clinical applications.

  • The course will also include a weekly biostats/bioinformatics module (see below).

What are Breakout sessions?

  • Breakout sessions will consist of a variety of individual and team exercises and hands-on workshops that will complement the lectures and the week’s overall topic.

  • The breakout sessions are designed to develop skills that you will need to succeed as a scientist (critical thinking, hypothesis development and testing, presentation skills, and teamwork).  These sessions will also expose students to powerful scientific software tools.  

  • In most breakout sessions, the class will be divided into small groups. The same groups will be maintained throughout the semester.

  • The sessions will take different forms, for example:

    • Question-driven paper discussions (papers assigned in advance)
    • Hypothesis building - based on ideas from lecture or literature
    • Critical analysis of experimental design
    • Debate over controversial topics
    • Student presentations
    • Problem solving
    • Software workshops

  • The groups will be led by the students themselves with oversight from faculty, TAs, and course volunteers.  The Course Director and TAs will also be available to “float” between groups to facilitate discussions.

  • Students will be graded on individual participation and as teams, where appropriate (presentations, debates, projects, etc).

Where can I find the course materials?

  • All course material and assignments will be on Canvas. All enrolled students will be provided access to the Canvas Core Course. Please contact the Course Directors if you have problems accessing Canvas.

  • The Canvas site will provide the overall course syllabus, weekly schedules, and content.

Are Biostatistics and Bioinformatics included in the course?

  • The core course will include a biostatistics/bioinformatics module.

  • This module will be planned and taught by Dr. John Magnotti; a biostatistics instructor who has been hired specifically for this course.

  • Yunlong Yang will be the TA for this module.

  • This module will usually be on Wednesdays: 8:30-10:00AM.

  • There will be a graded weekly take home assignment for this module.

My primary interests are in quantitative science, can I take the course Pass/Fail?

If you are committed to a quantitative or computational degree track and will complete extensive coursework in these areas, you may register for GS21 1018 Foundations of Biomedical Research for Quantitative Students. You must obtain permission from the Office of Academic Affairs.  These students will attend all class sessions as those students enrolled in GS21 1017and will be expected to participate in all breakout activities, but will be graded Pass/Fail based only on class attendance, participation in class/breakout activities, and graded biostats/bioinformatics homework assignments. 

Is Ethics included in the Core Course?

  • The GSBS Course, Ethical Dimensions of Biomedical Science, will directly follow the core course on Thursdays.

  • This is a stand-alone course and it is not integrated into the core course. You must register for it separately from the core course.

  • All first year students are expected to enroll in the Ethics course.

  • Other interested students/trainees may also enroll in the Ethics course.

How will students be evaluated?

  • The Core Course will not have traditional in-class exams.

  • Each week, students will be given a take home assignment (developed by the Topic Leader and lecturers) focused on critical thinking and concepts.

  • Examples:

    • Design an experiment to test a specified hypothesis (including controls and expected outcomes/pitfalls).
    • Develop and test a hypothesis, what experiments support a particular scientific “fact” and experiments refute this “fact”.

  • The students will also have a short biostatistics/bioinformatics graded assignment each week.

  • Breakout session participation and assignments will also contribute to each student’s overall grade.

  • Since participation is an important part of the course, please contact the course director if you will be absent due to illness or other circumstance. In some cases, an alternative assignment will be given to make up for missed class work. 

  • Final Grades will be based on:
    • Attendance/Participation 30%
    • Weekly Biostats homework 30%
    • Weekly Topic Week homework 40%

Course Learning Aids

  • All students will be required to have a laptop for class.

Will students have an opportunity to evaluate the course?

  • Yes - all surveys will be anonymous.

  • On-line Qualtrics: Comment on specific instructors and overall course any time during the week. Link will be e-mailed to all students each week.

  • Weekly surveys will be reviewed by both the Course Director, Core Course Faculty and the GSBS Curriculum Committee during the semester.

  • Student input will be critical for the success and refinement of this course. Your opinion matters!

Who is the Course Director?

Dr. Eric C. Swindell:

  • Will attend class sessions.

  • Will provide feedback to lecturers/instructors.

  • Will hold office hours to assist students.

  • Will identify and counsel students who are having difficulty in the class.

  • Will review weekly evaluations.

  • Will answer any questions students have about the Core Course.

Who is the Course Co-Director?

Dr. Kelly Moore

  • Will attend class sessions.

  • Will provide feedback to lecturers/instructors.

  • Will hold office hours to assist students.

  • Will identify and counsel students who are having difficulty in the class.

  • Will review weekly evaluations.

  • Will answer any questions students have about the Core Course.