MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

I.   Introduction

The Biochemistry and Cell Biology (BCB) Graduate Program is an interdisciplinary graduate program that focuses on understanding the fundamental basis of life and disease at the molecular and cellular level. Our faculty are representative of almost all biological sciences across the university, including neurobiology, cancer biology, immunology, cardiology, pharmacology, genetics and many other disciplines. Didactic training in the program focuses on a foundation in basic science combined with practical skill development such as grant writing and oral presentation skills. In addition to classroom and laboratory training, students will also participate in many other activities including a seminar series and research workshop. 

II.   Program Organization

The administrative organization of the BCB Graduate Program is as follows:

A.  Program Director

The Director of the Program shall be elected to a three year term. Department Chairs will be prohibited from the Director and Co-Director positions. The Director will be responsible to the BCB Graduate Program faculty and the Dean of the GSBS.  The Director will act as a liaison to the Medical School and GSBS as a member of the Graduate Student Education Committee at the Medical School, and the Program Directors Committee of the GSBS.

The Director will oversee all administrative activities of the Program.  These activities include:

Program Co-Director. A Program Co-Director will be elected to assist with the administrative activities of the Director. The Co-Director is expected to conduct business (approving student forms, for instance) in the Director’s absence and will also serve on the Examination Committee when there is a conflict of interest with the Director. It is the expectation that the Co-Director will serve as Director when the Director’s term expires, however, this is not automatic and an election which includes potential new nominees will be performed with the assistance of the GSBS

B.  Program Steering Committee

The Program Steering Committee will be comprised of the Director, Co-Director, and four other elected faculty members and one student. The faculty members of the Steering Committee will be elected by Program faculty and serve staggered terms of two years. The student member of the Steering Committee will be elected by Program students and serve a term of one year. 

All major policy issues concerning the graduate program are considered by the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will formulate policies related to the academic and administrative aspects of the Program and present them to the Program faculty for approval or modification. The Steering Committee will be required to meet at least semi-annually and there will be a Program-wide faculty meeting semi-annually at which the Steering Committee will present their report and Program business will be conducted with minutes recorded for public dissemination. The Steering Committee will empanel subcommittees to advise on Program matters.

Election of BCB Leadership. To preserve the integrity and anonymity of the elections for leadership positions, the Graduate School will conduct the elections. GSBS will solicit nominations, including self-nominations, from the Program faculty at-large to serve as Director or Co-Director or to serve on the Steering Committee.  Once the slate of candidates has been approved by the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the Program members.  GSBS will also solicit volunteers from Program students to serve on the Steering Committee. To be eligible to serve, students must be in good academic standing and in their second year or beyond at the GSBS. Once the slate of student candidates has been approved by the Program Director and the Deans’ Office, GSBS will conduct the election and report the results to the Program members.

C.  Program Curriculum Committee

The Curriculum Committee will be composed of the course directors for the required courses in the BCB Graduate Program curriculum and other Program faculty who will be appointed annually by the Director.  The Curriculum Committee will report to the Director and the Program Faculty. The primary role of this committee is to develop and maintain the BCB Graduate Program curriculum. The Curriculum Committee will also administer the Program’s academic policies and activities, and to monitor the quality of education. The Curriculum Committee is also responsible for periodically evaluating, developing, and modernizing the curriculum of the BCB Graduate Program.

D.  Program Admissions and Recruitment Committee

The Admissions and Recruitment Committee will be composed of members from Program faculty that will be appointed annually by the Director. The chair of the Admissions committee should be the GSBS Admissions Committee Program representative. The Admissions and Recruitment Committee will report to the Director and the Program faculty. The Admissions and Recruitment Committee will work closely with the centralized GSBS Admissions Committee to aid in evaluating prospective students with interests in Biochemistry and Cell Biology.  This Committee will also coordinate the Program’s advertising and recruiting efforts to attract highly qualified students to the BCB Graduate Program.

The specific duties of the Admissions and Recruitment Committee are:

E.  Ad Hoc Committees

In addition to the above committees, the Program Director may appoint other ad hoc committees to help with the various program efforts. In addition, there is a Program Examination Committee. The membership roster of all the committees will be presented at least once per year at a faculty meeting and the Program faculty are encouraged to provide feedback.

III. Program Faculty

The central goal of the Program is to promote scientific excellence by providing rigorous and modern training in the broad disciplines of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. These goals require enthusiastic Program faculty committed to graduate education, and the financial resources to support graduate trainees in the laboratory. The Program Faculty consists of Regular Members, Associate Members, or Distinguished Senior Lecturers.  Members must also hold a faculty position within the GSBS, and must have the same title in the GSBS (Regular, Associate or Distinguished Senior Lecturer). Program membership will be open to all GSBS Faculty pending approval of a formal application to the Program. The BCB Graduate Program faculty will:

Applications for membership in the BCB Graduate Program are to be submitted to the Program Director and will be reviewed by the Steering Committee. Applications for Program membership should include the applicant’s CV as well as a letter which states the reasons why the applicant wishes to join the Program. The letter should clearly state the expectations of the applicant from the Program and areas in which the applicant can contribute to the Program. Applications will be reviewed by the Director and the Steering Committee, and then presented with recommendations to the BCB Graduate Program faculty for a majority vote. The Program will notify GSBS Faculty Affairs of all new faculty members. Criteria for membership will include, but are not limited to:

Associate Members.  Individuals who meet most membership criteria but are not presently qualified to direct student dissertation research may be appointed as Associate Members of the Faculty for a term of up to five years. Responsibilities of Associate Members include those of Members except for the supervision of Ph.D. student dissertation research. Associate members may mentor M.S. students. Associate Members may apply for Regular Membership (through GSBS) as appropriate. 

Distinguished Senior Lecturers. This category is reserved for BCB faculty who have been active and contributory and whose teaching experience and qualifications demonstrate extraordinary service and performance but whose current administrative or other professional responsibilities preclude continued participation as a Member. The privileges and responsibilities of a Distinguished Senior Lecturer are the same as those of a Member, although Distinguished Senior Lecturers would not normally be expected to supervise student dissertation research.

Program Faculty Review

The BCB Program will review each member’s contributions or activities, using the GSBS Membership Committee criteria as a guideline. Faculty review will occur every five years concurrent with the GSBS Membership Committee review, on a schedule determined by the BCB Steering Committee. Faculty participation reports provided by the GSBS augmented by reports/statements curated by the individual faculty member being reviewed of program-specific activities will be used to evaluate contributions to the Program. Program faculty are expected to participate in all major Program scientific activities (symposia, retreats and recruiting events) and to participate on ad hoc committees. The Director will consult the Steering Committee regarding faculty s/he suggests are inactive. If the Steering Committee concurs, GSBS and the inactive faculty member will be notified that the faculty member is on probation for program membership for a year. At the end of this time, if there is no increase in activity, the Program Steering Committee may vote to terminate membership. Faculty who are asked to leave the Program or who apply for program membership in later years but are denied may appeal the decision to the GSBS Membership Committee, who will make a recommendation to the Deans. The Program will notify GSBS Faculty Affairs of any terminated faculty. Faculty determined to be disengaged are subject to not being reappointed as GSBS faculty members.

IV.   Program Students

Entrance into the Program

Any GSBS doctoral student in good standing can join the BCB Graduate Program. All students within the Program will be expected to complete all Program and GSBS requirements. Exceptions towards fulfilling the required program courses may be made by the Director, on a case by case basis, for students (including MD/PhD students) who have fulfilled the GSBS (or MD/PhD) requirements. It is not required for students to choose a Program with which their mentor is affiliated

V.   Student Governance

The BCB Graduate Program has an educational organization, the Biochemistry and Cell Biology Student Council (BCBSC), led by and comprised of five student representatives elected by the BCB students. The responsibilities of the BCBSC are:

  1. chair and recruit student organizing committees for the BCB Fall Retreat, BCB Spring Symposium, and BCB student invited speaker, with advice and consent of the Director;
  2. develop and maintain the schedule for BCB students meetings;
  3. assist the BCB faculty in program orientation and recruitment initiatives;
  4. advise the BCB Director on matters that impact BCB student development or education;
  5. organize social activities to promote interactions among students and between students and faculty;
  6. further the interests of the students and program by promoting active participation in the program, GSBS, university affairs and community service activities;
  7. disseminate pertinent information to the BCB Program students and the broader community via email and/or social media.

The BCBSC members will be elected each March by current BCB students from a slate of nominees (self-nominees or students nominated by program members; all nominees must be in good academic standing with GSBS and approved by their faculty research mentors). BCBSC members will serve one-year terms extending May 1 - April 30 annually; students may serve a maximum of two terms on the BCBSC. It is the expectation that the sitting Vice-President will serve as the next President. However, this is not automatic and other individuals will be free to self-nominate to serve as President. To preserve the integrity and anonymity of the elections, the BCB Program Coordinator or Director will collect nominations, verify mentor approval and academic standing, and conduct the elections of BCBSC President, Vice-President and three chairpersons. Elected members will then self-select chairperson roles. Roles are as follows:

  1. President (Student Meeting and Invited Speaker Chair)
  2. Vice-President (Fall Retreat Chair)
  3. Communications Chair
  4. Spring Symposium Chair
  5. Social Events Chair

Chairs for major events will be responsible for assembling organizing committees comprised of volunteers from the BCB student body and interacting with the faculty coordinator for that event. Faculty coordinators will be designated by the Director and will mentor the student organizing committee, help communicate with the Program Coordinator and Director, and assist with the logistics on the day of the event. 

VI.   Program Meetings and Bylaws

A.  Faculty Meetings

Semi-annual meetings of the BCB Program faculty will be held at which the Steering Committee will present its report and Program business will be conducted. Minutes will be recorded for public dissemination. Any changes in the Program Bylaws and other matters will be approved by a majority vote.

 B.  Amendments to Bylaws

An amendment to the Bylaws of the BCB Program may be accomplished by a majority vote of the Program faculty after the following procedure has been followed.  The proposed amendment will be submitted to the Program Director who will send it to the GSBS Deans Office for review to ensure that it meets GSBS guidelines. The Program Director will then send the amendment electronically to the Program Faculty for consideration at least two weeks before it is to be voted upon.  If the amendment is to be discussed at a faculty meeting, a final vote may be taken at the meeting.  If the amendment is to be approved electronically, GSBS will send the final version of the amendment to the Program Faculty to approve by electronic ballot.

Bylaws Amended as of 03/29/19