Answers to your questions

How long does it take to get a PhD in the program?

The IB program is designed to be completed in 5 years.  Every student is different, and PhD projects can vary widely, even in traditional programs, so some variation in this amount of time is not unexpected. Typically, when accepted to the program with support (stipend and tuition waiver) from the program, a department or from an advisor's grant, you will be advised as to the length of time your support is guaranteed. Your advisor, committee, and the program staff will endeavor to keep your progress on track so that you finish in a timely manner.

How many classes will I take?

There are five core classes completed by all IB students, no matter their area of integration.

  • Research Techniques in Integrated Bioscience (3100:701) introduces and familiarizes students to various bioscience laboratory techniques, such as PCR, DNA sequencing, cloning, gene expression, etc. (see below for more details).
  • Communicating in Integrated Bioscience (3100:702) is designed to introduce the students to the major tenets of each participating sub-discipline. With the guidance of faculty mentors, each graduate student will be responsible for conveying the major tenets of his/her sub-discipline to the class. This will include lectures, discussions and reading of primary literature (papers designed for a broad audience, such as Science or Nature articles). In the final portion of this class, the students will group together into research teams to begin developing ideas on how to solve a complex bio-problem.
  • Problem Solving in Integrated Bioscience (3100:703) will then further develop the interdisciplinary groups organized in the previous course (3100:702) by forming teams to solve the complex bio-problem previously outlined.
  • Ethics of Science (3600:665) examines the foundational issues surrounding ethics and science as well as consideration of applied ethical issues of scientists, science, new technologies, and society.
  • Integrated Bioscience Colloquium (3100:797) seminar speakers that specifically use integrated approaches to bioscience research. Students are required to complete 4 credits of colloquium. Colloquium site.

Each student is also required to take Bioscience Ethics and at least 4 semesters (distributed over the 5 years) of Integrated Bioscience Colloquium.

Most of these requirements are satisfied during the first two years in the program. The rest of a student's curriculum will be filled by electives (about three to five 4-credit courses) selected by the student's PhD committee in consultation with the student. The planning and design of the student's curriculum is an ongoing process that begins as soon as the student's research areas take shape (as early as the first year in the program) and continues through the first three years. Consequently, each student will have a highly individualized curriculum. Ultimately, your curriculum will be negotiated by you in coordination with your advisor and PhD committee.

Why are there no 'tracks' of courses defined for particular areas of research?

The IB program doesn't have fixed coursework for specific areas. Although some students may be used to this kind of structure, one of the innovative aspects of our program is that each student can have a curriculum tailored to their specific research interests. Structure is instead provided by active advice and guidance by the student's interdisciplinary PhD committee. Flexibility provided by this approach allows students to pursue novel research directions, including training for emerging areas of bioscience research. 

I don't have an undergraduate degree in biology, how will I be able to take graduate electives in biology?

Students admitted to the IB program enter with degrees in various fields including biology, chemistry, engineering and computer science. During the course of their classroom study, each IB student will be faced with the challenge of enrolling in one or more classes outside of their recognized expertise. Program faculty, as well as PhD committees work closely with IB students to help them meet the challenge of interdisciplinary study. The most important way in which this works is that PhD committees and students collaborate in selecting courses that specifically match their interdisciplinary research goals. Coursework in 'unfamiliar' territory then ends up serving as a highly structured way for students to pick up knowledge and expertise they seek to further their research needs. Taking courses outside of one's recognized discipline becomes less ominous when it is motivated by a tangible research goal.

How many students are currently enrolled in the program?

In September 2015, we admitted our ninth cohort of PhD students. We now have 51 students enrolled full time, spanning the following departments: Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, Cleveland Clinic, Computer Science, Geosciences, and Polymer Science.

Submit your own question

Please email with a question you would like to see added to the FAQ. Send your email to Steve Weeks, Interim Director of the IB program.