Biochemistry and Cancer Biology

Alakananda Basu, PhD, Graduate Advisor
Research and Education 437 | Phone: 817-735-2487 | E-mail:

The Biochemistry and Cancer Biology program is an interdisciplinary program that offers both Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. The program provides rigorous education and training in biomedical sciences with a specialty in Biochemistry and Cancer Biology. Students receive training through original research, formal classroom education, problem-based learning, seminars, and journal clubs.

Faculty members are engaged in various aspects of biochemical, biophysical, molecular and cancer research. The specific research interests of faculty cover a wide range of topics, including signal transduction, posttranslational protein modification in health and disease, protein structure and function, protein-ligand and protein-protein interactions, metabolism, molecular carcinogenesis, tumor immunology, stem cell biology, tumor invasion and metastasis, tumor microenvironment, cancer therapeutics, drug resistance, drug metabolism, drug delivery, drug discovery, nanotechology/imaging, epigenetic effects on cancer risks, alternative medicine therapies of cancer, disorders of lipid metabolism in atherosclerosis, lipoprotein metabolism and biophysics of muscle contraction. The interdisciplinary research also includes investigation of the link between cancer with other disorders, such as aging & Alzheimer’s disease, HIV and ocular diseases. Research projects employ state-of-the-art molecular, cellular and biochemical techniques that include genomics, proteomics, mass spectrometry, protein crystallography, molecular cloning, gene targeting, FACS analysis, advanced fluorescence spectroscopy, optical imaging and advanced molecular technology for the detection of genetic variation between normal and cancer cells.

Students may choose faculty advisors according to their research interests. During the first year, students will acquire sufficient background in biomedical sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, microbiology and immunology. The students will have the opportunity to rotate in research laboratories prior to selecting their mentors. Students will take two discipline specific courses as well as additional elective courses based on their needs and interests. MS students are expected to graduate in approximately two years, whereas PhD students usually require five years to complete the degree.

Master of Science

Students enrolled in the MS degree program will conduct original research. The MS degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 48 semester credit hours (SCH) of coursework and research credits, including the successful completion of a formal public seminar on the thesis research, oral final defense of their research and approval of a thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy

The PhD degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 90 semester credit hours (SCH) of core curricula, specialized upper division courses, and research credits, including the successful completion of the requirements for advancement to candidacy and defense of the dissertation research. Prior to the dissertation defense, the doctoral candidates must have one first author manuscript derived from the dissertation research accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is to ensure a doctoral student has sufficient mastery of fundamental principles of cancer biology and biomedical sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology to be successful as a PhD candidate. The student is expected to become knowledgeable in each of these topics through coursework, individual reading, or discussions with faculty members. The qualifying examination within the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics must be successfully completed prior to earning 72 SCH of coursework. The qualifying examination is an oral exam; it ensures that a doctoral student has sufficient mastery of fundamental principles in biomedical sciences to be successful as a Ph.D. candidate and subsequently, as an independent researcher. Topics included in the oral qualifying exam may consist of fundamental knowledge and understanding of general biomedical sciences, genetics, and research techniques. Individual programs may require specific courses prior to taking the qualifying exam; representative questions tailored to the individual student’s specialty may be included. Refusal to take a qualifying exam will result in dismissal from the graduate program. The University Member must be in attendance for the oral examination.

The Graduate Advisor, in consultation with the department chair, will serve as the examination coordinator. The examination committee will include two of the student’s advisory committee members, three faculty members outside of the student’s committee, and the University Member assigned to the student’s committee. The major professor cannot serve on the testing committee or attend the oral qualifying exam. The student will be provided with a list of 12 or more questions 30 minutes prior to the exam and is required to answer a specified number (between 4 and 6) of the questions posed by the committee within two hours. During the examination, the questioning/discussions may be expanded to address related topics. The qualifying examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, following the Scoring Rubric implemented by the GSBS. Following completion of the oral qualifying exam the student must submit the signed Oral Qualifying Exam Notice to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Office of Student Services.

The student is permitted two attempts to pass the qualifying examination. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after two attempts will result in dismissal from the PhD program.


Defense of M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation

Procedures for defense of M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations follow the policies outlined in the current catalog and the GSBS Graduation website.

General Statement

The policies outlined are applicable to all graduate students in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics regardless of the date the student entered the graduate program unless otherwise noted. The policies may change during the student’s tenure at the UNT Health Science Center.

This page was last modified on March 15, 2018