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Curriculum

PROGRAM OF STUDY

Students typically spend the first 1.5 years undertaking preclinical course work in the School of Medicine culminating in taking Step I of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). After completion of preclinical course work, students perform one of the clinical clerkship blocks (3 months) and then begin full-time participation in an SBU Ph.D. Program. Three to four years of continuous study are usually required to complete all Ph.D. requirements. MSTP Fellows then return to complete the clinical curriculum of the School of Medicine. Minimally, 14 months of study after the PhD phase are required. Clinical schedules are prepared in consultation with the Office for Academic Advising in the School of Medicine. 

MSTP flexibility is of paramount importance. Hence, variations in this program of study are quite frequent and are made based upon the explicit recommendations of the MSTP Steering Committee in consultation with the School of Medicine and the Graduate School.

GRADUATE PROGRAM ORGANIZATION

Graduate education at Stony Brook is organized programmatically rather than departmentally. At one extreme, there are Programs for which Departments do not exist (e.g. Genetics). Other Programs have a single departmental home base (e.g. Biophysics, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, Neuroscience); nevertheless, these Programs involve preceptors from several SBU departments, Brookhaven and Cold Spring Harbor. Finally, there are school-wide graduate programs (e.g. Molecular and Cellular Biology) that have multiple departmental home bases. This reflects in part the interdisciplinary nature of basic biomedical research and facilitates participation of both Brookhaven and Cold Spring Harbor scientists without the need for adjunct or joint appointments. This organization fosters extensive cooperation and collaboration since most graduate students (MSTP Fellows) become personally familiar with several Stony Brook departments as well as with research opportunities at Brookhaven and/or Cold Spring Harbor. 

Separate from the Graduate Programs per se, but nevertheless serving to enrich graduate education at Stony Brook, are Institutes organized around particular areas of interest (e.g. Cell and Developmental Biology; Molecular Cardiology). Like Graduate Programs, Institutes are interdepartmental in nature and foster significant communication, cooperation and collaboration among labs and departments.

APPLICATION TO GRADUATE SCHOOL

Formal application to graduate school is made in the middle of the second year of medical school. To date, no MSTP Fellow has experienced difficulty or failed to gain admission to a graduate program. For MSTP Fellows who have already chosen a thesis project and a faculty advisor with whom to pursue their research, application will be made to one or more Ph.D. Programs to which the prospective advisor belongs. Ultimately, the choice of Program may be dictated by such secondary factors as course requirements or seminar program; the research environment in the advisor's laboratory and topic of thesis research are, of course, the primary factors. For MSTP Fellows who have not yet decided upon an advisor, application is made to the Program(s) of greatest academic interest after reviewing the various areas of research of the participant faculty. This information is easily obtained from the individual Graduate Program web pages.

BNL & CSHL

Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory represent totally unique research resources that are fully available to SBU MSTP Fellows. Brookhaven Lab offers distinguished faculties in many areas of basic science (e.g. cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, structural biology, high energy physics, medical physics etc.). In addition, it houses a number of internationally renowned facilities open to qualified outside users. These include the scanning transmission electron microscope, the national synchrotron light source (for X-ray crystallography of proteins) and a high flux nuclear reactor. Each of these facilities is far too costly for a single university to own and/or operate. While these facilities are open to any qualified user, the proximity of Brookhaven National Laboratory to Stony Brook as well as the full participation of many Brookhaven faculty in various SBU Graduate Programs ensures SBU MSTP Fellows easy access to Brookhaven facilities. 

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), which is one of the world's most distinguished institutions involved in studying cancer at the cellular, molecular and biochemical levels, has additional excellence in neuroscience, genomics, and quantitative biology, as well as a broad educational mission. The close proximity of CSHL and Stony Brook has allowed numerous scientific and training collaborations between our institutions for more than 30 years. The spectacular value of these collaborations is evidenced by multiple co-authorships on research papers and the success of SBU MSTP students who have conducted their thesis research at CSHL. CSHL faculty are enthusiastic about their involvement in many of the SBU graduate programs. SBU MSTP Fellows are thus ideally positioned to take full advantage of CSHL. In addition to day-to-day research activities, CSHL is one of the premier sites for international scientific meetings. As a result, SBU MSTP Fellows, particularly those performing thesis research at CSHL, regularly have the opportunity to see, hear and meet the world's foremost scientists as they present the results of their experiments.

RESEARCH ROTATIONS

MSTP Fellows participate actively in research during their entire time at SBU, including performing summer-time research rotations right from the beginning of the program.  This facilitates students ideally choosing their thesis laboratory by the time they enter graduate school two years later. Students who remain undecided at this point perform additional rotations after matriculation in graduate school until they identify their thesis lab.

TRANSITIONS

There are three key transitions in the MSTP at Stony Brook. The first is matriculation; the second is the initiation of full-time graduate study; and the third is the culmination of graduate study and the return to clinical medicine. To ease these transitions, MSTP students receive frequent advising in the form of grass roots interactions with older students, lunches and formal group meetings with the MSTP leadership, and individual meetings as optimally needed.