Curricular Tracks

During the first year, all entering students pursue a rigorous academic program consisting of a sequence of graduate core courses and several elective courses. 

Most students participate in our primary Cell, Molecular, Genetics track but students choose more specialized training tracks if they wish. 

Tracks in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution; Microbiology; Quantitative Biology (qBio); Bioinformatics; Multi-Scale Biology, and Anthropogeny are available. Some of these training tracks require coursework into the second or third year of your program.  See the sections below for more information on these tracks.

For a list of graduate courses that are expected to be offered during the 2016-2017 academic year, see Biological Sciences Graduate Course Offerings.

Primary Track

Standard Cell, Molecular, Genetics, Neurobiology Training Track

Required Courses:

  • BGGN 200:  Graduate School Fundamentals  
  • BGGN 208:  Biological Sciences Boot Camp  
  • BGGN 220 D, E, F:  Graduate Molecular Biology Sequence  
  • BGGN 222:  Graduate Cell Biology  
  • BGGN 223: Graduate Genetics 

Elective Courses:  (You must enroll in at least 2 of these courses)

  • BGGN 214 – Introduction to Quantitative Biology
  • BGGN 225 – Graduate Immunology
  • BGGN 226 – Graduate Virology
  • BGGN 227 – Graduate Plant Systems Biology
  • BGGN 228 – Graduate Developmental Biology
  • BGGN 229 – Graduate Oncogenes
  • BGGN 230 – Graduate Signal Transduction
  • BGGN 231 – Current Concepts in Stem Cell Biology
  • BGGN 238A – Integrative Microbiology I
  • BGGN 238B – Integrative Microbiology II
  • BGGN 249A – Basic Neuroscience I
  • BGGN 249B – Basic Neuroscience II 
  • BGGN 249C – Basic Neuroscience III 

EBE: Ecology, Behavior and Evolution Track

Students who select the EBE Biology Track will take BGGN 203 and/or BGGN 204 each quarter of the first year.

Electives are drawn from the advanced graduate courses and undergraduate elective courses. EBE students should consult their First-Year Advisor and Section Chair to determine the most appropriate courses to take the first year.

Required Courses:

  • BGGN 200:  Graduate School Fundamentals  
  • BGGN 208:  Biological Sciences Boot Camp  
  • BGGN 298:  Laboratory Rotations

Elective Courses:  (examples)

  • BGGN 203:  Topics in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution 
  • BGGN 204:  Topics in Community and Population Ecology 
  • other graduate level or undergraduate level courses as recommended by faculty advisor

Specific requirements for the EBE academic program.

Microbiology Track

Students who choose to focus on Microbiology related research will follow the following sequence of courses:

Required Courses:

  • BGGN 200:  Graduate School Fundamentals  
  • BGGN 208:  Biological Sciences Boot Camp 
  • BGGN 220 D, E, F:  Graduate Molecular Biology Sequence 
  • BGGN 222:  Graduate Cell Biology  
  • BGGN 238A: Integrative Microbiology I 
  • BGGN 223: Graduate Genetics  
  • BGGN 238B: Integrative Microbiology II  

Students are welcome to take any of the offered electives if they choose, but none are required:

Elective Courses:

  • BGGN 214 -Introduction to Quantitative Biology
  • BGGN 225 – Graduate Immunology
  • BGGN 226 – Graduate Virology
  • BGGN 227 – Graduate Plant Systems Biology
  • BGGN 228 – Graduate Developmental Biology
  • BGGN 229 – Graduate Oncogenes
  • BGGN 230 – Graduate Signal Transduction
  • BGGN 231 – Current Concepts in Stem Cell Biology
  • BGGN 249B – Basic Neuroscience I
  • BGGN 249B – Basic Neuroscience II 
  • BGGN 249C – Basic Neuroscience III 

Quantitative Biology Specialization (qBio)

Quantitative Biology is a new Specialization at UC San Diego.  Students are admitted through their home program (Biological Sciences, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Physics, or BioEngineering) then request admission to the Q-Bio Specialization.  Quantitative Biology refers to the use of quantitative approaches, both experimental and theoretical, to discover the organizational principles of living systems. The goal is to establish a quantitative understanding of the physiological behaviors of biological organisms in terms of the molecular parts. 

More information on the new Quantitative Biology Specialization.

The expected course sequence is:

Year 1 (Required Courses):

  • BGGN 200:  Graduate School Fundamentals 
  • BGGN 208:  Biological Sciences Boot Camp 
  • BGGN 220 D, E, F:  Graduate Molecular Biology Sequence  
  • BGGN 222:  Graduate Cell Biology  
  • BGGN 223: Graduate Genetics  
  • BGGN 214: Introduction to Quantitative Biology  
  • PHYS 270A: Experimental Techniques for Quantitative Biology
  • PHYS 270B: Quantitative Biology Laboratory
  • BENG 235:  Molecular Imaging and Quantitation in Living Cells

Year 2 (based on qBio track selected):

Basic Concept Track

  • BNFO 284:  Nonlinear Dynamics in Quantitative Biology
  • BENG 226:  Foundation of Biomechanics

Quantitative Microbiology Track

  • PHYS 275:  Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • PHYS 276:  Quantitative Molecular Biology
  • PHYS 277:  Physics of the Cell

Quantitative Cell Biology Track

  • PHYS 275:  Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • MAE 263:  Mechanics Inside the Cell
  • CHEM 220:  Signaling Circuits in Cells

Advanced Theory Track

  • PHYS 275:  Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • PHYS 273:  Information Theory and Pattern Formation in Biological Systems
  • PHYS 274:  Stochastic Processes in Population Genetics

Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

Students who select the Bioinformatics Specialization must satisfy the requirements for both the Division of Biological Sciences and the Bioinformatics & Systems Biology Graduate Programs.  

Interested Biological Sciences PhD students must first complete the program’s Standard, or EBE track, then complete the Bioinformatics course requirements.  

Bioinformatics & Systems Biology program requirements.

Multi-Scale Biology Track

Students who select the interdisciplinary Specialization in Multiscale Biology track must satisfy the requirements for both the Division of Biological Sciences and the UCSD Interfaces Graduate Training Programs.

Interested Biological Sciences PhD students must first complete the program’s Standard, EBE or Microbiology Tracks, then complete the Multiscale Biology course requirements. 

UCSD Interfaces Multiscale Biology program requirements.

Specialization in Anthropogeny

A transdisciplinary graduate specialization in Anthropogeny is available for Ph.D. students in the Biological Sciences and other disciplines.  Information on requirements for this specialization is available through the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). The specialization provides students an opportunity to specialize in research and education on the origins of humans.  Top areas include:

  • Human and Primate Genetics and Evolution
  • Paleoanthropology and Hominid Origins
  • Mammalian and Primate Neurosciences
  • Primate Biology and Medicine
  • Language and Cognition
  • Nature-Nurture Interactions in Explaining Language and Cognition
  • Human and Primate Society and Culture
  • Comparative Developmental Biology or Primates
  • General Theories for Explaining Humans

Interested Biological Sciences PhD students must first complete the program’s Standard, EBE or Microbiology Tracks, then complete the Specialization in Anthropogeny’s course requirements. 

Information on the UCSD Specialization in Anthropogeny.