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Program Requirements

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Students are expected to commit to and participate in all program components listed below, and their involvement should continue through the duration of their PhD program.


Coursework supplements home department program requirements and provides students with sufficient foundation and breadth in their training to understand and benefit from biotechnology research that is not directly related to their area of specialization.

  • CHEMENG/BIOE 450: Advances in Biotechnology
  • MED 255: The Responsible Conduct of Research, and a new refresher course under development entitled Ethics, Science, and Society (course number TBD)
  • SOMGEN 223: Introduction to R for Data Analysis or BIOS217: Foundations of Statistics and Reproducible Research
  • BIOE199A: Inventing Synthetic Biosystems or course deemed as a substitute

Biweekly lunch meetings

Trainees attend lunch meetings every other week, during which they present or listen to research talks as well as career/professional development topics.  These lunch meetings provide regular opportunities for trainees to get to know each other and their respective projects, to be exposed in a peer group setting to the broad diversity of biotechnology research topics at Stanford, and to receive valuable feedback on effective scientific communication. See meeting topics for academic year 2020-21.

Industrial internship 

Trainees complete an industrial internship, typically in the summer lasting from 3 to 6 months and usually in the San Francisco Bay Area.    Students learn new skills and perspectives that they bring back to their respective research groups.  During the internship, trainees take a leave of absence from the university, and the Industrial Affiliate biotechnology company provides a salary for the internship work.  Read internship spotlights

Field trips 

Field trips are based on student interest in companies and sectors. They provide students with opportunities to engage with scientists and leaders at these organizations, as well as to start to build connections. We typically host 2 to 3 field trips per year.

Poster presentation or talk at a national meeting

This is financially supported by the training program.

Annual biotechnology symposium + poster session

Trainees participate in the annual symposium, through poster session and/or talks. This symposium attracts industrial attendees, connects students to each other and faculty, offers networking opportunities, and increases program visibility. Read about the keynote speakers and presentations from our 2020 Symposium.

Career development courses 

Trainees take at least (2) professional development courses from the VPGE (Vice Provost for Graduate Education) website during their tenure in the training program.  Courses and workshops include effective communication, career options and preparation, diversity, entrepreneurship and leadership. Ideally, these courses will be taken in year 3-5 of a student’s graduate program.

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Trainees are required to meet with their thesis committee members once per year, and twice per year in their last year of study.  Annual Individual Development Plan (IDP) meetings with the primary advisor are also required. 

Typical progression

For a student coming into the training program in their second year of PhD studies, the timing for completion of program components is shown below:

  • First year in program: Required coursework, external fellowship/grant application, internship
  • Second year in program: Finish required coursework, external fellowship/grant application
  • Third year in program: at least one professional development course
  • Fourth year in program: at least one professional development course, write and defend dissertation
  • Each year: biweekly lunch seminars, field trips, symposia, mentoring meetings
Sequence in biotech training program

Internship Timing.  Our trainees find it most beneficial to their training if they do their internship no earlier than the summer of year 3.  (Trainees usually need to focus on their qualifying exam in their 2nd year and completing TA requirements in their 3rd year.) This timing seems most conducive for research productivity and better allows trainees to use the internship experience to help them plan for their post-PhD career.