Graduate Program in Pathobiology

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After the first year is completed, the student will choose an advisor from the Pathobiology faculty. After completing the Oral Examination for the Ph.D. Degree for the School of Medicine Programs, a Thesis Advisory Committee will be formed to monitor the student's thesis research progress. The student, with the consent of his/her advisor, decides on the composition of the thesis committee. The thesis committee consists of at least three experts in the student's field of study or related fields which MUST include at least one Pathobiology faculty member in addition to the student's mentor. Committee members help with research direction and technical challenges, and oversee the student's progress until research is complete and the doctorate is awarded.

  • There are no limits on the number of members on the Advisory Committee.
  • Once the committee is approved, the student contacts each of the individuals to arrange a mutually agreeable date and time for the first thesis meeting.
  • The thesis meeting is intended to help the student consider the broader concepts on which the thesis research is based, to assist in focusing on the student's research problem, and to clarify any questions concerning the experimental approach.
  • The thesis meeting generally begins with an oral progress report by the student followed by a period of questions, comments, and discussion.

Per new NIH guidelines, it is required that each student also complete an Individual Development plan with his/her mentor each year.

Students must meet with their Committee at least once per year to review progress. More frequent meetings may be desirable to assess progress in research. It is the student's responsibility to schedule these meetings. A written evaluation of the student's progress and development will be prepared by the committee, discussed with the student, and a copy placed in the student's Pathobiology file. For second year students, this meeting should involve primarily a discussion of the proposed thesis. For students in the third and subsequent years, the meeting should involve a discussion of both progress and plans for the future. The Thesis Advisory Committee will decide when the student is ready to begin writing the dissertation. A student whose advisory committee has not met at least once in a year is considered delinquent.

In the event that a student changes thesis labs, the first thesis meeting should be held no later than nine months after joining the new lab. The student, new thesis advisor, and Pathobiology Program Director will formulate a revised timeline for completion of degree based on circumstances.

In accordance with Johns Hopkins Time to Degree policy, after completion of year 6, (72 months post-matriculation), meetings must be held semi-annually at which the Pathobiology Program Director, Co-Director, or Curriculum Committee Chair must be present.

Thesis/IDP Forms


The public seminar is to be presented after approval by the student's thesis committee and must be given before the student can be cleared for graduation.


  • Each student will complete 3 research rotations prior to selecting a thesis laboratory. A fourth rotation may be completed if desired.
  • Upon starting the rotation, students and their rotation mentors will complete the Rotation Plan form.
  • Upon completion of the rotation, the mentor will provide an evaluation of the student's work.
  • Students will present their rotation work at the Pathobiology Journal Club or at the annual Pathobiology retreat.
  • The 3 required rotations must be completed with Pathobiology faculty members. If a student decides to take a fourth rotation with an outside faculty member, it is with the understanding that the student will NOT be able to undertake the thesis in that lab.
  • Each research rotation will be about 3 months in length, with the exception of summer rotations. A full-time summer rotation (July-August) will be about 2 months in length.
  • The 3 required rotations must be completed during the first year.
  • The student must select a thesis advisor no later than 1 year from the date of admission to the program. A student who begins on July 1st should select a thesis lab by June 30th the year following July 1st. **In general, students will not be permitted to conduct their thesis research in a laboratory where they have been previously employed. Any exceptions to this policy will be determined by the Pathobiology Executive Committee.
  • Interim Advisors: Each student will be assigned an interim advisor during the time period between starting the program and choosing a thesis advisor. The student must meet with the interim advisor AT LEAST once every 4 months. These meetings will be initiated by the student.
  • Labs with delinquent students should be closed to rotation students until the delinquency is removed.

Rotation Forms


The objectives of the rotations are to give the graduate student an interactive exposure with the clinical diagnostic dimension of Pathology. The student should learn the fundamental clinical questions, the current state of the technologies to address these questions, and how basic science can be translated to advances in diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.

  • The student is responsible for registering for each rotation, contacting Dr. Burns to inform her of the choice of rotation lab, and coordinating the hours for the rotation. The rotation must be approved by Dr. Kathy Burns.
  • A translational rotation should consist of eight 2-hour sessions, or a total of about 16 hours. The student and rotation advisor are responsible for coordinating these hours.
  • Each student must complete 2 translational rotations. These should be completed by the end of the student's third year.
  • At the end of the rotation, the student will fill out a translational rotation evaluation, which will be submitted to the Program Coordinator (Tracie McElroy) and Dr. Burns as documentation of completion of the rotation.
  • Dr. Burns and/or the rotation advisor will assign a grade for the rotation.
  • The rotations need not require an experimental project involving bench work. If the student wishes to complete such a project, it should be decided jointly between the student and rotation advisor.
  • The student is encouraged to interact with the pathology residents and fellows. This will allow communication and strengthen ties between the Pathology residents and fellows and graduate students.
  • The content of the rotation should be decided jointly between the student and advisor. For example, recent rotations have consisted of: student observing clinical diagnosis/sign-out of CNS tumors, student learning how HLA typing is performed, student observing clinical diagnosis/sign-out of infectious disease cases, student observing residents reading frozen sections, slides, surgically resected tissue for diagnosis.

Rotation Forms