Training Program in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies (CMBS)

The Training Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies (CMBS) is an interdepartmental degree-granting program offering predoctoral training for students at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The CMBS program presents students with a unique opportunity to obtain rigorous training in an individualized environment. The underlying rationale for this program was to provide graduate students with a thorough grounding in the basics of biochemistry, genetics, cell and molecular biology. 

The CMBS program has multiple tracks as delineated below.  These tracks are areas of specialization for research and many have specific course requirements for electives. Prospective students apply to the CMBS program, and can indicate specific tracks that they are interested in pursuing.  Applicants can apply to one of several tracks and there is flexibility to switch tracks after they join the program.

Umbrella Track

The Umbrella track gives the students a wide variety of topics for choosing elective courses and for their research.  One of the unique aspects of the CMBS program is that students can stay in the “umbrella” track throughout their graduate career, thereby also allowing them to choose their own program of courses that fit their scientific interests.    






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Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology 

Students in the Biochemistry, Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology track take the same core courses as the other CMBS students, except that they also take courses in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology as their electives and pursue dissertation research in this area in labs within. 

Stem Cell Biology and Cell Biology

Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine is a rapidly developing area with applicability to multiple disciplines and diseases. Students in this track take courses in stem cell biology and related areas, and pursue dissertation research in laboratories within the Stem Cell Initiative, or Cell Biology Research Group. 

Microbiology and Immunology

The Microbiology and Immunology track offers research in microbiology including bacterial generics, physiology, virology, parasitology, and host defense including anti-pathogen immunity. Students in this track take graduate courses in Immunology, and Advanced Topics in Microbiology and Immunology as their electives.  Research in this area is further augmented by Center for Translational Immunology and a newly formed Initiative for Human Tissue Immunity and Disease, along with the Center for Host Defense at CUIMC.

Pathobiology and Mechanisms of Disease

The Pathobiology and Mechanisms of Disease track offers a curriculum that examines the basic science of a number of diseases in great detail. Diseases like cancer, hematopoietic or blood borne diseases, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, neuromuscular diseases, liver diseases and diabetes are major areas of research focus and covered in a one-year course called “Mechanisms in Human Disease” that is taken by students in this track.

Cancer Biology 

The Cancer Biology track covers all areas of cancer research, including cancer genetics, stem cells, tumor microenvironment, hematopoietic malignancies, tumor immunology, systems analyses, among others. This track will foster educational, scientific and social interactions with the other cancer-focused graduate students on campus, and students will benefit from the extensive and multi-disciplinary research in cancer being conducted in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and many departments at CUIMC.  Students in this track are required to complete one graduate-level cancer course, such as Cancer Biology.

Systems Biology

The Systems Biology track includes research areas taking mathematical and computational approaches to understand fundamental biological processes including development, gene regulation, the function of cells, organs, and tissues, and disease mechanisms. Students in this track will take elective courses in computer science, statistics, and computational biology, in addition to the CMBS core courses. Students will typically choose laboratories in the Department of Systems Biology, which includes leaders in multi-disciplinary investigations of systems biology across diseases. 

Other tracks

There are additional tracks in: Cellular & Molecular Physiology and BiophysicsGenetics & Development, Molecular Pharmacology & Therapeutics, and Nutritional & Metabolic Biology

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Associate Directors of Graduate Studies

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Figure Legend: (Left Panel) Representative image of lymphocytes in human tonsil acquired by imaging mass cytometry as part of a study aimed at defining the spatial localization of human natural killer cell development. NKp80 (red), CD20 (green), CD3 (purple), CD34 (orange), collagen type I (light blue), smooth muscle actin (dark blue). Image generated by Everardo Hegewisch Solloa (Mace Lab). (Middle Panel) A bispecific antibody simultaneously binds to two different epitopes on the same SARS CoV-2 spike molecule as observed by cryoEM.  One arm (red Fab) recognizes the receptor binding domain (RBD, green) and the second arm (blue Fab) recognizes the N-terminal domain (NTD, orange).  Image generated by Ryan Casner (Shapiro lab). (Right Panel) Larval Drosophila ventral nerve cord showing axons from somatosensory (green) and nociceptive (magenta) neurons. Image generated by Nova Qi (Grueber lab).