Institute of Molecular Biology

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Training Program

The goal of the graduate program is to train students to think independently, creatively, and critically about problems in contemporary molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. These skills are essential to a successful research career. Students interested in pursuing a career in teaching at the university level have the opportunity to gain substantial teaching experience.

To help them identify a laboratory in which to do their dissertation research, new graduate students rotate through three laboratories of their choice during their first year. The purpose is to introduce students to the intellectual environment in each laboratory and to familiarize them with various experimental techniques and philosophies. First-year students work with an interim advisory committee to design their own curricula of course work according to their specific background and interests. All graduate students are required to teach for at least one academic year during their graduate career; at least a portion of this teaching takes place the first year.

Students typically join a thesis lab at the end of their first year. During the second year, they must pass a comprehensive examination that requires the writing and oral defense of an original research proposal. Thereafter, the primary focus is on the dissertation research. Students also participate in journal clubs and attend seminars by invited outside speakers. Advanced students regularly present their results to colleagues here at the University of Oregon and at national and international conferences.

Detailed training program descriptions

Molecular Biology and Biophysics Training Program
Genetics Training Program
Developmental Biology Training Program

Stipends and Benefits

Stipend levels are adjusted annually to be competitive with those offered by other major research institutions. Sources of support include research assistantships, graduate teaching fellowships, and federally supported training grants. Several training grants are available to provide support for students, to fund student travel, to bring in outside speakers, and to enhance the overall training program. Students admitted to the training program will automatically be considered for support by an appropriate training grant. Graduate teaching fellows are part of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), a union that advocates for graduate students on campus. They have negotiated with the University so that fellows receive a competitive stipend and benefits package. This includes full medical, dental, prescription, and vision coverage. There is also childcare on campus for students with children.

Borgen Adamson Memorial Scholarship Awards

All new graduate students recruited to the Institute of Molecular Biology will be considered for a scholarship award funded by The Stanley David and Lucille Borgen Adamson Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund. One or more awards will be made annually, depending upon funding available and applicant qualifications, to the most outstanding incoming student or students as determined by the IMB Graduate Admissions Committee. These scholarships will be awarded based on the application materials submitted.
In addition, students who have successfully completed their first year in the IMB program will be considered for a Borgen Adamson First Year Student scholarship, awarded annually to the outstanding first year student as determined by the IMB Leadership Committee.
Recent Awardees:

Living in Eugene

The IMB combines great science with a fantastic place to live. Eugene is a livable and inexpensive city with great outdoor activities, a thriving local food culture, and a lively arts scene. Located at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers, Eugene is part of Oregon’s second largest metropolitan area, with a total population of about 350,000 for Eugene and it’s sister city, Springfield. Portland, the state’s major metropolitan center, is a two-hour drive to the north.

The city is best known for is outdoor activities, with the Oregon coast and Cascade mountains each ~1 hour away. The Oregon coastline is picturesque, offering rocky shoreline as well as the largest stretch of coastal dunes in the country. East of Eugene, the Cascade Range offers opportunities for cross-country, downhill, and snowboard skiing in the winter and for camping, fishing, and hiking in the summer. Several nearby lakes and rivers support sailing, sail boarding, kayaking, and white-water rafting. The town itself is a runner’s and bicyclist’s paradise, with 150 miles of jogging and cycling paths, many along the Willamette River. The Mount Pisgah Arboretum and Eugene’s Ridgeline Trail provide places to hike, both in forested areas and in open with views of the valley and mountains.

Eugene is also into into beer and wine, with over a dozen local microbreweries and about the same number of vineyards in close proximity. There are also a large number of excellent, local restaurants covering a wide variety of cuisines.

Finally, the town itself has a thriving culture all its own. The Oregon Country Fair-–an annual celebration of art, entertainment, counterculture, and alternative energy–-takes place just outside of Eugene. The Willamette Valley Folk Festival, held on campus, brings musicians from Eugene’s vibrant folk music scene, as well as international folk musicians, outdoors for a community party each spring. Cultural events in Eugene provide entertainment by internationally renowned artists. The Oregon Bach Festival is an annual festival of classical music held during June and July at the UO and at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The facility is also used by a wide variety of visiting musical and drama groups as well as by the resident companies of the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Ballet, Eugene Concert Choir, Dance Theatre of Oregon, Oregon Mozart Players, Eugene Opera, and Oregon Festival of American Music. The university offers first-class musical and theatrical events, and it sponsors films, art shows, and lectures throughout the year. Fine arts are displayed at the UO Museum of Art, famed for its Asian collection, and at more than a dozen galleries.

Eugene, viewed from Skinner's Butte


The IMB has a proud tradition of training PhD students to be successful scientists in both academia and industry. A small subset of our successful graduates is below.

Mike Miller (2011): Assistant Professor @ UC, Davis
Mike worked as an undergraduate with Eric Johnson, and then completed his PhD in 2011 with Chris Doe. While at the UO, he worked on developing RAD tagging as a technique for population genomics. He went straight from his graduate work to an assistant professorship at the University of California, Davis.
Rick Nipper (2007): President of Floragenex
Rick did his PhD work in Ken Prehoda's lab. He is now the president of Floragenex, a biotech company specializing in rapid genotyping.
David Baltrus (2006): Assistant Professor @ University of Arizona
David completed his PhD with Karen Guillimen and Patrick Phillips in 2006. He is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona, were he studies microbial ecology and evolution.
Kevin Bourzac (2006): Research scientist @ Biofire Diagnostics
Kevin is a research scientist with Biofire Diagnostics, a biotech company that develops medical diagnostics. He completed his PhD work with Karen Guillimen.
Sandra Encalada (2004): Assistant Professor @ Scripps
Sandra completed her PhD with Bruce Bowerman and, after a postdoc with Dr. Larry Goldstein at the University of California at San Diego, was hired as an Assistant Professor at the Scripps Institute in San Diego. Her lab focuses on axonal transport and neurodegenerative diseases using C. elegans and mice as model systems.
Gerry Ostheimer (2003): Science Policy Leader @ United Nations
Gerry received his PhD in 2003 under the joint mentorship of Alice Barkan and Brian Matthews. After pursuing postdoctoral work at MIT, Gerry became a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the USDA, where he served as a member of the Global Bioenergy Partnership Team. Gerry is currently the Sustainable Bioenergy Lead with the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
Aaron Severson (2001): Assistant Professor @ Cleavland State University
Aaron completed his PhD with Bruce Bowerman and, after a postdoctoral fellowship with Barbara Meyer at UC Berkeley, was hired at Cleveland State University in 2013, where he is now an Assistant Professor. His lab studies chromosome segregation during oocyte meiotic cell division in C. elegans.
Bethany Jenkins (2000): Associate Professor @ University of Rhode Island
Bethany received her PhD under the mentorship of Alice Barkan. After pursuing postdoctoral research at UC-Santa Cruz, she obtained a faculty position at the University of Rhode Island, where she is now an Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology.
Marc Meneghini (2000): Associate Professor @ University of Toronto
Marc finished his PhD with Bruce Bowerman and after, doing a postdoc with Hiten Madhani at UCSF as a Damon-Runyon and then Burroughs-Wellcome fellow, was hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2013. His laboratory focuses on studies of chromatin regulation and sporulation in budding yeast.
Rhett Kovall (1998): Associate professor @ University of Cincinnati
Rhett finished his PhD with Brian Matthews. He now studies the molecular basis for notich signalling with his group in Cincinnati.
Lawrence McIntosh (1990): Full professor @ University of British Columbia
Lawrence did his doctoral work with Rick Dahlquist. In his own group, he uses NMR spectroscopy to study proteins involved in signal transduction and gene regulation.
Joel Rothman (1988): Full professor @ UC Santa Barbara
Joel finished his PhD with Tom Stevens. He now studies embryonic development and carcinogenesis using C. elegans as a model organism.
David Draper (1977): Full professor @ Johns Hopkins University
David completed his PhD with Pete von Hippel. He now studies the biophysical basis for RNA folding.
Carol Gross (1968): Full Professor @ UC San Francisco
Carol did her dissertation work with Aaron Novick. She went on to do pioneering work dissecting the mechanisms controlling gene expression in E. coli.
Harry Noller (1965): Full Professor @ UC Santa Cruz
Harry completed his PhD with Sidney Bernhard. He is most well known for his detailed studies of ribosome structure and the mechanism of protein translation.