Doctoral Program in Chemical and Biological Sciences

Scripps Research's doctoral program is an interdisciplinary graduate program that provides rigorous training in chemistry, chemical biology, biology, neurosciences, immunology, cell biology, chemical physiology, and biophysics. When students enroll in the program, they do not join a department, but rather pursue their graduate studies with access to the entire curriculum and faculty affiliated with the school regardless of the faculty member’s department. This approach allows students to be broadly trained and emphasizes the creation of basic knowledge in the biosciences.

The central mission of Scripps Research's graduate program is to train the next generation of scientists at the interface of biological and chemical sciences for productive careers in the global economy.

NEW! On Friday, October 13 we hosted a live chat with our faculty, admissions committee staff, and current graduate students, during our annual Graduate Program Virtual Open House! Watch the videos from this event HERE.

Students may study, conduct research, and attend research seminars and professional development workshops in either one of two beautiful settings: La Jolla, California and Jupiter, Florida. The latest broadcasting technologies and pedagogical tools are employed to ensure connectivity, communication, and interaction between students and faculty in both locations.

A key feature of Scripps Research's graduate program is the ability for students to completely customize their experience across conventional boundaries. New students can customize their curriculum to consist of diverse courses aligned with their research interests, while also selecting lab rotations that impart laboratory experience in more than one research area. Students can also customize the focus of their thesis research to gain exposure to any discipline of their choosing.

Scripps Research's doctoral program achieves its mission through the following program learning outcomes (PLOs):

Original research is central to the doctoral experience. Through faculty mentoring and laboratory activities, students develop the skills critical for high-level research output. Graduate students are expected to use analytical skills to assess and categorize existing bodies of knowledge and integrate innovative research initiatives both within and across disciplines. They are then able to build arguments or interpretations of their experimental results that are logical and well evidenced in pursuit of creating new knowledge. This endeavor involves a great deal of cooperation and collaboration among lab members or with different labs.  Students are required to be trained on the ethical norms of research such as mutual respect, trust, confidentiality, rigor, and accountability. Further, students are expected to be knowledgeable about ethics and practical requirements for data and resource sharing, and for the use of human subjects and animals in their research. Publications in peer-reviewed journals and other recognition from the scientific community are signals of quality intellectual output.

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) Success Indicators

  1. Integrate knowledge of specific research area into scientific approaches
  2. Design testable hypotheses that are creative and insightful to the research area
  3. Evaluate rigorous approaches to investigate the hypotheses
  4. Demonstrate mastery of scientific tools and techniques, including laboratory-based and computer-based techniques, to address scientific questions
  5. Analyze and interpret experimental data to obtain reproducible and statistically significant results that can be used support scientific insights
  6. Demonstrate the practices and expected behaviors of an ethical scientist
  7. Be a steward of science

In any scientific or professional environment, the ability to successfully engage with peer and lay audiences is critical. Scripps Research students are able to effectively communicate the impact of a study or a body of work to the greater scientific community and to the public at large.

During their training at Scripps Research, graduate students are expected to publish and communicate the impact of their research through scientific journals as well as poster and oral presentation. They demonstrate the oral, written, and media communication skills required to be effective mentors, future scientific leaders, and scientifically literate citizens.  Students build these skills through writing and reviewing scientific manuscripts, collaborating with other scientists, attending courses and workshops, and taking advantage of scientific symposia and professional development opportunities. 

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) Success Indicators

  1. Collaborate collegially with others and demonstrate effective teamwork in-person and virtually
  2. Cogently summarize research, its significance, and context for non-specialist audiences
  3. Give affirming and critical feedback to others and respond constructively to feedback from others
  4. Prepare and deliver in-person and online presentations, suitable for either specialist or non-specialist audiences, that demonstrate an understanding of effective messaging and slide design
  5. Prepare well-written manuscripts that meet the standards of reputable journals and respond appropriately and effectively to recommendations for revision
  6. Select and participate in appropriate scholarly meetings to present research findings
  7. Critically evaluate original research results, articulate possible “next experiments,” and write compelling synopses describing their research
  8. Identify appropriate fellowship or grant opportunities and prepare competitive proposals

An important skill for success in biomedical research doctoral programs is thinking critically about problems, claims, justifications, decisions, and data made by other scientists. Effective critical thinkers use a self-directed process to analyze problems or information and form opinions or judgments about whether claims are plausible and grounded in sound scientific reasoning. Graduate students are expected to rely on information literacy to improve the quality of their scientific thoughts, evaluate justifications, navigate challenges, and make informed opinions about the work. Scripps Research graduate students learn to ask important questions that guide their behavior and the way that data and information are analyzed and interpreted. Strong critical thinking skills encourage curiosity, improve reasoning, enhance creativity, reinforce problem-solving ability, and foster independence. The institute provides opportunities to engage in discussion, debate, case studies, journal clubs, and presentations where these skills can be honed and refined.

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) Success Indicators

  1. Identify and explain issues or problems clearly
  2. Recognize the importance of context on the problem
  3. Consider relevant perspectives and positions that differ from their own
  4. Apply statistical rigor to raise questions about the validity of results
  5. Clearly identify assumptions behind the conclusions that are made
  6. Select and structure the evidence needed to support an argument, point of view, or conclusion
  7. Evaluate conclusions, implications, and consequences

At the core of pursuing a doctoral degree is the drive to explore the unknown in order to initiate new paths, new ways of thinking and to bring innovation to enlighten a field of study. Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of a relentless pursuit to always be learning and innovating. Scripps Research graduate students are expected to acquire the capacity to build their intellectual curiosity and demonstrate problem solving approaches that serve their professional growth and ability to impact a field, during graduate school and beyond through lifelong learning.

To assist students in the development of intellectual curiosity, the institute provides a world class research and learning environment that champions multi-disciplinary collaboration, cutting edge technologies and instrumentation, stimulating scientific seminars, symposia and lectures and outstanding faculty mentors.

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) Success Indicators

  1. Demonstrate self-motivation in identifying problems, pathways, and actionable steps that lead to insight
  2. Articulate scientific ideas that reflect a relentless ability to uncover the unknown
  3. Engage in mastering new techniques, applications and applying research methods that stretch scientific pursuit
  4. Demonstrate an ability to bridge multi-disciplinary scientific concepts and integrate disparate ideas and research areas that advance forward-thinking ideas
  5. Articulate originality in thought and presentations
  6. Dissect concepts to reveal flaws and construct new ideas that bring insight
  7. Demonstrate contributions to science that impact new discovery
  8. Persevere on difficult tasks by demonstrating persistence and employing rigorous approaches that reassess, adapt, pivot, and reconceptualize to discover and innovate
  9. Demonstrate depth of thought, reflection, and ability to gather new input and considerations to generate new ideas

Scripps Research promotes a culture of informed, proactive and strategic career planning.  Students seek information about potential career paths afforded to them by a Ph.D. degree, talk to employers and mentors in areas of interest, and become aware of the preparation and initiative required to pursue these paths. Students collaborate with their faculty advisor to prepare an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to map their educational goals, career exploration, and professional development.

Scripps Research students develop a variety of transferable skillsets throughout their graduate experience, including management and leadership, resilience, scientific rigor, collaboration, time management, teamwork, networking, and career planning. To assist students in successfully preparing for a variety of possible careers, the institute offers career and professional development workshops, course offerings, career advising, and experiential learning opportunities.

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) Success Indicators

  1. Demonstrate the oral, written and media communication skills required to be effective scientists, communicators, mentors, teachers, scientifically literate citizens, and stewards of science.
  2. Develop professional competencies, such as interpersonal communication, budgeting, project management, mentoring, teaching, and workplace ethics skills that are needed to plan and implement research projects
  3. Work collaboratively in team settings involving colleagues with expertise in other disciplines and from diverse cultural and disciplinary backgrounds
  4. Prepare and revisit an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to optimize and integrate research progress with broader professional development plans
  5. Identify Ph.D.-level career paths that complement professional interests, skills, and values
  6. Critically evaluate transferable skills and articulate ways in which these skills can be developed
  7. Enhance professional identity by participating in appropriate professional organizations, conferences, and scientific meetings, demonstrating professional conduct and communication