Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program


Veterinarian Scientists

Program Structure

The Graduate Program for Veterinary Scientists combines formal coursework with independent laboratory research, training in biomedical ethics and other professional enrichment activities. Scholars are required to meet annually with the Program Director to discuss their progress and goals for the future. It is expected that scholars will progress to independence as they gain knowledge and experience.

Formal course work requirements: Contemporary biomedical research requires a broad base of knowledge and skills that are best acquired through formal coursework. It is essential that Program scholars have graduate-level knowledge in the areas of biochemistry, genetics, cell and molecular biology, experimental design and statistics. Because of this graduate trainees are required to complete three graduate level core courses in the areas of biochemistry, genetics, and cell and molecular biology. In addition, scholars must complete an advanced course in biostatistics and experimental design. This formal course work must be completed before the second anniversary of their enrollment. Trainees are expected to discuss their course selections with their faculty advisor, graduate training committee, and the training director.

Research: Graduate students enrolled in the Veterinary Scientists Program are expected to earn the PhD degree. To attain a PhD trainees are required to carry out original research. The average period of training is 4.2 years. Scholars typically will be expected to take their Admission to Candidacy ("A") Examination before the second anniversary of their enrollment. Successful completion of the A Exam is required for continued enrollment in the Scientist/Scholars Program. A final ("B") examination is scheduled at the conclusion of the student's period of graduate study.

Biomedical ethics: Instruction in the responsible conduct of research (RCR) is mandated by the NIH and Cornell University. Program participants must complete the University’s RCR-CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) on-line instructional course within one month of their appointment. In addition, all graduate students must enroll and complete a separate bioethics course.

Professional Enrichment: Group meetings involving trainees and faculty are important features of the program. The meetings are organized at a field, department or laboratory level. They include journal clubs, conferences, seminars and special lectures. All encourage creativity and broaden the trainee knowledge while simultaneously honing the individual's critical capacity and communication skills.

Preparation of a research proposal: All supported scholars are required to prepare a fellowship application for submission to an external sponsor by the first anniversary of their enrollment. Trainees should consult with the Program Director at least 6 months prior to the due date of their fellowship application to discuss a suitable external sponsor mechanism. Fellowship awards available to veterinarians include Ruth Kirchstein Individual National Research Service Awards (NRSA), Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Awards (K08), American Heart Association Fellowships and others.

An advantage of writing a research proposal is that it will help focus your thinking about your research. This is because during the process of preparing a proposal will have to: 1) critically evaluate existing knowledge related to your thesis research; 2) develop hypotheses; and 3) design experiments to test your hypotheses in a logical and connected way. You will need guidance writing your first proposal and scholars are strongly advised to seek advice from their mentor. Trainees should consult with the Program Director about their proposal during the first 6 months of support, as it will take some time to formulate a successful proposal. A properly crafted proposal will serve as a model for future proposals in which trainees hone their scholarly attributes while assuming greater independence.

Maintaining Professional Skills: For those scholars who plan a career that will incorporate clinical work, it is often important that they maintain their professional skills during their graduate studies. To accommodate such individuals, the program can allow scholars to spend up to 10% of their time (2-3 days per month) in clinical practice or professional development activities. Prior approval for such activities must be obtained from the Program Director.

Conditions of Appointment

The scholarship funds for The Graduate Program for Veterinary Scientists are provided by the National Institutes of Health. Because of this, the research conducted by the trainee must address the mission and goals of the NIH ( All of the participating faculty have NIH-funded research projects that will meet this requirement. Faculty who are not currently participating faculty may be considered as appropriate research mentors on a case-by-case basis. Continuing trainee appointment is dependent on satisfactory progress as adjudged by the Program Director and the scholar’s research mentor.