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Current Seminar Courses


CMB students are required to complete three 1- or 2- credit Seminar courses.  These courses can include CMB 800 courses or any courses listed below.  Seminar courses not listed below must be approved by the CMB Director. 

Courses listed below are categorized as literature-based or writing/professional development courses.  There are two options for completing the three seminar requirements.

  1. Take 3 literature-based courses.
  2. Take two literature-based courses plus one writing/professional development course.

Please note that although the semester indicated is typical for each course, each course is not necessarily offered every year.  If only the Semester is listed for a given course, please check to verify whether the course will be offered.

If you know of a course, or are interested in a course, that is not listed below, please let us know!


These should constitute at least two of your three required seminar course

Number: GEN 800, Section 2
Course Director: Claire Vieille
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: Students will explore current literature on computational methods that apply to their PhD research, and give presentations on the articles they read.

Breakthroughs in Precistion Medicine: Molecular Understanding of Human Disease
Number: CMB 800, Section 3
Course Director: Lorenzo Sempere, Morteza Mahmoudi
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring 2024
Time: Tuesdays, 1-2:30 pm
Format: Students located on East Lansing campus need to attend lectures in person. Students located outside East Lansing campus (e.g., Grand Rapids, Flint) may join by videoconference/zoom.
Description: This course will introduce and discuss the use of genomics, epigenomics and other high throughput omics and imaging approaches for better understanding of human disease and their application for precision medicine. Lectures will be driven by student-lead presentation and discussion of original research articles and support materials. We will use these text books Precision Health and Precision Medicine. First class will be a general introduction to key concept in Precision Health and Precision Medicine. This course is suitable for students with an interest in genetics, genomics, application of cutting-edge technologies, molecular basis of human disease (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative conditions). Each student is expected to lead the presentation and discussion of 1 or 2 sessions. Min student enrollment: 4-5, max student enrollment: 12-15

Number: PSL 980/PHM 980
Course Director: Sophia Lunt
Credits: 1-2
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: This course is offered to graduate students who are interested in cancer research and treatment. It will explore foundational concepts in cancer biology and introduce seminal papers on selected topics.

Number: IBIO 890
Course Director: Dr. Ingo Braasch, IBIO (braasch@msu.edu); Dr. Elizabeth Heath-Heckman, IBIO/MMG (each@msu.edu)
Credits: 1-2
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: How do we get from DNA to diversity? How did Darwin’s “endless forms most beautiful” evolve? How did the snake loose its legs? How did insects obtain their wings? Do you want to understand the interrelations of evolution, development, and the environment? Then look no further, this seminar is for you! Evolutionary developmental biology or Evo-Devo investigates the development of organism from fertilized eggs via embryos to adults in a comparative framework to understand the evolution of developmental processes and how the genome instructs and evolves to generate a diverse set of organisms. With the recent explosion of multi-omic sequencing technologies and genome editing such as CRISPR, a menagerie of new model organisms is emerging that inform the developmental connections of genomes to phenomes, their evolution, and their response to environmental changes. In this seminar course, we will discuss recent advances in, unforeseen insights into, and tests of long-standing hypotheses about the evolution of developmental mechanism using examples from the research literature into a broad variety of topics. The course will specifically highlight the genomic foundations of animal Evo-Devo.

Number: CMB 800 Section 4
Course Director: Peter Wang
Credits: 1
Time: Wednesdays from 2/7-4/10 at 2:00-3:30pm
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: Human cells hold immense potential in the fields of cancer treatment and regenerative medicine. Current cell-based therapies utilize various cell types such as blood stem cells, immune cells, and pancreatic islet cells to address a range of diseases. This seminal course aims to enhance your comprehension of cell-based therapies, providing insights into contemporary practices. Explore innovative methods for reprogramming stem cells and immune cells, visualize graft cells in vivo, and contribute to the advancement of precision medicine through cell therapy. By the end of this course, you will gain a firsthand look at cutting-edge technologies employed in these fields. Additionally, you will develop peer review skills to critically analyze studies related to cell-based therapy. 
Number: CMB 800
Course Director: Robert Hausinger, Eric Hegg
Credits: 2
Semester: Spring (Please check with instructors)
Description: 'Metals in Biology' is intended for graduate students with backgrounds in biochemistry, molecular/cellular biology, microbiology, and/or chemistry. Taught in conjunction with MMG 803 and BMB 961 sec 001. (Please enroll thru the course and department which you would like to have on your transcript). In this course we will discuss the roles of metals in biological systems, including metalloenzymes, metallocenter biosynthesis, metal transport, metal toxicity, and metalloregulation. Discussions will focus on the catalytic mechanisms as well as the way in which the different protein environments 'tune' their active sites. Student presentations will be an important emphasis in this class.
Topics in Molecular Plant Sciences
Number: CMB 800 Section 1
Course Director: Eva Farre, Josh Vermaas
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: This course will allow for the critical assessment of recent publications of MPS seminar speakers during the semester. One student will present a paper each week for discussion that will form the framework for engaged and lively discussion from all participants. Each week we will discuss a recent publication of the invited speaker. Students will be expected to actively participate in discussion and will develop their critical thinking skills and expand their molecular plant science knowledge base. Students of the MPS program are strongly encouraged to attend, but any graduate students with a plant science orbiochemical/molecular biology background are welcome. Taught in conjunction with the BMB, GEN and PLB departments. Please enroll thru whichever department you want the course to show up as, on your transcript.
Number: VM 820
Course Director: Colleen Hegg
Credits: 2
Semester: Spring of Odd Years
Description: This course will use a journal article-based discussion format to provide a framework for understanding and interpreting knowledge relevant to biological and biomedical topics in comparative medicine, and familiarity with the experimental methods and research tools used in these areas. Mechanisms of pathogenesis will be covered in the areas of genetics and genomics, physiology, cell biology, oncology, neuroscience, pharmacology, host response mechanisms, and infectious disease. During the first half of class, the listed instructor will provide an overview (lecture/discussion) of the given topic. For the second half, a student will formally present/discuss an important paper(s) selected by the instructor on the topic. These papers will be posted in D2L. Each student will give at least one presentation. All students are expected to read and be prepared to discuss the selected research papers each week. In addition, all students not presenting will submit a summary of the selected paper that must be uploaded in D2L by 1 PM at the start of class. This summary should include background and context for the topic, summary of the results, strengths and weaknesses of the paper, possible future experiments and why this paper is important (how it opened up the field). These written assignments are intended to help the student condense material and present the most important information in a logical and compelling fashion.
Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegenerative Diseases Seminar
Number: CMB 800, Section 701
Course Director: Nicholas Kanaan
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring 2024
Time: TBD
Format: GRRC Seminar Room 1st Floor, Grand Rapids. 1 hr/week. Hybrid (in-person in Grand Rapids, virtual for other campuses)
Description: Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntingtin’s disease and several others, are major health care concerns. A central issue that must be overcome to effectively treat and potentially prevent these diseases is better understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenic processes that cause disease. The goal of this seminar course is to explore different mechanisms thought to play a role in various neurodegenerative diseases. Students will choose primary research manuscripts to present in a journal club-style format and will be expected to participate in open discussions on the presented research papers.
These may constitue one of your three required seminar courses
Number: CMB 800 Section 2
Course Director: Margaret Petroff
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring 2024
Description: The course is designed to teach and reinforce the principles of effective writing in the context of scientific abstracts, manuscripts, and grants. Material will range from use of impactful words to construction of sentences, paragraphs, and papers. Topics covered will include editing, writing within word limits, use of active/passive voice, effective punctuation, and the writing process. Course will be held in person, and will use in-class lectures/activities, and cooperative homework assignments.
Number: GEN 840
Course Director: Claire Vieille
Credits: 1
Semester: Spring (Please check with instructor)
Description: Development of a genetics research proposal: content, composition, and peer review through a graduate writing group.
Number: NSC 844
Course Director: Filomena Nunes
Credits: 2
Semester: Spring (Please check with instructor)
Description: This is a 2-credit course on tools for women considering careers in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). It is directed at graduate students and the primary goal of the course is to equip students with strategies that can help them advance their goals and minimize the impact on their careers of the disadvantages they may face in their professional lives.
Number: ANS 828
Course Director: Keith Latham
Semester: Fall (Please check with instructor)
Description: This course provides training in communication needs for graduate trainees in reproductive sciences or related areas of biology.  This includes training in how to communicate essential biology principles, how to assess literature, correct interpretation of scientific data, and the design of a well-rounded presentation. Students present one short seminar in closed session and receive feedback from Instructor and peers, and then incorporate that feedback into a 45 minute-long public seminar. Students select presentation topics either from an Instructor-provided topic list and bibliography, or by identifying a recent paper from the published literature, with Instructor approval.
Number: ANS 823
Course Director: Keith Latham
Semester: Fall (Please check with instructor)
Description: The focus of the course is on developing independent investigator-initiated proposals, as would be pursued throughout typical scientists’ careers. The course will focus on the core scientific part of an application (aims, significance, experimental plan, and other elements), which will translate to any grant mechanism including fellowship applications. Students will write a research proposal on a topic of their choice during the semester using an NIH short format, receiving instructor and peer comments as well a weekly input for a research proposal mentor. Using such feedback and suggestions on successive sections, students will hone and refine a completed proposal.