Carnegie Mellon University

Program Description

We participate in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) sponsored jointly by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. The mission of the MSTP, funded partly by the National Institutes of Health, seeks to train talented students to become physician-scientists in an environment that integrates superlative medical education and customized graduate work in biomedical research. Interested students should apply to CPCB either concurrently with their MSTP application or during the first two years of their medical training. Applications to CPCB are reviewed by the program’s admissions committee. Upon acceptance to CPCB, students choose a faculty mentor for their Ph.D. studies from among our training faculty.

Laboratory Rotations – Selecting a Research Advisor

MSTP students are not required but are encouraged to participate in laboratory rotations with CPCB faculty. This can be done in the summer before they join the MSTP program and/or in the summer semester of their first year in the MSTP. After their acceptance to the CPCB and before the end of the second year in the MSTP program, the student chooses a training faculty mentor with whom to complete their thesis work.


After joining CPCB, MSTP students are required to take four courses (Machine Learning, Computational Structural Biology, Computational Genomics and Cell & Systems Modeling) and one graduate level elective course (Specialization elective) during their studies. The description of the courses and lists of elective courses can be found here. MSTP students are also required to participate in Research Seminars and Journal Clubs organized by the program. The elective course, relevant to the student’s research, is chosen by the student in discussion with their faculty advisor. Additional coursework may be undertaken if appropriate. The following four courses are waived for the MSTP students: Laboratory Methods, Life Sciences Elective, Open Elective, and Ethics. However, the MSTP has their own ethics course, “Ethics for Medical Scientists,” which is required.

All graduate students attend the Departmental Research Seminar and participate in the weekly Graduate Research Seminar (CPCB Course). These series comprise a variety of presentations by outside scientists, Carnegie Mellon faculty and students, permitting a penetrating look at varied scientific disciplines and contemporary investigative approaches. Students also attend various informal seminars whose topics range from scientific integrity and ethics to professional development.

Thesis Proposal

In keeping with the accelerated pace of the graduate training, MSTP students are expected to defend their Thesis Proposal no later than the end of the end of the third semester in the CPCB (not counting the summer semesters) instead of the fifth semester. The Thesis Proposal Defense consists of the preparation and defense of a doctoral thesis proposal and follows the rules and regulations of the program (see here).

Teaching Requirements

During their second year, students serve as TAs for one graduate course.

Thesis Requirements

MSTP students begin research for their doctoral thesis upon joining the program. The program’s advising committee advises the students until they successfully defend their thesis proposal, at which time the Thesis Committee assumes this role. The requirements for the composition of the Thesis Committee can be found in the CPCB Handbook. After their first year and in all subsequent years, all CPCB students (including MSTP students) present their work-in-progress at the program’s seminars to gain additional feedback.