A Time for Change in the PhD System

The above is the title of an article posted on Physorg.com discussing the problems with many PhD programs. The article, written by Deborah Braconnier, summarizes some of the problems as follows:

“According to Mark Taylor, the system for PhDs needs to be reformed or shut down. Universities are promoting their PhD programs in order to have the graduate students in the laboratories and as teaching assistants. This works as a benefit to the universities, but in the end provides no benefit to the graduate. The PhD programs have become too specialized in subfields and many find they are unable to talk to colleagues in the same general department because their knowledge is too specialized.”

“Taylor believes that in order for doctoral programs to keep up with the 21st century, they need to eliminate these specializations and move towards more cross-disciplinary knowledge. Curriculum should focus more on applying knowledge to practical problems providing real world solutions.”

The Panama College of Cell Science offers a three year PhD program in stem cell biology. We considered these things when we constructed our curriculum.  As stated on our website: “Although this is a rigorous program, it can be completed in a shorter time than many Ph.D. programs because: (1) There is no summer break; and (2) as there is no campus per se, graduate students are not required to assist in teaching undergraduates, nor are they required to assist with laboratory set-ups for undergraduates, as is usually the case.”

Moreover, our curriculum is designed to serve working adults, lab technicians, clinicians, and those interested in expanding their knowledge in stem cell biology and to assist them in “applying knowledge to practical problems providing real world solutions”.  Specifically, our program is designed to offer a broad based education in stem cell science so that our graduates can walk into any lab, clinic, or academic setting and be productive.

We believe that our biology graduate program is responsive to many of the complaints about the PhD “system”.

We made it shorter, we made it affordable ($3,900/year with payment plan), we eliminated students extraneous duties, and we made it so students can apply their broad based knowledge to the stem cell field now.