A Review of Stem Cell Biology PhD Programs

When we started the Panama College of Cell Science in 2005, we believe we were the first to recognize stem cell biology as a new branch of study. That’s why our program is about stem cells and nothing but stem cells. And if you searched “stem cell biology PhD programs” at that time, you would not find a single one. Today we remain the sole stem cell biology PhD program that can be completed totally online, and which, for US residents, offers an optional lab based research opportunity.

In 2011, following our opening 6 years earlier, the Stanford University School of Medicine created a separate PhD program in Stem Cell Biology named “Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine” within their Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Although their website attempts to describe with great volumes of pedantic jargon how they reached the momentous decision to create the program, what takes them half a website page to describe is this: stem cell biology is a separate unique discipline. And they put together a PhD program dedicated to its study. http://med.stanford.edu/stemcell/phd/about.html

The program leans heavily toward embryonic stem cell study: “instruction in the fundamentals of SCBRM including, molecular pathways of pluripotency and differentiation to tissue-specific stem cells, cancer stem cells, and the application of stem cell technologies in the study and treatment of human disease”, noting that “the program will appeal to students who wish to focus primarily at the basic science level”. They do note, however, that a graduate student may  “seek out a more clinically focused mentor/teacher leading a class”. [If you can find one given their basic sciences emphasis!].

The Stanford program is 5 years, 2 years coursework and 3 years estimated for research/dissertation. They have graduated 16 students since opening in 2011: http://med.stanford.edu/stemcell/phd/students/alumni.html

and admit about 7 per year: http://med.stanford.edu/stemcell/phd/students.html#first-year-students 

The cost is free. Pretty nice if one can get admitted.

Duke University School of Medicine created a separate program, The Developmental and Stem Cell Biology PhD program.  https://medschool.duke.edu/education/degree-programs-and-admissions/developmental-stem-cell-biology/about-program 

Apparently developed in 2009, their published statistics show that about 3-12 students enter the program each year. https://gradschool.duke.edu/about/statistics/developmental-and-stem-cell-biology-phd-admissions-and-enrollment-statistics

However, unlike Stanford, Duke only created a separate program, not a separate department. Not a PhD in stem cell biology precisely, it is merely a program within the medical school, and the actual  Ph.D. degree is “offered only through one of the participating departments. After the second year of study at Duke, students must select and identify a participating department in which they plan to earn the Ph.D. degree. The participating departments are: Biochemistry, Biology, Cell Biology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Environment.”

Offering therefore a program but not a PhD in stem cell biology, students admitted to the program are offered full payment of tuition, fees, health insurance, and a monthly stipend for 5-6 years of graduate training. https://medschool.duke.edu/education/degree-programs-and-admissions/developmental-stem-cell-biology/prospective-students

Now when you search “stem cell biology PhD programs” every institution it seems has jumped on the bandwagon eager to offer a program in stem cell biology by putting together a patchwork of existing faculty from various disciplines and grouping them as an “interdisciplinary” approach to stem cell study. A “specialized” approach is needed, not “interdisciplinary”!

And what institutions out there are teaching clinical applications of stem cell biology??

While it is not possible to review each and every university offering a stem cell program, we selected the following at random for illustrative purposes.

New York University Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences offers a “PhD training program in Stem Cell Biology. The PhD degree awarded is in Biomedical Sciences with emphasis on Stem Cell Biology, and the program offers mentoring, coursework, and research opportunities facilitating advances in stem cell biology and its medical applications”. https://med.nyu.edu/research/sackler-institute-graduate-biomedical-sciences/phd-program/phd-training-programs/stem-cell-biology

There is no cost for PhD graduate students for tuition and fees, and the school pays a stipend of about $40,000/year. They note: “As full-time employees of the medical center, Sackler graduate students are expected to work full-time in the laboratory and therefore cannot hold part-time positions elsewhere”. This appears to be a very nice program.

Similar to many university medical schools, and an example of a school that just wants to offer something, the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine offers a PhD in Development, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. Not particularly focused on stem cell biology, “the ultimate aim is to understand how the genomes of animals are translated into complex morphological forms, and to apply this basic knowledge to the emerging field of regenerative medicine”. https://keck.usc.edu/pibbs/phd-programs/development-stem-cell-and-regenerative-medicine

Free tuition and graduate student stipend are included, which is a big plus, as USC provides “a competitive annual stipend and [graduate students] will be supported throughout your graduate career as long as you remain in good academic standing. Financial support includes payment of tuition and health benefits (health, dental, and vision insurance). Beginning in the second year, the faculty mentor will be financially responsible for your student stipend and fees until completion of the thesis. During this time, you may be supported from grants and/or scholarships funds within the laboratory or Ph.D. program”.

Emory University typifies the majority of what most institutions offer both in terms of studies and costs.   While Emory does offer a Stem Cell Research PhD, it is a cross-disciplinary program requiring studies in four different departments, including Biochemistry, Cell biology, Developmental Biology, and Cancer Biology. http://www.biomed.emory.edu/PROGRAM_SITES/BCDB/pages/stem-cell-research-phd.html

Tough to see how this is a program in Stem Cell Research, the university website even noting that “Our students graduate as well-rounded biomedical research scientists who are highly competitive in a number of different career paths.” http://www.biomed.emory.edu/PROGRAM_SITES/BCDB/pages/stem-cell-research-degree.html

Cost-wise, not as generous as some other offerings, “students are encouraged to apply for pre-doctoral research funding.” Tuition is costly. However, the university states that it is  “committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all accepted domestic students”, with typical financial aid packages totaling $45,000. http://www.emory.edu/home/admission/financial-aid/index.html

While the Emory University program appears to be misnamed as it meanders its way among various competing departments,  the Johns Hopkins University stem cell program is an example of a stem cell program that has a narrow focus. The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Cell Engineering offers PhDs in various programs, among which is the “Stem Cell Biology Program”. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/institute_cell_engineering/research_programs/stem_cell_biology.html

While the PhD is issued by the Institute for Cell Engineering, stem cell studies are geared almost entirely to lab created embryonic stem cell lines. Their website states: “investigators are studying the natural life cycle of human embryonic stem cells. They use human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)”


So, feel free to search for programs in the new biology which is stem cell science. Searching “stem cell biology PhD programs” will give you plenty to work with. Of course, if you would like to really get into this new field but require an online program, then search “online stem cell biology PhD programs”, and there you will find us, the Panama College of Cell Science, an affordable program at only from $3200 to $3450 per year depending on payment plan.

And with our newly revised curriculum, our graduate students are learning:

    • What is the Platelet Rich Fraction (PRP)
    • Step by Step collection and isolation of the PRP and specific protocols for patient treatment
    • What is Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF)
    • Step by Step collection and isolation of SVF and specific protocols for patient treatment
    • How to boost the collection of adequate numbers of stem cells using Neupogen
    • Why adequate numbers of stem cells are needed for a therapeutic result and what those numbers are
    • The importance of the Paired MIce Experiment demonstrating that it is serum growth and stimulatory factors that resulted in stimulating existing stem cells in an aged mouse, not the transfer of youthful stem cells themselves
    • How to set up a small lab in a physician’s office for the collection and isolation of stem cells and PRP from a patient- we give you the specifics of equipment and procedures with step by step video instruction.
    • Step by step video instruction for the collection of abdominal fatty tissue via liposuction, and the isolation of SVF from the collected adipose tissue.
    • Current developments and herbal products for stimulating higher production of in vivo stem cells
    • A review of what is happening at the best international adult stem cell treatment centers
    • And much more…the most thorough, up to date, all inclusive study of the use of adult stem cell fractions in therapy today

If you are a high school graduate interested in biology, please inquire about our fast track combined B.S./Ph.D. which can be completed online in 5 years. We feel that the stem cell biology is currently the most sought after specialty biology subject.

Panama College of Cell Science
The First and Only Online PhD Program
in Stem Cell Biology
And Also The Best


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