Program Overview

PIBBS students in aa lab filled with equipment and supplies.

The Programs in Biomedical and Biological Sciences (PIBBS) is the gateway into interdisciplinary PhD programs at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Our PhD programs are interdepartmental and are focused on broad approaches to modern biomedical research. PIBBS is an umbrella program with distinguished faculty focused on health-related research from the Keck School of Medicine, USC School of Pharmacy, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The PIBBS program offers students breadth and flexibility to best pursue their interests across a wide range of biomedical PhD research topics.


During the PIBBS year, students engage in three eight-week laboratory rotations in different laboratories to gain research experience and identify a faculty member to serve as the advisor for their dissertation research. At the conclusion of the first year, PIBBS students will choose a thesis advisor and laboratory from one of their lab rotations and will matriculate into a PhD program that matches their research focus. The faculty member directing the laboratory serves as the student’s primary mentor for the remainder of their graduate training.


By the end of the PIBBS year, students will have completed 25 units of course work. These units, regardless of the PhD program in which they select, count towards the PhD requirements. Courses include: Advanced Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Human Genetics and Genomics, Protein Chemistry, and, in the summer Applied Biostatistics and an ethics class. Additionally, in the spring of their first year PIBBS students enroll in Writing for the Biomedical and Biological Sciences, a workshop style class that provides training in scientific writing and includes instruction on drafting an NIH F31 fellowship application.

Once students join a particular PhD program, additional required coursework associated with the degree requirements of the respective program must be completed. The amount of coursework can vary slightly among programs, but for all four programs the basic degree requirements include: a qualifying exam (written/oral, in the form of an NIH F31 application), a thesis proposal, annual committee meetings, and a thesis written/oral defense.

Professional Development

We provide professional development classes beginning in year 1, and numerous career workshops for more senior students. Students can also take a limited number of units at other schools within USC to acquire specific skills they wish to obtain prior to entering the job market. Most of our graduates pursue postdoctoral training, but we also have students who enter biotechnology, teaching, scientific writing and administration.

The students are the focal point of PIBBS. Our aim is to train young scientists to become leaders in their fields, providing them with the skillset to succeed in a variety of capacities in biomedicine.