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Oral Biology PhD Program

Degree Components


The UNC Oral Biology Ph.D. Program has three primary areas of emphasis:

These areas represent the central concepts for study at advanced levels in the discipline of oral biology. Expertise and authority in these concentrations are well represented within the research and training qualifications of program faculty. Students spend their first two years focusing on basic sciences courses (e.g., principles of oral biology, cell biology, molecular genetics, microbiology, biochemistry) followed by examining specific biological applications ttailored to their interest and training areas. The UNC Oral Biology Ph.D. Program is unique as its curriculum requirements allow students to take advantage of both the courses taught by the Oral Biology faculty  as well as graduate courses in other departments or curricula on campus. Students are expected to integrate both required and elective offerings with oral biology core courses and research needs, taking advantage of University-wide resources. 

Since communication is important for all scientists, the program requires that students participate in discussions of research rotations and dissertation work. These opportunities include laboratory meetings, journal clubs, weekly student seminar courses, scientific writing courses and public presentations of their research work. Research seminars presented in the School of Dentistry and in other Biological and Biomedical Sciences departments are a primary program resource.


The strong emphasis on research experiences and communication is a hallmark of the program at UNC. Participation in multiple laboratory research rotations is a key element, and students start laboratory rotations in their first semester to allow maximum time for research involvement. Upon completion of the first year of study, students select a mentor and begin selection of a dissertation topic. Students undergo a candidacy exam, which includes a written research proposal and an oral examination, at the end of their second year. The written exam involves a proposal in the format of an NIH-style R01 grant application, based on a topic of the student's choosing, including their selected dissertation topic. The oral component examines the student's knowledge of fundamental principles of biology and their chosen field of study.

Program participants are involved early in their academic careers in key research areas targeted by the National Institutes of Health for national scientific focus. Students work closely with faculty in their area of expertise, and the program emphasizes technical expertise, intellectual development, and laboratory management as key areas for training in research. Students are required to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and to present at national and international meetings.

Students may conduct research in the UNC Schools of Dentistry or Medicine, in allied University departments, or among the many allied universities or research institutions in the Raleigh-Durham area. UNC's proximity to Duke University, to North Carolina State University, and to the Research Triangle Park's unique blend of universities, private industry and national scientific organizations offer a wealth of resources for scientific study, collaboration and research development.