Grad Prog - PhD Science

Doctor of Philosophy | Biological Sciences


Programme Type

Full-time, Part-time

The School of Biological Sciences is committed to implement current best practices in the training of our graduate students. Our main objective is to produce research scientists, who have deep and wide knowledge to be competitive in today’s global research and work environment. 

Our graduate students enrolled in graduate programmes by research may be admitted on a full-time or part-time basis. They will receive supervision and guidance by faculty members to conduct research projects aligned to the overall objectives of their chosen laboratories. We also provide advanced learning and hands-on training through foundation courses and practical modules.

In addition to the research work, Ph.D. students are required to complete 4 course modules (12 AUs), Research Communication for Graduate Studies, Teaching Assistantship Programme and Transferable Skills Modules within stipulated period of the Ph.D. candidature. Graduate English Course may apply to some students. The final requirements include the submission of a Ph.D. dissertation and an oral examination. 

The School of Biological Sciences has trained and graduated more than 500 Ph.D. students. Promising scholars and researchers are encouraged to apply. Prestigious scholarships will be awarded to successful applicants.
Click here to find out more on our admission requirements.
Graduate English Course may apply to some students. 

For higher degrees by research, candidates may be admitted as full-time or part-time students. The minimum and maximum periods of candidature for both full-time and part-time are as follows: find out more.

Courses Offered in Semester 1  

Course Title Course Content
BS7002 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Konstantin Pervushin
Tools For Structural And Computational Biology

This  course  consists  of  lectures,  data  analysis  and  group  discussion/
presentation sessions. During lecture hours, basic concepts in informational biology are introduced and skills necessary to solve practical problems in mechanistic description  of  biological  processes  are  developed.  Topics
covered include computational tools in bioinformatics, biological databases,
structural  prediction  of  proteins,  biophysical  principle  of  biomolecular assembly, and  enzymatic  mechanisms. 

Students  will  also  learn  how  to enhance  their  own  research  through  the  use  of  publicly  available  bio-information databases and freely accessible software. Selected questions/ topics  (e.g. origin  of  the  SARS-CoV-2  virus,  problems  of  chromatin functioning,  carbon  fixation  challenge  etc.)  will  be  discussed  in  in-class sessions. As part of continued assessment students are required to submit in  class  activities reports  which  are  the  basis  for  the  course  grading. Literature search and analysis of research publications are required before making individual reports.

No final examination is provisioned. The course ends  with  a  round table  session  revising  and  integrating  all  skills  and knowledge  acquired  as  well  as  students’  reflections  on  how  the  taught material can be effectively used in their own research.

BS7003 (3AU)
Coordinator: Koh Cheng Gee
Graduate Seminar Course  A series of seminars will be arranged to provide the graduate students a broad view on cutting edge research in different areas in biological sciences.  Speakers invited include faculty members and scientists from local and overseas universities, research institutes and related industries.
The students will present what they have learnt in the seminars and lead the discussion during the weekly sessions. Three written reports are also required.
BS7006 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Julien Lescar
Practical Course in Protein Crystallography  The aim of this course is to introduce modern macromolecular crystallography. Lectures in the morning are followed by practical classes at the bench. of interest to those who want to use structural biology methods. The course provides opportunity for direct participation in small groups of protein crystallography experiments.
BS7011 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Christiane Ruedl
Practical Course in Immunology

This course is designed students who already have a basic knowledge in Immunology.

During this practical course we will analyse the immunological response generated in situ in the respiratory tract and correspondent draining lymph nodes during an influenza infection. You will learn how to analyse the phenotype of immune cells by flow cytometry, how to investigate anti-viral immune responses by quantitative PCR as well as ELISA analysis.

The aim of this course is to compare cells, serum, bronchial lavages and tissues obtained from an uninfected control and from an H1N1 influenza (strain A/PR8/1934) infected mouse and visualize viral specific immune responses which take place during the progression of the infection.  Obtained data will be discussed together during the lab session. A final report will be graded together with the participation and engagement demonstrated during the practical course.

BS7017 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Hong Yan & Nealda Yusof
Regulatory Control of Healthcare Products and Medical Devices

This 13-week programme provides a complete and concise treatment of the key considerations in the development and regulation of healthcare products.

The main area of concentration is in medical devices and is divided into four parts. The course begins with a historical introduction into the healthcare products industry and the start of regulatory controls. It then moves into the core principles of healthcare products regulations and expands into the methodologies of ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

This includes going through the fundamentals of Good Manufacturing Practices, quality management systems, product risk classification, risk management and the different regulatory systems in the world. At the end of this course, students should have a clear understanding of healthcare products regulations and able to apply these requirements in product development. They will also be required to perform casework to test their ability to apply these concepts in real scenarios.

BS7020 (3AU)
Coordinator: Koh Cheng Gee & Prakash Arumugam
Drug discovery : An odyssey from the laboratory to the market

Drug discovery is a long journey filled with a series of obstacles and challenges. In this module, experts will lecture on different stages of the drug discovery process drawing inspiration from their own research and from the literature. Topics covered include Drug screening strategies, Biomarker discovery, Computational drug design, small and large molecule drugs, peptide-based drugs, Immunotherapeutics, Pharmacodynamics, Drug formulation and Pre-clinical and Clinical Research.

BS7107 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Mu Yuguang
Computational Biology and modeling  Basic ideas for understanding biological phenomena using principles from underlying physical and chemical foundations used in computer modelling approaches are introduced. Emphasis will be on how these computational tools are applied to biological areas such as drug-target interaction. These methods are illustrated with modern computer based laboratory practicals with graphical display of biological molecules.  A variety of computational methods and modeling strategies are introduced, such as classical force field based on quantum theory. Basic sampling techniques, such as Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations will be described.

Courses Offered in Semester 2

Course Title  Content 
BS7001 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Lu Lei
Foundational Course in Molecular & Cell Biology  This course covers topics on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of membrane trafficking, cell cycle, signaling, cytoskeleton, protein synthesis/degradation, drug discovery and bacteriology
BS7005 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Konstantin Pervushin
Practical Course in Multidimensional NMR spectroscopy  This course is designed particularly for PhD students, who already have a basic knowledge in structural biology. The course will contain the foundational basis of NMR theory, but will be primarily focused on the development and enhancing of practical skills in the use of the advanced NMR techniques in applications to such research areas as protein structure and dynamics determination, high through put ligand screening as well as rapid analysis of protein states. The course will feature about 15 contact hours in the laboratory, including the NMR-room, enabling direct participation in small groups in practical executions of NMR experiments. About 15 hours will be spent in the lecture-/computer room to teach and perform the analysis of the acquired NMR spectra.
BS7010  (3 AU)
Coordinator: Sandip Basak 
​​Practical Course in Electron Microscopy and image processing of macromolecular complexes  This course is designed particularly for PhD students, who already have a basic knowledge in structural biology. The course will contain the foundational basis of electron microscopy (EM) and single particle analysis (SPA). It will be focused on the development and enhancing of practical skills in the use of the advanced image processing techniques in three dimensional structure determinations of macromolecular protein complexes.  The course will feature about 42 contact hours, including the EM lab, enabling direct participation in small groups with practical hands-on experiments in image acquisition and data processing using image processing packages such as EMAN and Relion CryoSPARC.
BS7013 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Gao Yonggui
Skin Biology: Theory and Practice  Skin Biology is experiencing an upsurge in importance within Singapore’s Biomedical landscape. This course is aimed at developing both practical skills and theoretical concepts needed by a student aspiring to a career in Skin Biology.
The course will be conducted by specialists in skin biology within the A*STAR staff at Skin Research Institute of Singapore and will give an advanced grounding in the most up-to-date aspects of current skin biology practice, especially genetics, and reinforce this with an extensive and intensive practical component.
Teaching will be over a 5 day period. The theoretical component will consist of targeted lectures in skin structure, function, genetics, development and pathology.
The practical component will consist of intensive lab classes and will encompass skin microscopy, cell culture, PCR, cell storage, and immunocytochemistry.
BS7016 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Hong Yan
Bioentrepreneurship  Learning bio-business basics such as IP, regulation, marketing, strategy and financing. Working as a team to formulate a business plan before presentation to a panel of potential investors.
BS7019 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Su I-Hsin
​Fundamentals of Immunology - Concepts and Experiments  ​ This course consists of lectures, data analysis and group discussion
/presentation sessions. During lecture hours, basic concepts in
immunology as well as molecular and cellular components of immune
responses will be introduced (see details of course). Students will also
learn how to analyze immunological data using appropriate software.
Selected immunological questions/ topics will be discussed in group
discussion/presentation sessions. Extensive literature search and
analysis of research publications are required before making group
presentation. At the end of semester, each student should be able to
compose a short research proposal related to one of the discussed topics.
BS7414 (3 AU)
Coordinator: Li Hoi Yeung
Practical Course in Advanced Microscopy  This course aims to teach graduate students different advance imaging techniques that are commonly used in biological sciences research.

Graduate English (HWG703) & University Teaching for Teaching Assistants (HWG702)

​Graduate English (HWG703) & University Teaching for Teaching Assistants (HWG702)
HWG703 Graduate English Course 
HWG702 University Teaching for Teaching Assistants
​​​ It is compulsory for all full time PhD students to take up HWG703 Graduate English​ (unless exempted) in the first semester followed by taking up HWG702 University Teaching for Teaching Assistants upon completion of at least 2 semesters of study.
Students who pass HWG703 are then required to take and pass HWG702. Students will need to repeat the courses until they pass.
PhD students need to satisfy the requirement for HWG702 by their Qualifying Examination/Confirmation before they can be granted the $500 RSS stipend increment. Those who have yet to pass HWG702 at the point of their confirmation may proceed with confirmation of candidature without the $500 stipend increment until they pass HWG702. There will be no backdating of stipend increment when they subsequently pass HWG702. The increment will effect from the next semester on which the student passes the module.
These courses will be displayed on the transcript.

Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC)

1. Every new PhD student will need to form a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) within 8 months after enrolment into the graduate programme. The TAC committee should comprise at least three members: the supervisor or co-supervisor (if any) and two other faculty members.

The student’s main supervisor as Chair of the committee and 2 committee members, one of whom should preferably be a faculty member from outside the School.

The TAC members must have a PhD or equivalent doctoral research degree. NTU faculty who are Full Professor, Associate Professor or Assistant Professor qualify for appointment as a TAC member.

Senior Lecturers and Lecturers who had not been approved to be Main Supervisors of PhD students can also be appointed as TAC members.

2. The objective of the committee is to provide guidance to the graduate student throughout the student’s course of study.

3. The committee should meet the student in the 8th month, 30th month and 42nd month from the date of admission to determine the progress of the student and to provide guidance and advice.

4. The committee shall decide if the student has done sufficient research and has enough data for writing the final dissertation. Should there be disputes on academic matters between the student and the supervisor such as time to write the final dissertation and etc, the committee should review the progress made by the student thus far and recommend the best action.

5. The committee may also recommend the termination of PhD candidature if the progress made by the student is deemed minimal or unsatisfactory.

See the recommended timeline for TAC meetings below: 


Ph.D. Candidature Confirmation (QE)

  1. The PhD Qualifying Examination (QE) is an important and integral part of the overall assessment of every PhD candidate. 
  2. Every PhD student has to pass the QE which is arranged and conducted by the respective Schools typically at around 18th month, but not exceeding 24th month from the commencement of the student’s PhD candidature. The timing of the Qualifying Examination may be initiated by the supervisor or by the School. Note: The student needs to achieve a cGPA of 3.5 and above before he/she can proceed to sit for the QE. 
  3. Under the guidance of the student’s supervisor, he/she should submit a succinct QE report to members of the QE panel at least one month before the date of the QE presentation. The QE panel can direct the student to amend the report to the satisfaction of the supervisor/co-supervisor. 
  4. Members of the QE panel for PhD students should be holding a PhD qualification or its equivalent doctoral research degrees. Nominations of QE Panel are to be approved by the School Associate Chair (Graduate Studies). 
  5. The Qualifying Examination panel should consist of at least 3 independent members who are appointed by the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies). The Chairman, whose role is that of the representative of the Associate Chair (Graduate Studies), should be a senior faculty staff who is an Associate Professor or above. The other internal members of the QE panel can be tenured or tenure-track faculty staff. NTU’s lecturers and senior lecturers cannot serve as members of the QE panel. 
  6. The other two independent members of QE panel may be members of the Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) provided there is no conflict of interest and that these TAC members do not have joint publications with the PhD candidate. The supervisor and co-supervisor cannot be members of the QE panel. In the case of IPP funded students, the Industry TAC member may participate in the QE without being a voting member. 
  7. The role of the QE panel is to establish that the student has a realistic programme of study and research (with intermediate objectives) on a topic that offers sufficient scope for research training and which is likely to prove an intellectually rewarding investigation that can be expected to produce sufficient results for submission of an acceptable thesis in the time designated for the degree. 
  8. It is not a requirement for the PhD student to publish any journal paper prior to the Qualifying Examination. 

See the QE flow chart below: