PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences
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Admission for the PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences for the 2019-2020 academic year is now closed. For information about applying for the 2020-2021 academic year, please continue to monitor this site as we will post information in a few months.

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PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Doctoral program in applied areas of biological and biomedical sciences.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Qatar faces a unique set of health care challenges. Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular conditions as well as mental health issues are in constant progression in Qatar and the region. While these diseases seem unrelated to each other, recent findings clearly established that their high prevalence in many areas of the world in general, and in Qatar in particular, is due to a combination of environmental pollution and heredity factors. The elevated levels of consanguineous marriages in Qatar and the Gulf region promote the expression of genetic mutations that trigger or favor these diseases, yet many of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved remain elusive.

In order to counter some of these challenges, HBKU's graduate programs in the biological and biomedical sciences aim to train the next generation of scientists and encourage the best and most distinguished students to pursue leading positions in the biomedical research field in Qatar. The overriding goal of the of the HBKU Biological and Biomedical Sciences Master and PhD Programs is to assemble the knowledge and skills that enable students to design scientific research and hone technical expertise to create new knowledge. Successful students will have transversal and scientific skills in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Genetics, Cancer Biology, Neuroscience and Bioinformatics. These skills will be used to carry out basic or applied research in clinical, academic, industrial or other fields.


Outline for the BBS PhD program


Year 1 Semester 1 Semester 1 : Core Classes  
Semester 2 Semester 2 : Core and elective Classes Semester 2 : BEGIN DISSERTATION RESEARCH
  RAC Meeting
Year 2 Semester 3 Semester 3 : Elective Classes Semester 3 : DISSERTATION RESEARCH Semester 3 : RAC meeting
Semester 4 Semester 4 DISSERTATION RESEARCH Semester 4 : RAC meeting
Year 3 Semester 5 Semester 5 : DISSERTATION RESEARCH Semester 5 : RAC meeting
Semester 6 Semester 6 DISSERTATION RESEARCH Semester 6 : RAC meeting
Year 4-5 Semester 7 Semester 7 : DISSERTATION RESEARCH Semester 7 : RAC meeting
Semester 8-10 Semester 6 DISSERTATION RESEARCH  



Students take their core and elective course requirements in the first two to three semesters in the program and should aim to begin their thesis research no later than the second semester in the program.

During their tenure in the PhD program, students will have regular meetings with their Research Advisory Committee (RAC) - a committee that will give advice and help oversee the student’s progress.

In Year 2, students take the Qualifying Examination. This exam determines whether the student is ready to begin a period of research aimed towards a PhD. The examination provides the Qualifying Examination Committee and the student with means to assess the student’s mastery of the basic body of knowledge and development of the breadth and depth of scholarship that is expected of PhD candidates.

After Year 3, students take the Candidacy Examination. This exam allows the Graduate Advisory Committee to thoroughly examine the student's preparation for dissertation research. Successful completion of the Candidacy Examination indicates that the student has a broad and in-depth background in biomedical sciences. It marks the watershed from taking courses to being a full-time researcher.

To obtain their PhD, a student will have to write their dissertation and successfully defend it orally.


A 54-credit program, taught in English over four to five years, that includes:

  • Core Courses

  • Elective Courses

View Admission & Application Requirements

3 Core Courses

A list of BBS Core courses:

LS 501 Research Methods and Ethics

This course is a foundational course for graduate students who will be engaged in research. It provides students with an introduction to ethics and ethical misconduct, intellectual property and environmental health and safety as well as scientific thought and design of experiments. A focus of the course is to transition students from textbooks to primary literature as their main source of information.

CSE 502 Statistics for Science and Engineering

This is an introductory course on probability theory and statistics, which will cover fundamental principles of statistics and their applications in science and engineering. 

Course topics will include:

  1. Basic probability theory
  2. Random variables and probability distributions
  3. Hypothesis testing
  4. Analysis of variance
  5. Regression
  6. Design and analysis of experiments, and other relevant topics.


LS 640 Stem Cell Biology

This course is intended as an introduction and in-depth discussion focused on the biology of stem cells. The course will introduce the features of stem cells and basic mechanisms regulating their self-renewal and pluripotency. In addition, the course will focus on selected examples of adult stem cells with an introduction to translational medicine approaches involving stem cell biology.

Major emphasis will be placed on how advances in stem cell biology and tissue engineering can be applied to the use of embryonic and adult stem cells in regenerative medicine. In addition to these topics, students will be introduced to the ethical, regulatory, and legal issues related to stem cell research.

LS 651 Principles of Cellular and Molecular Immunology

The field of immunology has witnessed a huge surge in knowledge in the last 40 years. From relatively modest and rather esoteric beginnings, immunology has become one of the most dynamic and exciting areas of medical sciences. This course encompasses the major sub-disciplines in the field. These will include, but are not limited to, development and maturation of the various cell lineages of the immune system, phylogeny and structure-function relationship of cell-associated as well as soluble receptors used by the immune system, the mechanisms of antigen processing, presentation, and recognition, properties of innate vs. adaptive immune responses, communication and cell-cell interactions, immunoregulation, and humoral and cellular effector mechanisms.

LS 653 Environmental Microbiology

This course provides students with knowledge in microbial communities and their distribution in the environment; microbial pathogens and their transmission pathways in water, air, soil and food; and the various sources of microbial contamination in the environmental. This course also covers
environmental applications of molecular technology and other advanced detection tools.
Furthermore, emerging issues, such as health implications of nanotechnology, renewable energy, climate change and infectious disease, urban microbiology, and food safety will be discussed to give insight to future environmental health concerns.


LS 606 - Molecular Biology of Neuroscience

This course is intended for graduate students interested in gaining a detailed understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic function and development. Throughout the course, the focus will be on understanding the experimental approaches that produced current knowledge. In most weeks, students will be assigned recent research papers as their primary reading material. About two-thirds of the classes will be lectures by the instructor and a third will be student-led discussions of papers.


LS 633 - Epigenetics

The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to epigenetics and chromatin dynamics, particularly the structural and biochemical modifications of chromatin that underlie epigenetic states and their effects on gene expression and human diseases. The importance of epigenetic states is perhaps the major discovery of molecular biology in the past ten years. They are critical to understanding the control of gene expression in development, the programming and reprogramming that takes place in the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells and they provide an accounting for many of the genomic malfunctions that result in human disease. An acquaintance with the concepts of what has come to be known as Epigenomics is essential for a Molecular Biology major.


LS 706 Independent Study

The Independent Study in the Life Sciences allows students to examine a variety of timely, cutting-edge research areas. Taught by our faculty or/and research scientists from our research institutes or industrials, this course allows students to keep up with critical trends and topics in the field. Registration for this course requires Program Coordinator and Instructor approval. In addition, a student can only register for this course once during their tenure at HBKU.

LS 661 Special Topics in Biosensors

This course provides comprehensive, bottom-up coverage of how biosensors are engineered starting from physical transduction and electrical detection all the way to signal conditioning and processing. The course is structured around sensing principles including physical phenomenon  as well as electronics (VLSI circuits) of the different sensory systems and processing of biosensing signals.