MS in Biomedical Sciences Program Curriculum

The Tufts University School of Medicine MS in Biomedical Sciences curriculum is modeled on the School of Medicine's first-year medical curriculum. In fact, 10 of the 13 core courses in the program mirror a portion of the current Tufts School of Medicine courses. The remaining core courses are either modeled after medical courses or unique offerings designed to enhance students' future success.

Curriculum Format

  • Medical Course: Introduction to Microbiology: A Molecular Approach (1.5 credits | Gardel, Fall Semester) — The Introduction to Microbiology course links basic science and diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. The genetic and physical structures of microbes, their growth and replication strategies, and the regulation of important virulence factors are subjects in this course. Students will:

    • Learn the key essential features and processes of microbes, which are exemplified by their roles as targets of antibiotic and antiviral agents
    • Be thought from paradigms, using important current problems in medicine that illustrate how bacteria and viruses choose their hosts, determine their lifestyles, and regulate their pathogenesis genes
    • Explore the notion that the human microbiome plays a role in health and disease

    The course goals are to provide a mechanistic framework for students to use to solve biological problems, and to better conceptualize new information in infectious disease and biomedical science.

    Medical Course: Cell Biology (1.5 credits | Castellot, Fall Semester) — This course describes the study of form and function of cells and societies of cells (tissues) at the light and electron microscopic levels. As such it combines the principles of cell biology with biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics. Although lectures stress the relationships between structural composition and function, important clinical correlations are provided.

    Medical Course: Medical Histology (3.0 credit | Sun, Fall Semester) — This course describes the study of form and function of cells, societies of cells (tissues), and organizations of tissues (organs) at the light and electron microscopic levels. As such it combines the principles of traditional cell biology and histology courses. Although lecture and laboratory sessions stress the relationships between structural composition and function, important clinical correlations are provided. The overall course objectives are to:

    • Develop the concept of the inseparable relationship of form and function
    • Provide adequate perspective and preparation to integrate the knowledge of cells, tissues, and organs into the scheme of other basic and clinical biomedical sciences
    • Demonstrate that the study of cells and tissues is an important approach to the study of the human body in general a strategy that can assist in developing and strengthening powers of critical observation, problem solving, diagnostic reasoning, and judgment.

    Medical Course: Biochemistry (3.0 credit | Baleja/Yee, Fall Semester) — This course describes the study of the chemistry of cells and tissues and presents the biochemical basis for physiologic processes. While emphasis is placed on functional and regulatory aspects, a solid knowledge of the structure of major biochemical substances and of enzymatic reactions is required for understanding how biochemical reactions determine physiologic function and regulation. Although emphasis is placed on normal processes, disease states are presented to show how specific biochemical defects can lead to illnesses. The overall course objectives are to:

    • Understand how genetic regulation and metabolic reactions determine normal physiologic function
    • Begin to understand the biochemical basis of disease
    • Use biochemical knowledge to interpret clinical problems

    Medical Course: Immunology (1.5 credits | Brodeur, Fall Semester) — This course describes the study of the structure and function of the cells, tissues, organs, and molecules that are responsible for protecting the body against invading pathogens and infectious disease. Basic information is provided on host defense mechanisms, origins and functions of immune cells, innate immunity, the complement system, and specific immunity (humoral and cell mediated mechanisms). Topics also include antibody structure and function, antibody genetics and B cell development, T cell differentiation and activation, cellular cooperation, and control of the immune response. Important clinical information is also presented including allergy, hypersensitivity and autoimmune disease, underlying mechanisms of transplantation immunology and tumor immunology, various forms of immunodeficiency including HIV, and methods of manipulating the immune system to treat immunologically mediated diseases. The overall course objectives are to:

    • Introduce students to important concepts in modern medical immunology
    • Teach immunological mechanisms that have direct clinical application

    Medical Course: Physiology I & II (4.5 credits | Jefferson, Spring Semester) — This course describes the study of the functions and vital processes of the human body. It is divided into four sections: cellular and neuromuscular physiology; cardiovascular and respiratory physiology; renal and gastrointestinal physiology; and endocrine and reproductive physiology. The overall course objectives are to:

    • Provide students with a thorough understanding of the basic physiologic principles of the human body
    • Integrate physiologic information with other biomedical disciplines
    • Provide an important foundation for continuing clinical studies, especially in pathophysiology and pharmacology

    Medical Course: Genetics (1.5 credits | (Cowan, Fall Semester) — Medical genetics involves the application of genetic principles in the practice of medicine. Medical genetics encompasses diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases, study of inheritance of diseases in families, mapping of disease genes to their chromosome locations, study of the molecular genetics and pathogenesis of inherited disorders, provision of genetic counseling for families, and recently, investigations of methods for gene therapy. Medical geneticists care for fetuses in utero, newborns, children, and adults with inherited conditions, adults with infertility or recurrent miscarriages, and adults who are genetically predisposed to cancer. Unlike any other field, genetics represents a true integration between the basic and the clinical sciences. The overall course objectives are:

    • Given a clinical problem, take an appropriate family history
    • Given a pedigree, determine the most likely mode of inheritance
    • Given a disorder, whether Mendelian, chromosomal, or multifactorial in origin, determine the likely risk for other family members
    • Recognize who might benefit from genetic counseling and provide it if the problem is straightforward, or know to whom to refer patients if the problem is complex
    • Appreciate how a disease gene is localized, learn the potential benefits of understanding the molecular approach to disease, and appreciate the therapy that can derive from this understanding
    • Take into account the diversity in genetic makeup as an important factor in preventive health care, diagnosis and treatment
    • Reduce unnecessary exposure to known and potential physical and chemical mutagenic, teratogenic, and carcinogenic agents
    • Recognize how environment can affect phenotype 
    • Identify ethical dilemmas in providing genetic services

    Medical Course: Pharmacology (1.5 credits | Greenblatt/Abourjaily, Fall Semester) — The overall objectives of this course are to:

    • Describe the nature and steps in the drug discovery and development processes
    • Differentiate the interplay between basic and clinical pharmacology and the elements of pathobiology and pathophysiology that lead to drug choices in clinical practice
    • Analyze the principles of selective toxicity and pharmacokinetic and other medicines which underlie the rational use of drugs
    • Identify the properties of drug action at specific receptors and the mechanism of actions of drugs
    • Determine toxic and therapeutic endpoints and drug side effects and list major indications and contraindications for relevant drugs

    MBS Course: Introduction to Clinical Medicine (1.5 credits | Glickman-Simon, Fall Semester) — This course represents a survey of clinical medicine as practiced by physicians and other health care providers in Western countries. During the first half, students are introduced to basic human physiology; pathophysiology; and the fundamentals of clinical medicine including history taking, the physical examination, diagnostic testing, and modern therapeutics. During the second half, students apply information learned in the first half to the most prevalent diseases that plaque the developed world. Issues pertaining to population medicine and public health, health promotion and disease prevention, behavioral influences on health, and alternative medicine are also covered in the context of applicable disease states. The overall objectives of the course are to:

    • Identify the major the determinants of health genetic, environmental, behavioral and social and consider the extent to which physicians can influence their health effects
    • Describe the general processes undertaken to arrive at a diagnosis, formulate a treatment plan, counsel a patient, and assess the benefits and harms of an intervention
    • Explore the relevant professional, ethical and interpersonal parameters that define the patient-physician relationship
    • Explain the scientific rationale behind medical decision-making and identify the major non-scientific factors that influence the day-to-day practice of medicine
    • Illustrate common diagnostic, treatment and preventive interventions for selected conditions and describe the principles governing their safe and effective clinical application
    • Gain first-hand experience in the collection, organization, interpretation, analysis and communication of clinical information

    Medical Course: Basic Human Pathology (3.0 credits | Kwan, Fall and Spring Semester) — This course describes the study of diseases in relation to the structural and functional changes in cells, tissues, and organs during the natural histories of specific disorders. The course begins with the principles of general pathology, which focus upon the basic changes in cells and tissues in response to broad pathological processes and pathogenetic mechanisms; it concludes with topics in systemic pathology, which address certain common, important specific disease processes as they affect particular organs or systems in the context of actual patient care. The importance of practical techniques (e.g., morphologic, molecular, immunologic) that reveal pathologic changes in fluids, cells, tissues or organs of patients and result in specific diagnoses that lead to sound clinical care and intervention will also be presented. The overall course objectives are to:

    • Achieve a mastery of the basic vocabulary of medicine, which allows health care professionals to communicate effectively
    • Develop some special skills needed for pathology, including visual recognition and interpretation of pathologic lesions during examination (physical, gross or microscopic)
    • Develop a working framework for making good, rational, medically-related decisions, which involves gathering appropriate data, organizing pertinent data, interpretation, and generating probable conclusions

    Medical Course: Introduction to Basic and Clinical Human Anatomy (3.0 credits) — This course describes the study of the structure of the human body as seen through dissection and medical imaging, including radiography and magnetic resonance. Topics covered include the anatomy of the Extremities, Thorax, Abdomen, and Pelvis. Laboratory exercises will include computer-based dissections using 3-D reconstructions based on the Visible Human Project as well as 2-D cross sections and radiographic images. The overall course objectives are to provide students with an introduction.

  • (Partial list; courses require approval from instructors and depend on space availability)

    MBS 222 – Computerized Motion/Gait Analysis 

    (**Note: Several sessions will meet off campus at New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton; students will need to carpool). To provide students with an introduction to the biomechanics of locomotion as a predictor and indicator of neuromuscular control in the human body and to became familiar with the principles and instrumentation of computerized motion and gait analysis.   

    MBS 224 – From the Cell to Cancer

    Historic and epistemological overview of the subject with special emphasis on the quality and relevance of the premises adopted by those favoring either a) the somatic mutation theory (SMT) and its variants or b) the tissue organization field theory (TOFT).

    MBS 225 – Bioethics for the Budding Physician-Scientist

    This course provides an overview of the basic principles of ethics and then uses student presentations to illustrate those principles in the context of cases that are important to physicians doing research.

    MBS 226 – Bioethics for the Budding Clinician

    This course provides an overview of the basic principles of ethics and then uses student presentations to illustrate those principles in the context of cases that are important to physicians and their patients.

    MBS 228 – Critical Evaluation of the Clinical Literature

    MBS 229 – Mental Illness and its Pharmacologic Management

    MBS 231 – Immunotherapy of Cancer and Autoimmune Disease

    This course provides an in-depth perspective on the types of immunotherapy currently being evaluated, as well as a review of the evolution of immunotherapeutic approaches, including the treatment of allergy.

    MBS 232 – Introduction to Dentistry: Ethics, Professionalism, and Dental Anatomy

    PH 201 – Principles of Epidemiology

    PH 205 – Principles of Biostatistics

    PH 210 – Law in Public Health

    PH 234 – Public Health Economics

    PH 235 – Advanced Public Health Economics

    PREP 236 – Principles of Change and Education in Pain Management

    PREP 238 – Evaluation and Treatment of Pain

  • The Tufts MBS program is a full-time experience that includes a thesis. Minimally, it can be completed in one year, but it may be extended. In this regard, we have also made provisions for those candidates who wish to continue their studies leading to the MPH degree.  

    A literature or laboratory-based thesis, which is the capstone of our program, must be completed successfully to obtain the MS degree.  

    Students work with their Academic Partners to identify what type of thesis is right for them and select their thesis mentor. 

    To successfully complete the thesis requirement, in lieu of a traditional thesis defense, MBS students must have their thesis formally approved by their mentor and identified readers. 

    No matter what type of thesis students choose, they are supported through the process and will have the opportunity to learn more about the requirement during workshops held throughout the spring semester.

Setting Students Up for Success

The courses build on each other to reinforce key concepts critical in your future career. This sets you up to find your footing more quickly upon admission to a MD/DO or dental program and can help you establish your specialization interests with more confidence early on.

View Curriculum Timeline & Overview

Course Highlights

Basic and Clinical Human Anatomy is presented from the perspective of important medical imaging modalities including CT, MR and 3-D reconstruction. This course not only teaches an important understanding of normal body structure but also provides clinical correlations for important conditions that affect humans.

Basic Human Pathology incorporates the concepts of general pathology with important features of systems pathophysiology in order to present an understanding of the pathologic basis for human disease. Elective courses are available from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Public Health programs, and other Professional Degree programs.

Examinations are typically identical to those taken by first-year medical students. For the most part, they will be taken at the same intervals as medical students.

The thesis, either literature-based or laboratory-based, will be completed by the end of the first or second year.

nathan barger

The MBS thesis project was a perfect opportunity to not only gain a more in-depth understanding of scientific research, but also further examine clinical endeavors that I hope to take part in during my own career as a future physician – with my professional interests being within the realms of pediatric care, immunotherapy, and improving healthcare accessibility for underserved patient groups.

Nathan Barger, MBS22

Meet Your Goals

The MBS program is also flexible enough to accommodate your personal timeline and professional goals. As designed, students can complete the program in as little as one year (August-August). Some students choose to extend their MBS studies into a second year, allowing the opportunity to complete a lab-based thesis or to engage in community-based volunteer work within the surrounding neighborhoods of Boston.  

View Volunteering Opportunities

Headshot image of Maddy

My favorite aspect of the program is all of the opportunities given to the MBS students. Not only are we able to take courses with medical school rigor, but we are also given opportunities to get involved at Tufts and in the Boston community through service, leadership, and different student groups. It has also been such an inclusive and encouraging environment. There is a lot of interaction with and support from other students in the program.

Maddy Lowdermilk, MBS23