Graduate Concentration in Cell and Organ Systems: Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

The format of the COS concentration prelim exam consists of an oral summary presentation by the student of a primary research article, chosen from among a collection of faculty-submitted article sets (primary article along with 2-3 back-up papers). For details see the Cell and Organ Systems Concentration M.S. Policy and Curriculum or Ph.D. Policy and Curriculum. During and after the presentation the examining committee may ask questions that are directly or indirectly related to the subject matter in the chosen paper. The goal of these questions is to assess the student's breadth of knowledge and emerging critical thinking skills in the general areas of cell biology and general systems physiology. The expectation is that first-year graduate students should have a broad understanding of basic principles. The following list may serve as both a review of general topic areas and a checklist of areas the student may feel need to be strengthened.

  1. Basic Principles of Cell Biology
    1. General cell structure and organization: organelle functions, cytoskeleton and cell motility
    2. Cell fate: cell cycle, growth, differentiation, mitosis and meiosis, apoptosis
    3. Basic biochemistry: bonds, building blocks of proteins, lipids, nucleic acids carbohydrates, enzymes, ATP production
    4. Information flow in cells: transcription and translation, protein processing
    5. Membrane structure and function: composition, fluidity, basics of transport, ion channels, carriers, active transport
    6. Cell signaling: receptors, second messengers, kinases, calcium, G-proteins
  2. Basic Principles of Systems Physiology
    1. Properties of water, solutions, pH, osmosis, diffusion
    2. Body fluid compartments: intracellular vs extracellular ion composition
    3. Tissue organization and histology: basement membranes, stroma, extracellular matrix, organs and functions, connective tissue
    4. Energetics: formation and use of ATP by cells
    5. Neurobiology: generation of action potentials, synapses, basics of neural integration, autonomic nervous system
    6. Endocrine systems: types of hormones, receptors, endocrine glands, hormone control systems, basics of mechanisms of hormone action
    7. Muscle physiology: types of muscle, basics of muscle contraction, structure-function relationships
    8. Cardiovascular physiology: blood composition and function, heart function, blood vessel properties, capillary fluid exchange, lymphatics, blood pressure and volume regulation, cardiovascular reflexes
    9. Respiratory system: structure/function of lungs, regulation of respiration, blood gas transport, acid-base balance
    10. Renal physiology: basics of epithelial transport, ultrafiltration, osmotic balance, regulation of sodium and water balance, urinary concentration and dilution
    11. Digestive physiology: motility, secretions, neural and hormonal reflexes, absorption
    12. Reproductive physiology: male and female reproductive organs, production of gametes, reproductive hormones and cycles
    13. Immune system: inflammation, humoral and cellular immune responses