University of Southern California
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Graduate Degrees

Craniofacial Biology

School of Dentistry 218
(213) 740-1001
(323) 442-3174
FAX: (213) 740-2376

Director: Charles Shuler, D.M.D., Ph.D.


Professors: Paul Denny, Ph.D.; Michael Melnick, D.D.S., Ph.D.; Cedric Minkin, Ph.D.; Gregory Mooser, D.D.S., Ph.D.; Marcel E. Nimni, Ph.D. (Medicine); Michael Schneir, Ph.D.; Peter Sinclair, D.D.S., M.S.D.; Jorgen Slots, D.D.S., Ph.D.; David Warburton, M.D. (Medicine)

Associate Professors: David Ann, Ph.D. (Pharmacology); Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D. (Medicine); Tina F. Jaskoll, Ph.D.; Charles Shuler, D.M.D., Ph.D.; Malcolm L. Snead, D.D.S., Ph.D.; Arnold Tiber, D.D.S., Ph.D.; Gary N. Trump, Ph.D.; Joseph Zernik, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Assistant Professors: Steven Goodman, Ph.D.; Glenn Sameshima, D.D.S., Ph.D.

Research Professors: Yang Chai, D.D.S., Ph.D.; David Crowe, D.D.S., D.M.Sc.; Alan Fincham, Ph.D.; Margarita Zeichner-David, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professors: Matt Lee, M.D.; Yi Liu, Ph.D.; Janet Oldak, Ph.D.; Carol Wuenschell, Ph.D.

Clinical Associate Professors: John F. Reinisch, M.D. (Medicine); Libby F. Wilson, M.D. (Medicine)

Clinical Assistant Professor: Stephen Yen, D.M.D., Ph.D.

Craniofacial biology is concerned with the evolution, growth, structure and function of oral tissues and the oral region; and with the etiology and pathogenesis of numerous diseases and malformations. These involve studies at various levels of biological organization, from the molecular and subcellular to the organismic. Craniofacial biology comprises a large, rapidly increasing body of knowledge that has both clinical and academic importance.

The objective of the program is primarily, but not exclusively, to prepare health science graduates for entry into careers in academic environments as clinical scholars or as members of multidisciplinary teams of health professionals in academic centers of clinical and basic health science research.

Admission Requirements

The graduate program in craniofacial biology offers academic graduate training to individuals with a Doctor of Dental Surgery, Medical Doctor or equivalent degree. Applicants with Bachelor of Science degrees in areas such as biology and chemistry are also encouraged to apply.


Formal application to the USC Office of Graduate Admission and the graduate program in craniofacial biology is required for Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy objectives.

All postsecondary transcripts are required and must be forwarded to the Office of Graduate Admission for application to either Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy objectives. An undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better, and a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1200 or better on the Graduate Record Examinations general test are required.

Three letters of recommendation describing academic abilities and personal attributes must be submitted on behalf of the applicant. Personal interviews may be required.

Master of Science

This degree is under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Students should also refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degree must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

The Master of Science degree in craniofacial biology offers the clinician (D.D.S., M.D. or equivalent) the opportunity to obtain clinical research knowledge and skills in the area of craniofacial biology. Such training will include research into the causes of craniofacial diseases and anomalies, as well as normal development and function. The course of study is particularly directed toward those clinicians committed to pursuing a career in research and teaching.

Degree Requirements

A total of 32 units is required that includes eight courses in craniofacial biology, four units of 594ab Thesis and necessary units of 590 Thesis Research. All students must achieve a 3.0 grade point average in the craniofacial biology courses. Four core courses in craniofacial biology are required for all students: CBY 574, CBY 579L, CBY 585 and CBY 671. The four remaining courses required may be selected from any offered by the craniofacial biology program or other graduate programs and selected by the students and their mentors to best support their research interests. All students are required to complete a thesis based on the student's research following a thesis protocol approved by a committee of craniofacial biology faculty. An advisory committee, comprising the research advisor and two additional faculty members, will establish thesis requirements to be completed by the student.

Doctor of Philosophy

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in craniofacial biology is awarded under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Students should also refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degree must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

This program is designed to provide health science-oriented training for the professional with interests in academic, as well as clinical, aspects of craniofacial biology.

New Student Orientation Committee

All new students seeking Master of Science and/or Doctor of Philosophy degree objectives will be assigned to an orientation committee. This committee will function to advise and guide new students through their first semester. Thereafter, each student will identify a mentor and assemble a guidance committee.

Guidance Committee

During the second semester of study each graduate student should select a guidance committee. The guidance committee must include five faculty members who will be of assistance in the student's education. The student's mentor will serve as chair of the guidance committee. One committee member must be a USC faculty member from outside the program. The graduate program director will be ex officio a member of all guidance committees.

The guidance committee will monitor the student's progress, recommend readings or additional training, and determine when the student is ready for the qualifying examination. It is the student's responsibility to meet with the guidance committee at least once during every semester of each academic year. The results of these formal meetings should be summarized by the student in a written statement and submitted to the program director each semester.

Screening Procedure

As soon as the student has satisfactorily completed the core courses and selected the committee, a screening meeting with the guidance committee should be called. The screening procedure may consist of an oral examination; the student will outline his research progress and be examined on academic development. The committee may recommend that the student take specific additional course work and that readings in certain areas be initiated to remedy deficiencies. A brief report will be given to the student and included in his or her file. The student will meet with the committee each semester; they shall agree when the student is prepared to take the qualifying examination in the next semester or if the student should resign or be dropped from the program.

Course Requirements

A total of 60 units is required: 26 units of required courses, 34 units of elective courses, including directed research, and four units of dissertation. Students must achieve a 3.0 GPA or better in the following required core courses: CBY 573, CBY 574, CBY 577L, CBY 579L, CBY 583, CBY 585, CBY 587, and CBY 671; and a 3.0 GPA or better overall. Students with a Doctor of Dental Surgery or other professional degree may be granted waivers for having completed equivalent course work.

It is the student's responsibility to obtain from the Graduate School the Request for Permission to Take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination form which must be signed by all committee members. This form must be completed 60 days before the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

The Ph.D. qualifying examination is offered during the fall or spring semesters. A written examination will cover specific subject areas of the core curriculum, as well as topics selected by the guidance committee. After successfully completing all parts of the written examination, the student will prepare and submit an original research proposal to the guidance committee which presents, in National Institutes of Health (NIH) format, the student's proposed dissertation research. If the submitted proposal is acceptable, an oral examination will be conducted. This examination will include a defense of the proposal and could also include material from the written examination and related topics. A student failing any part of the examination may be allowed one additional opportunity to pass that portion, at the discretion of the guidance committee, within the regulations of the Graduate School governing the repetition of qualifying examinations.


The doctoral dissertation is to focus upon an original research problem which reflects the creative scholarly abilities of the candidate and contributes to the general advancement of biological understanding, as well as to an understanding of the theoretical basis of disease and its treatment.

Defense of the Dissertation

An oral examination on a rough or final copy of the dissertation is conducted within one month following submission of the manuscript to the committee.