1984 – A proposal for a “Director of Biomedical Graduate Affairs” was approved by the Provost and the Board of Deans for Biomedical Graduate Education, and a search for the Director was initiated. The Director would have a dual reporting line to the Provost and the Dean of the School of Medicine.
1985 – Dr. Saul Winegrad, Professor of Physiology in the School of Medicine, was appointed as BGS Director. BGS consisted of 321 faculty members in the four health schools plus SAS, SEAS, and affiliated institutes and hospitals. Approximately 350 students were enrolled throughout 13 graduate groups: Anatomy and Structural Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Comparative Medical Sciences, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, Parasitology, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Physiology. The BGS Office was established in 240 Old Med (later renamed John Morgan Building). Ms. Karen Lawrence (who later became Associate Director for Graduate Education in the Provost’s Office) was hired as Assistant Director.
1985 – The graduate groups in Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Microbiology merged into a single integrated group, Molecular Biology. Dr. Phoebe Leboy, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Dental Medicine, was appointed Chair.
1987 – The Cell Biology graduate group was created. Dr. Sally Zigmond, Professor of Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences, was appointed Chair.
1989 - The Anatomy and Structural Biology graduate group was phased out. Most of its members had joined the relatively new groups in Neuroscience and Cell Biology.
1993 - Fully-funded fellowships for all students accepted to BGS were established, which freed the graduate groups and associated departments from having to provide funding for students in the first two years of training.
1995 – Dr. Glen Gaulton, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the School of Medicine, became the second (non-interim) Director of BGS.
1995 – Ms. Judy Jackson, who had worked in various positions in the BGS office and graduate groups, was hired as Associate Director of BGS.
1995 - The graduate groups in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Physiology, and Pathology agreed to merge into a single, integrated group, Cell and Molecular Biology (CAMB). CAMB consisted of six focused tracks: Cell Growth and Cancer, Cellular Physiology, Development, Gene Therapy, Genetics, and Virology and Microbiology. Dr. Charles Emerson, Professor and Chair of Cell and Developmental Biology in the School of Medicine, was the first CAMB Chair.
1995 - The graduate group in Epidemiology and Biostatistics was created. Dr. Brian Strom, Professor and Chair of the newly created Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, was appointed Chair. The group began recruiting students into the PhD program in Epidemiology, building on the existing Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology program.
1995 – The graduate group in Biophysics was renamed Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics.
1996 - The graduate group in Comparative Medical Sciences, which was designed to provide PhD training to veterinarians, was phased out. Veterinarians were encouraged to enroll in other graduate groups according to research interest.
1996 – BGS was the first PhD program at Penn that allowed applicants to “apply over the Internet” (using PennExpressApp).
1997 – The graduate group in Biochemistry merged with the Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics graduate group into the graduate group in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. The graduate group was chaired by Dr. Kim Sharp, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the School of Medicine.
1997 – The Ernest E. Just Biomedical Society was created by students to provide academic and social support to students traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.
1998 – Dr. Glen Gaulton was promoted to a newly created position in the School of Medicine, Vice Dean for Research and Research Training, which oversaw BGS and other research training offices.
1998 – Dr. Michael Selzer, Professor of Neurology in the School of Medicine, was appointed as the third Director of BGS.
1999 – The Epidemiology and Biostatistics graduate group developed a Biostatistics track for MS and PhD students.
2000 – A task force chaired by Dr. David Manning, Professor of Pharmacology in the School of Medicine, conducted a review of the BGS curriculum. A core BGS curriculum was created and later adopted by most BGS graduate groups. The first two core-designated courses were BIOM600 (Cell Biology and Biochemistry), and BIOM555 (Control of Gene Expression). An annual BGS-wide Bioethics training requirement was implemented for all BGS students.
2000 – A BGS Finance Office was created for the central administration of student fellowships and for management of the BGS and graduate group budgets, with Ms. Namrata Narain as Director.
2001 – A graduate group in Genomics and Computational Biology was created. Dr. Richard Spielman, Professor of Genetics in the School of Medicine, was appointed Chair.
2002 – Dr. Susan Ross, Professor of Microbiology in the School of Medicine, was appointed as the fourth Director of BGS.
2002 – The Biomedical Graduate Student Association was created by students to advocate for enhancements to biomedical graduate education and organize activities for all BGS students.
2004 – The graduate group in Parasitology merged with the Microbiology and Virology program of CAMB to create the Microbiology, Virology and Parasitology program.
2004 – The BGS Office moved from John Morgan Bldg. to newly renovated space on the first floor of BRB II/III.
2006 – The Graduate Training in Medical Sciences Certificate Program, an elective program for BGS students interested in medicine and pathobiology, was established and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Subsequent certificate options were established for BGS students in the areas of Public Health (2006) and Environmental Health Sciences (2011).
2010 – The first academic review of BGS was conducted. The three external reviewers (directors of biomedical PhD programs at Yale, Washington University in St. Louis, and University of California Los Angeles) concluded:
Overall, the Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) program is doing an excellent job attracting highly qualified students, supporting them during pre-candidacy years, delivering an effective curriculum and providing outstanding opportunities for dissertation research. Students trained in the BGS are going on to successful academic careers, as well as other career paths that take advantage of their PhD training. Junior faculty at UPenn are attracting students to their labs, and feel supported and mentored by senior faculty. Graduate students are very pleased with their programs and the mentoring they receive. Students and faculty believe that the number of students in the program is about right, and the faculty are generally satisfied with the egalitarian mechanisms in place for admissions into the Graduate Groups. BGS is run by an outstanding team of administrators in the BGS central office, dedicated faculty Group Chairs and excellent Group coordinators. Regular evaluation of the Graduate Groups has ensured their continued excellence. The progress the BGS program has made to centralize support for preparing and administering training grants is particularly impressive. The School of Medicine has made a generous and consistent commitment to funding the administrative costs of BGS, allowing funds from training and research grants to be focused entirely on student support.
2012 – Dr. Arnaldo Diaz, who had served as BGS’s diversity recruitment coordinator for two years, was appointed Assistant Dean for Research Training Programs in the School of Medicine with the mandate to build upon existing programs for the recruitment and retention of diversity trainees. The percentage of under-represented minoity trainees entering BGS rose to record-high levels of 28% in 2014 and 29% in 2015.
2013 – Dr. Michael Nusbaum, Professor of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM), was appointed as the fifth Director of BGS.
2014 – Following their program review, the Graduate Group in Epidemiology and Biostatistics was fully integrated with BGS and began receiving support for student fellowships, administration, and training activities from BGS.
2014 – BGS implemented Individual Development Plans for all students, to improve mentoring and encourage students to explore career options throughout their PhD training years.
2015 – A core course in Biostatistics was implemented for all first year BGS students.
2015 – Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology in the PSOM, was appointed Executive Vice Dean and Chief Scientific Officer of the PSOM, to oversee BGS and the other research training programs, as well as other research-related endeavors.
2015 – A new position of Director for Training Support and Career Development was created in BGS, and Dr. David Manning, Professor of Pharmacology, was appointed as its first Director.