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To provide students with the greatest flexibility in choosing a course of study, the Tetrad graduate program offers diverse training and opportunities in four major research areas: biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, and genetics. The program is interdisciplinary, with an emphasis on collaborations among laboratories to solve outstanding problems in modern biology. Although the Tetrad Program is organized into four research areas, most student thesis projects combine the strengths of multiple areas. Currently, about 120 faculty, drawn from several basic science and clinical departments, are affiliated with the Tetrad program.

Training in the Tetrad program is centered at the Mission Bay campus of UCSF and is accomplished through a combination of carefully designed courses with high faculty-to-student ratios, a vigorous weekly seminar program that includes a student lunch with the speaker, a weekly dinner and discussion for students with a faculty member of their choice, opportunities for oral presentation and defense of scientific information and hypotheses, and interaction with colleagues at the Tetrad retreat each fall and throughout the year in the corridors and laboratories of UCSF.

The Tetrad program is one of several UCSF graduate programs that form the Program in Biological Sciences (PIBS). PIBS is a confederation of faculty and students whose purpose is to provide opportunities for graduate training, foster collegiality among different disciplines, and facilitate development of new research activities that span traditional department boundaries.