The Ph.D. program in Pharmacology is designed to provide students with training in Pharmacologic Sciences and thus prepare them for a career in modern biomedical research. Our program begins with two years of didactic course work, with the first year (as a Molecular Medicine* student) including rotation through three research laboratories (each rotation is 8-15 weeks long). By late April of the first year, each student is expected to choose a mentor and declare Pharmacology as the degree department. During the second year of study, students will complete the required course work and prepare for the qualifying examination. Students will be evaluated for Advancement to Candidacy based on their overall performance in the program. This evaluation will include performance in course work, research rotations, the results of the qualifying examination, and participation in department activities, such as the weekly Journal Club and Department Seminar Series. Upon completion of required coursework and the Advancement to Candidacy Exam, Pharmacology students are eligible to earn the M.S. in Biological and Physical Sciences.
After Advancing to Candidacy, students will concentrate on conducting independent research under the guidance of a mentor and dissertation research committee. The student’s research is expected to advance some field of biomedical sciences. As evidence of this level of achievement, students will publish research papers, including some as first author, and these papers will appear in recognized, peer-reviewed journals. Specifically, each student is required to have at least one first author publication of the student’s original research accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal prior to graduating with the Ph.D. The culmination of the research endeavor is a written dissertation that is presented publicly, and then defended orally before a faculty committee. The final examination for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is devoted entirely to defense of the dissertation by the candidate.
Student progress through the program is guided at all times by a committee of faculty advisors and is reviewed at least twice a year by the student’s dissertation committee. This training experience allows students to earn the Ph.D. in Pharmacology in four or five years.
Coursework: Students must complete at least 54 credits to earn the Ph.D. The following courses are required: BIMS 5030: Macromolecular Structure and Function (Biochemistry); BIMS 5012: Cell Structure and Function; BIMS 7100: Research Ethics; BIMS 8010: Gene Structure and Function; BIMS 8320 Graduate Physiology; PHAR 7010: Department Seminar; PHAR 8110: Journal Club; PHAR 9010: Human Pharmacology; and PHAR 9020: Molecular Characterization of Drug Targets. Students are also required to take two 3-5 credit electives. The program is flexible, with the exception of the required courses above, and course work can be tailored to the needs and desires of individual students. Advanced graduate courses are available in most areas of pharmacology, as well as in allied sciences such as cell biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and medicinal chemistry. All formal courses, with the exception of Seminar and Journal Club should be completed by the end of the second year (participation in Seminar and Journal Club is required in the third year and beyond, although students may not be required to formally register for these courses after the second year).
Advancement to Candidacy: At the end of the second year of study, students are required to prepare and defend a qualifying examination. The Advancement to Candidacy Exam must be completed no later than July 15 of the summer following the second year of graduate study. Exam applications are due April 1 (in the second year, spring semester). The Pharmacology Graduate Advisor meets with all second year students in January of the second year (just before spring semester classes start) to explain the specific details of the qualifying exam and answer any questions concerning the exam. The PHAR 9020 course (also taken in the second year, spring semester) helps prepare students for this exam.
The Advancement to Candidacy Exam is comprised of two parts: a grant-style written document, or proposal, and an oral examination/defense of this document. Five Examination Committee members (three Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant Preceptors and two Pharmacology Graduate Committee Members) selected by each student in consultation with his or her mentor will evaluate both parts of the exam.
The Graduate Committee will make the final decision concerning each student’s eligibility for Advancement to Candidacy in the Ph.D. program. Advancement to Candidacy is based on each student’s overall performance in the program, including research rotations, coursework, participation in department and program activities, and the results of the qualifying exam.
*or other BIMS program