Nov 30, 2022  
Graduate Record 2022-2023 
Graduate Record 2022-2023



Successful students will have a broad and comprehensive background in Biology (or similar degree type) with a desire to understand the mechanism of how organisms function. Applicants must have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Biology, or an allied science. Prospective students should apply for admission through the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) Graduate Program.

Program Information

Physiology is the translational science that integrates nearly every discipline; from pharmacology to pathology, including biochemistry and structural biology.  The UVA PhD in Physiology has a long tradition of training some of the most internationally renowned scientists, and our program reflects this with both custom training to your research project, and a rigorous training program.

Requirements for Ph.D. in Physiology

The Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) Graduate Training Program at the University of Virginia is integrated across departments and schools but students select a field of study in which they receive their degrees, which includes Physiology. All students apply to the BIMS umbrella program and spend the first year acquiring a broad background in Physiology, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and related disciplines, and carry out laboratory rotations of their choice

  • Students are encouraged to arrive in July for first laboratory rotation during the summer prior to the first semester of study.
  • At the end of the first year, identify a mentor and begin an independent research project.
  • Qualifying exam and thesis proposal are at the end of the second year to enter candidacy for the Ph.D.
  • Upon completion of all requirements and the successful oral defense of the dissertation, the Ph.D. degree is awarded in Physiology.

Advanced courses may be selected in a wide variety of disciplines including Physiology, Biophysics, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Cell Biology, Mathematics, Molecular Biology, Physical Chemistry, Physics, Pharmacology and Structural Biology. Students and faculty participate in regularly scheduled departmental research seminars presented by distinguished visiting scientists and participate in all of the specialized activities. The collegiality that characterizes the University of Virginia is a special strength of our training programs, lending them a strong interdisciplinary character and close working relationships between students and research advisors. We want our students to receive the training, sense of purpose and enthusiasm that will carry them throughout their careers.

Required Courses

All BIMS students must complete a minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit. A minimum of 24 out of the 72 credit hours must be graded coursework, and no more than 48 of the 72 credit hours can be comprised of Non-Topical Research.  Requirements for graduation include the following courses:



BIOP 8201- Cell Physiology and Biophysics




For matriculants prior to fall 2021 only:




Unrestricted Electives

At least 4 credits of elective courses offered by BIMS or GSAS, e.g.

PHY 8052 – Vascular Biology A Credits: 2

PHY 8053 – Vascular Biology B Credits: 2

PHY 8100 – Extreme Physiology Credits: 2

CELL 8450 – Effective Science Writing for Grants and Fellowships Credits: 2

Journal Club

A regular program journal club is required, e.g., Physiology and Biophysics or Pharmacology.  However, this may change depending on the research project.  DGS will help the student determine the correct journal club from the following courses and monitor attendance.


Laboratory Rotations

Students entering BIMS perform 3 rotations (under special circumstances the DGS of Physiology can waive this requirement, e.g., the accelerated PhD in Physiology program for MDs).

Associated Courses:


First Author Publication

At least one first author publication (non-review article) is required for consideration of the Ph.D. degree.  The publication must be of high quality, and determined whether it is an important contribution to science by the thesis committee.

Milestone: PAPER1


Qualifying Exam:

The qualifying exam committee will have at least 2 members from the Department of Molecular Physiology, with a minimum of 3 tenure-track faculty.  The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in Physiology will choose the committee members.

The student is required to write and defend, an extensive review of a topic that is not directly associated with their anticipated research.  The review should be given to members of the committee 2 weeks before the oral defense.

Qualifying exams will occur within 3 months of May of the second year into graduate studies at UVA.

Milestone: PHDCAND


A member of the Department of Physiology is required to be mentor for the student—this can be adjunct or by special permission.  A co-mentor is also permitted with approval from the DGS.  Another member of the department of Physiology is also required.  A minimum of 4 thesis committee members are required, all tenure-track faculty.

The first thesis committee will occur within 9 months of completing the qualifiers, with regular meetings scheduled every 6 months.


The dissertation represents the summation of the student’s independent research. Therefore, adequate time must be set aside for preparation of the dissertation and for the Dissertation Committee members to evaluate the work.

The dissertation is to be prepared in consultation with the mentor. When the document is complete to the satisfaction of both the student and mentor it should be submitted to the first reader/chairperson. The first reader must have at least two weeks to evaluate and comment on the dissertation.

Any changes to the dissertation deemed necessary by the first reader must be incorporated into the document and approved by the first reader and the student’s mentor before it can be submitted to the rest of the committee.

The dissertation must be submitted to the full committee a minimum of one week prior to the Defense date. All Dissertation Committee members must agree to the Defense date and must be present for the Defense.


Summation of Thesis to UVA Library

Doctoral students must upload the final, approved version of the dissertation to the University Library’s digital repository, also known as LIBRA, by the same due dates as for the Final Exam form.

Information regarding the repository, the submission process and copyright law is available through the LIBRA web site. Please note the following:

  • The title page of the dissertation should be formatted according to the approved template. Signatures of the dissertation committee members should appear only on the final examination form. These signatures should not appear on the title page of the document that is uploaded to LIBRA.
  • Students are responsible for ensuring that they upload the final, approved version of their thesis. Documents submitted to LIBRA cannot be deleted or corrected.
  • The thesis title submitted to the department in step three above will appear in the LIBRA upload interface. If the title listed in LIBRA does not match the final title of the thesis, the student must stop the upload process and inform his or her departmental graduate administrator of the correct title. The thesis title listed in SIS, LIBRA and the student’s transcript should be identical.

LIBRA will accept the thesis as a single PDF document up to 100MB. Students also have the option to upload supplemental files.

Formatting Requirements
There are no formatting requirements or restrictions; however, students should adhere to traditional physical standards if they wish to purchase bound copies from UVA Printing and Copying Services.

Milestone: LIBRA

Survey of Earned Doctorates

All students are required to complete the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Milestone: SURVEY

Requirements for Dual Degree Program

Physiology welcomes students from the Medical Scientist Training Program. Students in the MSTP are in an accelerated curriculum and generally complete their Graduate Requirements within 4 years. 

Students enrolled in the MSTP will often use the coursework completed during the MD preclinical curriculum to receive transfer credit for course requirements. For example, MSTP students can petition the Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD degree-granting program with which the student affiliates to receive transfer credit for BIMS 6000 (Core Course in Integrative Biology). Decisions on these petitions will be made by the DGS in consultation with the MSTP Director and the student’s research advisor.  

Beginning with the cohort of MSTPs matriculating into the MD program in summer of 2021, and based on the School of Medicine’s Policy on course credit equivalencies, students who are awarded transfer credits for the core course requirement will be awarded 10 topical credits, the equivalent graded credit hours of the Core Course in Integrative Biology.

For those MSTPs who take the core course, the pre-clerkship curriculum will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies of their selected degree-granting program for other appropriate coursework equivalencies for which they may receive transfer credit (up to 10 credits in total).