PhD Program

Curriculum and Requirements

The PhD Program in Pharmacology requires a minimum of 72 hours of coursework, including four to five years of laboratory research. 

First-Year Curriculum

Our interdisciplinary PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) offers you the chance to explore a variety of disciplines prior to committing to your specific research area. Our lab rotation system equips you with a broad base of experience and knowledge while you collaborate with renowned research scientists on cutting-edge research. The combination of a structured, interdisciplinary curriculum and strong support for your individual interests prepares you to pursue your career goals, whether in academia, industry or government.

Required Courses

The following courses are required for the pharmacology PhD. You can choose them as electives in the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences or take them after entering the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

And you must take one of these courses:

Students opting to complete the CITI online course must supply documentation of successful completion with their Application to Candidacy.

Elective Courses

We recommend you take at least one elective from the list below in the second semester of your first year:

You need six credits of electives in a minimum of three courses chosen by you in consultation with your mentor. They must be at the 500 to 600 level in science or a related discipline. With approval from your mentor, you may earn elective credit for courses other than those listed above.

Professional Development

In our program, you will work with peers and faculty mentors to design hypothesis-driven research projects, craft publications and grant applications and present your work confidently at professional meetings. Our PhD candidates participate in various professional and career development programs geared toward enhancing leadership skills, including the CLIMB Program.

Proposition Exam

In the spring semester of your second year, you will take your proposition exam. Successfully completing this exam permits you to file your formal application to candidacy for the PhD in pharmacology.

The proposition exam is linked to PMY 540, the pharmacology research proposal course. You will begin the process during your fourth semester when you take this course, and complete it before the end of July of that year. At that point you will receive a grade for PMY 540.

The proposition exam involves four tasks:

  • collecting and integrating diverse scientific information on a selected topic
  • organizing sound, creative experimental approaches in solving significant questions related to the topic
  • formulating original specific aims and experimental procedures in the development of the selected topic in a written document 
  • demonstrating the acquired knowledge and defending the proposed research program in an oral presentation

Your application to candidacy must be completed and forwarded to the Graduate School as soon as possible after you complete your proposition exam.

Thesis Research

You conduct your thesis research under the supervision of your major professor and a dissertation committee. Your dissertation committee will include your thesis adviser as chair and at least three other committee members selected by you and your adviser.

Two members of your committee must have appointments in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and at least one must have a primary appointment in another department.

Your research culminates in a written thesis dissertation, which is an original contribution to the scientific literature. You must also complete a successful oral defense of the thesis before your dissertation committee and a formal presentation of the thesis in a public seminar.

Students typically complete degree requirements within four to five years.

Grading and Promotion Standards

We require a minimum grade of B in all required courses. If you do not meet this requirement in a single course, you will be placed on academic probation. If this happens repeatedly, you could be asked to leave the program. The Graduate School also requires an overall average of 3.0 for degree conferral.

To encourage you to take elective courses outside of your concentration area, you may request to have departmental electives graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) basis. However, the director of graduate studies, the graduate programs committee and your thesis adviser must approve such a request, and you may take no more than 10 credit hours of S/U grades total.