Degree Requirements

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only.  The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at

The BIMS Academic Progress and Achievement Committee (BAPAC) provides institutional oversight for BIMS-affiliated degree-granting programs. BAPAC policies and procedures may be reviewed here.

The Ph.D. program in Pharmacology is designed to provide students with training in the Pharmacological Sciences and thus prepare them for a career in modern biomedical research. Our program begins with two years of didactic course work. The first year, as an undeclared Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) student, includes rotation through three research laboratories and completion of the BIMS core course work. By early February of the first year, each BIMS student will choose a mentor and declare a degree department. During the second year of study, Pharmacology 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. 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.

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Coursework: Each student will develop an Degree Plan in consultation with the Pharmacology Director of Graduate Studies and/or Graduate Committee. Each Degree Plan will include the required BIMS core coursework, advanced coursework in Pharmacology (PHAR 9001, PHAR 9002PHAR 9003, and PHAR 9004), as well as required and elective courses from the allied sciences (e.g., cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, and medicinal chemistry). Students will regularly attend and actively participate in the weekly Journal Club and Seminar Series. Students may take additional coursework to supplement their training as needed/desired in consultation with their mentor, dissertation committee, and the Director of Graduate Studies.

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 Pharmacology course modules for the Molecular Characterization of Drug Targets (PHAR 9003 and 9004, also taken in the second year, spring semester) help 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.