Graduate Program

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Graduate Program Progression

grad-progression.jpgThe following describes the progressive order of instruction for the Department of Physiology and Biophysics graduate programs.

First year

A major objective of the first year is the selection of a laboratory to conduct dissertation research. The process for selection of a laboratory for research studies begins either the summer before or during Year 1 of actual formal course work.

During this time, the student will register for Physiological Concepts (PHYSIO 702) and will rotate through the laboratories of the physiology faculty, spending two week in each laboratory. The course will consist of reading and hands-on research relevant to the research activities of the laboratory. Faculty members will serve as tutors for the reading material during the laboratory rotations and the reading material may be chosen to emphasize particular areas of research or to provide general background information in biomedical sciences.

The purpose of this course is to provide an opportunity for each student to become familiar with the research activities of the physiology graduate faculty. After these rotations, the student, in consultation with the graduate program director, will select at least 3-4 potential advisers whose research goals are of interest to the student. The student will spend approximately two months in research activities in the laboratory of interest (PHYSIO 707). These rotations will normally be completed prior to beginning the second year. After completing the laboratory rotations, the student will chose an adviser from the graduate faculty who will be responsible, along with other members of the graduate advisory committee, for designing the rest of the student's curriculum.

In consultation with the program director and major adviser, a graduate advisory committee will be formed. This committee is composed of graduate faculty from the department of physiology, one member from outside the department, and is chaired by the major advisor. This committee plays a major role in planning the student's research and dissertation. Prior to forming the graduate advisory committee, the graduate program director will assume the major responsibility for the student's academic program.

A second major goal in the first year is the attainment of basic knowledge in biomedical sciences. The exact curriculum of each student will be designed according to his/her background and specific interests. See Courses for a typical plan of study.

All graduate students in physiology are required to attend weekly departmental seminars. These seminars provide the latest update on physiological research conducted within and outside the department. During the second year, or shortly thereafter, students will be expected to present at least one seminar/year in the weekly departmental seminar program or in special seminars. An important objective of the seminars is to provide the student with the opportunity to develop skills in public speaking and in presenting scientific papers.

Second year

In general, during the second year of the graduate program, all course work is completed and an increasing amount of time is spent in the laboratory. Students are encouraged to work on one or more research projects before selecting a final subject for dissertation research. Most course work during year two will include advanced courses in different areas of physiology, particularly in the areas of cardiovascular and renal physiology (see Course Descriptions).

Typically at the end of Year 2 or the beginning of Year 3, students will be expected to pass a qualifying examination to determine the acceptability of a candidate for the doctoral degree. This examination is comprised of an oral and a written component, and will be administered by the program director and members of the graduate faculty. This examination will cover, in depth, all areas of physiology, including systems physiology, cellular and molecular biology, and other areas related to physiological research such as pharmacology, biochemistry, statistics, neurobiology, etc. Satisfactory performance is required before the candidate is permitted to complete the doctoral program.

Immediately following successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student will write a review of the literature directly related to his/her dissertation topic.

Third year and beyond

During most of the remainder of the graduate program, students will focus on completing research studies for their dissertation. The student will be expected to give a written proposal and oral presentation to his/her advisory committee. This will permit the committee to evaluate the feasibility and scientific validity of the project. Subsequently, the research advisory committee will meet semi-annually to evaluate student progress. The committee will present a written report of their evaluation to the graduate program director. The student is required to publish at least one first author original research manuscript in a peer reviewed journal before graduating.  Most students in the Physiology Graduate Program publish 2 or more papers.

Upon completion of the dissertation, a final oral dissertation defense is required. Another requirement for the PhD in physiology is to have the results of research conducted during the graduate program accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Most students complete all requirements for the PhD degree within 4-5 years.

In addition to research studies, students will continue to participate in the departmental seminar series. These seminars will reflect the progress they have made in their research studies and will help the student develop skills in presenting scientific papers in a clear and cogent manner

Note: The graduate advisory committee for Physiology is formed after a student selects a major advisor (typically at the end of the first year of study).