Biomedical Sciences

OFFICE: 5008 Basic Science Building, School of Medicine



The Graduate Program

The graduate program offered by the Group in Biomedical Sciences is designed to lead to the Ph.D. degree through a combination of didactic study, laboratory rotations, and thesis research in basic biomedical sciences. Research experiences are wide and varied, permitting students the options of selecting molecular, cellular, or organ and integrated systems approaches in their research programs. Students are encouraged to design and execute investigation in a self-critical and independent manner. Undergraduate preparation must include courses in mathematics (through calculus), chemistry (including organic, physical, and biochemistry), and if possible, participation in undergraduate research. Students whose undergraduate backgrounds are significantly different will be considered provided there is sufficient evidence of interest in cell and molecular biology, physiology, pharmacology, or eukaryotic regulatory biology, and a desire to enter a field of active research and academic excellence.

Doctoral Degree Program

During the first year, the students take basic courses in cell biology, molecular biology, pharmacology, physiology, genetics, and microbiology/immunology. In a required laboratory rotation program, students develop laboratory skills and the ability to formulate scientific hypotheses and become familiar with the research activities of the faculty. Students may differentiate into one of five advanced training tracks: genetics, microbiology/immunology, molecular cell biology, molecular pharmacology, or physiology. Required advanced courses and electives in subsequent years are chosen to develop the students’ interest and specialized knowledge in the thesis research area and chosen training tracks. The thesis laboratory is usually selected by the end of the first year of graduate study.

The graduate program is interdepartmental and interdisciplinary; it involves faculty of the Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology, Neurosciences, Reproductive Medicine, Chemistry, Pathology, Bioengineering, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Psychiatry, Orthopedics, Anesthesiology, and the Cancer Center. Pharmacologic studies of drug action at the molecular and biochemical levels include studies of receptor structure and function, genetic and recombinant DNA methods to analyze ligand-receptor interactions, regulation of gene expression and signal transduction, and biophysical approaches to defining neurotransmitter and hormone action. Molecular and cell biological approaches are being applied to the study of major issues in cell biology, including the regulation of protein targeting and intracellular membrane traffic, hormone and growth factor receptors, endothelial cell biology, molecular motors, RNA splicing, and mitosis, among others. Physiological studies include molecular to whole animal approaches to cardiovascular, microcirculatory, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal and fetal physiology and their neural and hormonal control. Genetic and genomic studies include experimental and statistical approaches to existing variations in both human and model organism populations as well as mutagenesis, gene targeting, gene silencing, gene profiling, and gene therapy approaches to manipulating genomes. Studies in microbiology and immunology are focused on the fundamental basis of innate and adaptive immunity, elucidation of inflammatory response pathways, and understanding those virulence mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can subvert host and contribute to infectious disease pathogenesis. Faculty within the program are the directors of four specialized centers of research at the university focusing on cancer, myocardial ischemia, hypertension, and atherosclerosis. Other faculty are directors of training grants for programs in pulmonary physiology, oncogenes, cardiovascular physiology, cellular and molecular pharmacology, hypertension, metabolic diseases, cell and molecular biology, genetics, digestive diseases, and cancer cell biology.

The graduate program in biomedical sciences is also designed to educated physician-scientists through the School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program. Students already admitted to the School of Medicine are eligible for admission to our program for Ph.D. training. Such students generally apply in the first or second year of their medical studies and enter graduate studies following completion of their second year of medical school. Normative time for M.D./Ph.D. students is seven years.


Students obtain letter grades in the program’s basic courses. Candidacy for the Ph.D. Degree is determined by a two-part examination. The first part, the minor proposition examination, tests the student’s competence and ability to design the approach to a pertinent research problem in an area unrelated to his or her major interest. The second part, the major proposition examination, deals with the dissertation problem and should be completed during the third year of residence in the program. After the preparation of the dissertation, an oral defense of the thesis completes the requirement for the Ph.D. Degree Biomedical Sciences