PhD Program


Degree Requirements

Ph.D. Program in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmacology & Toxicology Track)

The academic program of study in Pharmacology and Toxicology is individualized for each student. All students complete courses in biomedical pharmacology, statistics, communication skills, ethics, and grant writing. Depending upon the student’s interests and preparation, the Division offers courses such as Neuropharmacology, Cellular and Systems Physiology, Fundamentals of Toxicology, Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, and Fluorescence Microscopy. Additional courses are available in other specific areas of study including neurosciences, molecular biology, and biochemistry. All students participate in an ongoing seminar series and journal clubs.


Students spend their first two years of the program conducting research rotations, identifying a major professor (by end of the first year), and completing curricular requirements (by end of the second year).

During spring of the second year, students begin to prepare a dissertation proposal based on the original research they are conducting in the laboratory. In this semester, students enroll in the Division’s grant writing course, during which time they write and receive feedback on the proposal. Students spend that summer in the lab generating extensive preliminary data that are incorporated into the proposal. When the proposal is completed, the student schedules the Qualifying exams.

The Qualifying exams have two parts. Part 1 is a one-hour oral exam on general knowledge about pharmacology and toxicology, and based on curricular requirements completed by the student. Part 2 is a presentation and defense of the research proposal. The proposal is formatted similarly to the NIH’s predoctoral NRSA grant format (1 page specific aims, 6 pages research strategy). The student is expected to prepare a 30 minute powerpoint presentation of the proposal. This presentation, together with questions and answers, lasts 1 to 1.5 hours.

Successful completion of the Qualifying exams allows students to move into dissertation candidacy, and to spend the remainder of their time in the Ph.D. program focused on laboratory research, writing papers, and participating in the Division’s ongoing seminar series and journal clubs.

The dissertation (Ph.D.), when completed, is based upon original research conducted while in the program. The dissertation defense typically lasts 2 hours, and consists of a ~45-minute research seminar open to the public, followed by a defense of the dissertation to the committee.

Curriculum Sequence

A list of courses typically taken by our students is provided below. For more details, please visit the Pharmacology & Toxicology division handbook (pdf).

**Required of all graduate students in the program

*Required of students focusing on toxicology

+Required of students focusing on pharmacology/neuropharmacology


  • Biomedical Pharmacology I** / Biomedical Pharmacology II**
  • Fundamentals of Toxicology*
  • Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology*
  • Neuropharmacology+
  • Principles of Neuroscience I+ / Principles of Neuroscience II+
  • Cellular & Systems Physiology I / Cellular & Systems Physiology I
  • Molecular Mechanisms/Methods in Nutrition & Cancer
  • Fundamentals of Fluorescence Microscopy
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


  • Communication Skills for Scientists**
  • Responsible Conduct of Research**
  • Grant writing**
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration and career development**
  • Statistics in translational science**


  • Seminar in Pharmacy – Student seminar series**
  • Seminar in Alcohol Studies+
  • Seminar in Environmental Health & Disease*


  • Lab research or rotation (Years 1, 2)**
  • Dissertation research (Years 3 and on)**

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