Education

Pharmacodynamics

Education

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The Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences: Pharmacology and Physiology

The Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a concentration in Pharmacodynamics blends physiological and pharmacological sciences to identify how chemical entities modify biological systems to produce both beneficial and harmful effects. Our students gain mastery in key organ systems (gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, endocrinological, reproductive, immunological and oncological, peripheral and central nervous system function), receptor signal transduction and theory (binding affinity, efficacy and dose-response analysis) and the molecular entities that modulate organ systems. Our degree plan offers diverse training experiences so that students are maximally equipped to pursue a variety of career paths in academia, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector, and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

General Overview of the Curriculum 

Year 1 includes didactic course requirements in pathophysiology, pharmacology, life cycle of a drug, statistics, professional development and research ethics. There is a student journal colloquy and research seminar series taken each year for the duration of the program. Students choose a dissertation mentor and home lab by the end of year 1. 

Year 2 includes additional didactic course requirements in scientific writing and communication and grant writing, as well as electives chosen in consultation with the dissertation mentor. There is increased time and focus on laboratory research that will form the basis of the student’s dissertation. The student chooses a dissertation committee consisting of the mentor and four additional faculty members who meet once per semester until graduation.

Year 3 includes laboratory research and a qualifying examination that must be passed to advance to formal candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The qualifying exam consists of a written dissertation proposal, a public seminar, and a committee members-only oral examination focused on the proposal and key questions and concepts associated with the research area.

Years 4 & 5 includes predominantly research credit hours that enable focus on completion of dissertation experiments and writing and defense of the dissertation. The anticipated time to program completion and earning the Ph.D. degree is five years.

For each year of the program, students register for nine hours of academic credit per fall and spring term and six hours per summer term. 


Year 1

Year 1 Fall Term

3 CREdit hours

PHA6508/6935 (*)

Systems Physiology and Pathophysiology-I

1 credit hour

PHA6521C (*)

Research Techniques in Pharmacodynamics (Methods)

4 credit hours

PHA6512L (*)

Experiential Res. Training in Pharmacodynamics (Rotations 1 & 2)

1 credit hour

PHA7939 (*)

Journal Colloquy in Pharmacodynamics

Year 1 Spring Term

3 credit hours

PHA6509/6935 (*)

Systems Physiology and Pathophysiology-II

3 credit hours

GMS6009 (*)

Principles of Drug Action / Pharmacology

2 credit hours

PHA6512L (*)

Experiential Research Training in Pharmacodynamics (Rotation 3)

1 credit hour

GMS7003/7878 (*)

Research Ethics

Year 1 Summer Term

2-4 credit hours

PHA6910 (**)

Supervised Research

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

*Changes in required courses must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator and Department Chair in consultation with the department graduate faculty. Doctoral Research (PHA7980) can be taken up to the maximum number of hours shown for each term. Elective coursework requires approval of the dissertation mentor and Graduate Coordinator, and elective hours are subtracted from Doctoral Research hours.

**Supervised Research (PHA6910) cannot exceed a maximum of 5 credit hours across Year 1 Summer and Year 2 Fall Terms. This leaves 3 hours of elective coursework that must be completed during these terms.


Year 2

Year 2 Fall Term

1 Credit hour

PHA7939 (*)

Journal Colloquy in Pharmacodynamics

2-4 credit hours

PHA6910 (**)

Supervised Research

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

Year 2 Spring Term

5-8 credit hours

PHA7979 (*)

Advanced Research (Before passing qualifying exam)

0-3 credit hours

Elective Courses

Year 2 Summer Term

3-5 credit hours

PHA7979 (*)

Advanced Research (Before passing qualifying exam)

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

*Changes in required courses must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator and Department Chair in consultation with the department graduate faculty. Doctoral Research (PHA7980) can be taken up to the maximum number of hours shown for each term. Elective coursework requires approval of the dissertation mentor and Graduate Coordinator, and elective hours are subtracted from Doctoral Research hours.

**Supervised Research (PHA6910) cannot exceed a maximum of 5 credit hours across Year 1 Summer and Year 2 Fall Terms. This leaves 3 hours of elective coursework that must be completed during these terms.


Years 3-5

Years 3-5 Fall Term

1 credit hour

PHA7939 (*)

Journal Colloquy in Pharmacodynamics

6-8 credit hours

PHA7980 (*)

Doctoral Research (After passing qualifying exam)

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

Years 3-5 Spring Term

6-8 credit hours

PHA7980 (*)

Doctoral Research (After passing qualifying exam)

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

Years 3-5 Summer Term

4-6 credit hours

PHA7980 (*)

Doctoral Research (After passing qualifying exam)

0-2 credit hours

Elective Courses

*Changes in required courses must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator and Department Chair in consultation with the department graduate faculty. Doctoral Research (PHA7980) can be taken up to the maximum number of hours shown for each term. Elective coursework requires approval of the dissertation mentor and Graduate Coordinator, and elective hours are subtracted from Doctoral Research hours.


Research Rotations

Research Techniques in Pharmacodynamics (PHA6521C), taken at the beginning of Year 1, provides every student the opportunity to engage in 1-2 day mini rotations in the laboratories of each of the departmental faculty. This course prepares students for experimental work and to make informed decisions about laboratory rotations. There are a total of 3 laboratory rotations, each seven weeks in duration. Approval to rotate in a particular laboratory is at the discretion of the faculty lead.

Choosing a Dissertation Mentor and Committee

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Students discuss their laboratory rotation experiences and research interests with supervising faculty and the Graduate Coordinator. Students make a formal request to conduct dissertation research in the laboratory of a faculty mentor. Co-mentorship with two faculty members is permitted. The choice must be mutually agreed upon by the student and mentor and approved by the Graduate Coordinator. The student and mentor work together to select members of the dissertation committee which, in addition to the mentor, consists of three additional members of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Pharmacodynamics and one external member from outside the department. The committee informs upon the direction and content of the dissertation project.

Qualifying Exam and Advancement to Candidacy

The qualifying exam, completed by the end of Year 2 or beginning of Year 3, has three major components: the written dissertation proposal, the departmental seminar and the oral exam. The dissertation proposal is written in the format of a predoctoral training grant, and as such adheres to the structure and page limits of the targeted extramural agency (e.g., National Institutes of Health). The departmental seminar is open to all faculty and students and is scheduled immediately prior to the oral exam; it provides an overview of research progress and the proposed research plan. The subsequent oral exam includes only members of the dissertation committee, during which the student fields questions motivated by the written proposal, the public seminar, by prior committee meetings, or the faculty member’s own knowledge of the research. Students are expected to engage in these conversations at a high level, and to be able to credibly explain and defend the proposed research plan. Questions also derive from three topic areas picked during a prior committee meeting. These topic areas complement, and are broader than, the proposed dissertation research, and enable students to demonstrate the breadth and depth of knowledge on areas relevant to, but not directly derived from, their dissertation laboratory.

Dissertation and Defense

In consultation with the dissertation committee and mentor, students write and defend their dissertation. Procedures for the dissertation defense mirror those of the qualifying exam, with students giving a public seminar to the Department on their research progress, followed by a closed oral exam with the dissertation committee. Successful completion of the dissertation and the defense is the final requirement for successful completion of program.