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MUSC Bulletin | College of Graduate Studies

College of Graduate Studies | Doctor of Philosophy

Section Content
Degree Requirements | Advisory Committee | Program of Study | Course Descriptions | Courses Audited | Repeating Course | Transfer Credit | Qualifying Examinations | Plan of Research | Admission to Candidacy | Residence | Research Seminar | Dissertation | Final Examination | Time Limit

Doctor of Philosophy
The granting of the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is based on evidence of general proficiency and distinctive attainments in a special field, particularly on the demonstrated ability to carry on independent and original investigation. The degree is not one to be conferred solely as a result of study for a specific length of time with the accumulation of credits taken.

As a prerequisite for the Ph.D. degree, the College requires students to demonstrate a predetermined level of statistical competence. This may be achieved by either enrolling in and completing  CGS 700 in the second or subsequent years of graduate study, or by providing transcript evidence of satisfactory completion of previously taken statistical course(s) that fulfill the College requirement.

Degree Requirements
The College of Graduate Studies does not require a specific number of course credits for the Ph.D. degree. The PhD student is required to take 12 didactic hours beyond the first year. Most students will have taken 75 hours of course credits (including research hours) before taking the qualifying exams at the end of their second year. Students are required to pass both written and oral qualifying exams. The stucture of the exams varies according to each student's department or program. To advance to candidacy, students must also submit and defend a research proposal on their dissertation topic. Finally, students submit a dissertation based on their original investigation and must pass a general oral examiniation related to the defense of the dissertation. The Dissertation Advisory Committee will then recommend whether to award the final degree.

Advisory Committee
The Advisory Committee consists of at least five members, three from the student’s major department and two from outside the department. All members of the committee shall be members of the Graduate faculty. The Chairman must be a full member of graduate faculty or an associate member with a full member co-chair. The Chairperson will be responsible for coordinating the activity of the Dissertation Advisory Committee and ensuring compliance with graduate school regulations.

An Advisory Committee is chosen by the student with the proposed dissertation advisor and the names forwarded through the departmental graduate coordinator for approval by the Dean. The Advisory Committee should be organized after passing the departmental written exam.

The student must meet at least annually with his/her Advisory Committee from the time of appointment of the committee until completion of the requirements for the degree. The departmental coordinator and the Dean should be notified in writing of the annual meetings by the chairperson of the Advisory Committee. Yearly, a detailed letter of evaluation of student progress from the program, whether from the mentor or the graduate training committee of the program, must be written to the student with a copy placed in the student’s program file and submitted to the Dean.

More frequent meetings of the Advisory Committee and the student are encouraged in order to facilitate student-committee interaction. Meetings may be called at the discretion of the student, the advisor, or if two or more members of the Advisory Committee request such a meeting.

Program of Study
The College of Graduate Studies offers a common entry pathway for new Ph.D. students. The first year curriculum provides a broad interdisciplinary background devoted predominately to the principles of the basic sciences. It also provides information on some of the latest and cutting edge areas of science. The Curriculum is composed of several elements:

Foundations of Biomedical Sciences
Essential of Scientific Practice
Three Laboratory Rotations
Important Unanswered Questions in the Biomedical Sciences
Program Selectives
Program Exposures - Students are familiarized with the individual Ph.D. training programs at the beginning of the first semester.

At the end of the second semester of the first year (May), the students choose a Ph.D. program and faculty mentor for their degree research. Didactic coursework is decided by the various departments and programs. If a student has identified a specific faculty member with whom he/she would like to work, at the end of the first year curriculum he/she will enroll in the department or program in which that faculty member resides. If you have any questions concerning the admissions process or the curriculum please feel free to either call 1-800-589-2003 or email You may also visit the curriculum web site at We look forward to receiving your application.

After the first year, the program of study is planned in a joint meeting of the student and his/her Dissertation Advisor. The program is a list of courses and other requirements, including those of the major department, which the student must complete in order to meet the minimum program requirements for a given degree. It lists courses which are being transferred as well as courses which are to be taken on campus. After approval by the Major Advisor, the program of study is filed with the departmental graduate coordinator and with the Office of the Dean within three months after the Major Advisor is chosen. A decision to remove, substitute, or add courses to the program of study can be made in a joint meeting of the student and once formed, the Advisory Committee. Any changes in the program must be completed no later than one week after the substituted or additional course has begun. A record of any change in the program will be submitted by the Advisory Committee chairperson to the Office of the Dean. In addition, it will be the final responsibility of the student and his/her Advisory Committee chairperson to ensure that any change in the program of study is consistent with the maintenance of at least the minimum course requirements of the major department.

The committee, in consultation with the student, will prescribe additional course work needed to complete the departmental requirements for graduation and other course work or areas of study needed to remedy deficiencies in the student’s background to ensure successful completion of the proposed dissertation. The Program of Study form must be completed before scheduling the qualifying examination.

Course Descriptions
CGS-610 - Anatomical Basis of Medicine. A study of the structure and function of the human body and the three dimensional concepts of the relationships of its components. The course is regionally based (rather than system based). Lectures are presented on basic anatomy as well as radiographic and clinical anatomy. Laboratory study includes cadaver dissection by students and study of cross sections, prosections, skeletal material, models, and radiographic images. The course emphasizes the clinical importance of the study of anatomy.

CGS-615 - Principles of Entrepreneurship. This course is designed to equip non-business majors with the necessary skills to start a new venture. The course will include lectures, case studies, group discussions, and guest lectures on the subject of Entrepreneurship. A component of the course will be the development of a product that derives from the research project that the student is working on. The course will culminate with student presentations of their business plan to their peers and investment panel. 9 s.h.

CGS-621. Gross & Neuroanatomy. Emphasizes normal human gross anatomy from the functional point of view. Special emphasis is given to the head and neck. The material is presented in a number of ways: by regional dissections, by study of normal radiograms, and by lectures, outside readings, and textbook assignments. Presents basic concepts of central nervous system organization. The neuronal connections of the various systems and the morphologic relationships of the component parts of the brain are studied in detail. Functional and clinical correlations for the face and oral cavity are stressed. 9 s.h. Summer.

CGS-650. Summer Review. This 4-week summer course provides incoming graduate students with a review of basic concepts in organic and biochemistry, mechanisms of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis, and cell signaling and dynamics. In addition, students will have the opportunity to work with a faculty and member on a funded research project to acquaint them with an area of specialized research currently under investigation in the faculty member's laboratory. Course is 4 weeks in length, 40 hours per week. Included in the 40 hours are ten hours per week attending morning lectures in a small classroom setting patterned after the first-year core curriculum of the Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences program. Students will also be given homework assignments and take-home exams to reinforce topics covered in class and these assignments will be discussed in class one afternoon a week. At the conclusion of the course students will take an in-class multiple choice exam. Open to matriculating graduate students. 1 s.h.

CGS-700. Introduction to Biostatistics. This course provides a descriptive and inferential statistics commonly used in biomedical research. Topics include elementary probability theory, and introduction to statistical distributions, point and interval estimation, hypothesis testing, regression and correlations. The course is intended for graduate students in the basic and clinical sciences, clinical residents/fellows, and medical and dental students who seek a working knowledge of biostatistical methods and their applications. 4 s.h.

CGS-701. Foundations of Biomedical Sciences. Foundations of Biomedical Sciences is a one-semester 10 credit hr course addressing the basic molecular and cellular mechanisms of biology. Course content is divided into five Units (Proteins, Nucleic Acids, Gene Expression, Chemistry of Life Processes, and Receptors and Signaling), and is covered in lectures, tutorial discussions of lectures, journal articles and experimental techniques. In-Unit written assignments account for 50% of semester grade; the balance of the grade derives from mid-term and final exams.

CGS-702. Foundations of Biomedical Sciences. Foundations of Biomedical Sciences is a one-semester 6 credit hr course addressing the basic molecular and cellular mechanisms of biology. Course content is divided into three Units (Cell Functions, Cell Injury and Response, and Systems Biology), and is covered in lectures, tutorial discussions of lectures, journal articles and experimental techniques. In-Unit written assignments account for 50% of semester grade; the balance of the grade derives from mid-term and final exams.

CGS-710. Essential Scientific Practices I. Essential Scientific Practices Is a 1 credit hr course addressing experimental record-keeping and data management, safe laboratory practices for hazardous biological, chemical, and radiation management, and the ethical principles and regulations governing animal models and human research. Moral reasoning underlying responsible conduct of research is also addressed. The course grade derives from completion of on-line quizzes and participation in tutorial discussions.

CGS-711. Essential Scientific Practices II - Diversity in Science. In CGS-711, students address topics that pertain to concerns facing both under-represented minority and majority groups in the biomedical sciences. Topics discussed include how to succeed in the scientific community, hurdles and how to overcome them, and working in and developing a diverse workforce. Invited speakers discuss how they have succeeded in science and the obstacles they overcame. Fall semester.

CGS-712. Essential Scientific Practices III. Essential Scientific Practices III is a 2 credit hr course centered on the writing of a research proposal.  This course promotes effective scientific writing skills, encourages early student:mentor interaction, and introduces the mechanics of the extramural funding process. Students serve as peer reviewers of each other’s writing. Faculty facilitate small group discussions of student proposals, promoting an open interchange of ideas and constructive criticism. The course grade derives from completion of the research proposal and participation in tutorial discussions of student writing.

CGS-720. Laboratory Rotation. First Year Curriculum students are required to enroll in three 10-11 week laboratory rotations spanning the fall semester (2 cr hrs) and spring (5 cr hrs). Students rotate through at least two different laboratories (different mentors) to maximize their exposure to a diversity of scientific approaches, projects, technologies and experiences.

CGS-721. Laboratory Rotation II & III. First Year Curriculum students are required to enroll in two cr. hrs of laboratory rotations in the fall semester and five cr. hrs. of  laboratory rotations in the spring semester. Laboratory rotations are from 10 to 11 weeks long. Students rotate through at least two different laboratories (different mentors) to maximize their exposure to a diversity of scientific approaches, projects, technologies and experiences.

CGS-723. Summer Health Professions Research Experiences. This is a 10 week summer course that provides professional students with the opportunity to work with a faculty member on a funded research project and acquaints the students with an area of specialized research currently under investigation in the faculty member's lab.  The course will provide hands on experience with many research skills, which may include subject recruitment, outcome testing, data entry, analysis, cell and molecular biology techniques, to name just a few.

CGS-725. Teaching Techniques. This course provides an introduction to teaching methodologies and techniques, including evaluation of the learner.

CGS-727. Essential Lab Techniques for Physician Scientists. The goal of this course is for MSTP students to develop an understanding of uses and limitations of laboratory techniques commonly encountered in the literature to enable them to be critical readers and also to properly employ the techniques. The course is designed to be a journal club taken during the summer before the first or second year of medical school, though upper-level MSTP students may register. The journal club will discuss a paper selected by the graduate faculty member or session leader, as well as MSTP students in their later graduate years. Students will be expected to present a figure(s) from the paper to the group describing the technique used, the theory behind the method and when it is appropriate and inappropriate to use it. Depending on the technique, students will also have the opportunity to either practice them in the summer graduate school lab course or visit the appropriate laboratory for a demonstration.

CGS-729. Biomedical Commercialization. The course provides students with the opportunity for hands-on work with Charleston Innovation Center companies or with medical commercialization efforts that take place even before a new firm is founded. 3 s.h.

CGS-735. Molec Approach Experimental Medicine. This course was developed for the masters in clinical research program. I request that it be available for students in the PHD and MD/PHD programs, either as a separate course number or same.

CGS-745. Graduate Teaching Internship. MUSC graduate students (max 3/term) will intern with The College of Charleston or Citadel Dept of Biology faculty over 12 sessions:  to include 7-9 mentor directed sessions with student assistance followed by 3-5 student directed sessions. Students will plan, execute and evaluate each session, prepare a reflective report and plan the next term's syllabus.

CGS 760. Important Unanswered Questions. Important Unanswered Questions in the Biomedical Sciences is a two-semester 2 credit hr seminar series which meets once per week, and features invited research seminars by biomedical investigators featuring translational research. The course grade is derived from written mini-proposals based on the information provided at the seminar and the literature.

CGS 761. Summer Laboratory Observation. Acquaints students with an area of specialized research currently under investigation in a faculty member's laboratory.  This course is for students enrolled in the summer undergraduate research program.

CGS-970. Research. Research.  Variable s.h. 

Courses Audited
Any graduate student, with permission of the instructor and the chairperson of the Dissertation Advisory Committee, and with written notice to the graduate office, may audit a course.

Audited courses are not part of the program of study and will not be given credit, although they will appear on the academic transcript.

Repeating Course
The Dissertation Advisory Committee may permit a student to repeat a course under certain circumstances. Courses which have been repeated will be treated as follows: (1) Credit hours will be granted only once. (In separately computing the overall average to determine eligibility for degrees or in rulings on probationary matters, the credit hours must be counted twice and both grades included.) (2) The transcript must show both grades, with the second being designated as repeated and credit hours are given only once.

Transfer Credit
Only those courses (none from correspondence or research) in which grades of 3.0 or above were received will be acceptable for transfer to the program of study. In some instances, the department may request that a student transfer hours received in certain courses which have been taken on a pass/fail basis, but these cannot be averaged in the GPA. It is the responsibility of the department to determine the student’s comprehension of the material before such hours are shown in the program of study for credit toward the degree.

Qualifying Examination
All courses and specific requirements listed in the program of study must be completed before the student is permitted to schedule the qualifying examination.

An applicant will not be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree until he/she has passed a comprehensive qualifying examination. This examination is intended to test his/her general knowledge of his/her major field and related fields of study. Failure to pass any part of the examination requires a re-examination in areas not completed satisfactorily and will be permitted only once and after not less than three months of further study.

The nature of the examination in the major field is determined and conducted by the major department. If credits have been transferred, a definite part of the qualifying examination must be devoted to testing on the courses involved. The College of Graduate Studies does not require that qualifying examinations be given in courses earned as credits outside the major department or in related fields. The student is advised to consult the major department/program to determine departmental requirements in the area of qualifying examinations.

Plan of Research
Prior to a student being certified as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree (no later than six months after passing the qualifying examinations), he/she will submit a research proposal, in NIH grant format, on the dissertation topic. This proposal should show evidence of creative integration of course material, superimposed on a sound understanding of the pertinent literature. The topic chosen for the Ph.D. dissertation must be approved by both the advisor and the department chairperson, the latter with regard to availability and utilization of departmental resources.

The Dissertation Advisory Committee will critically review the written proposal. The student should understand that the proposal will be acceptable only if it is imaginative and provides a scientifically rigorous test of a meaningful hypothesis. The proposal may be strengthened with data from preliminary experiments.

Within two weeks of the submission of the written proposal to the committee, the student will present and defend the research proposal orally before the committee. The student will be questioned on those methodologies and background areas needed to successfully complete the proposed research. 

Admission to Candidacy
Upon completion of the program of study, the qualifying examinations, and approval of the research proposal, the Dissertation Advisory Committee recommends that the student be admitted to candidacy. Such admission to candidacy must occur at least one year prior to completing requirements for the degree.

The graduate school recognizes that the student’s research may deviate substantially from that originally proposed. The student should be encouraged to pursue promising leads; however, long-term changes in the direction of the student’s research should be done in consultation with the Dissertation Advisory Committee.

At least one year of residency at the Medical University is required before receiving the Ph.D. degree.

A graduate student who has completed the requirements for a degree and plans to write the dissertation either in absentia or in residence, must register and pay tuition for a minimum of one hour each semester until completion of a successful defense of the dissertation. If the student is in residence and receiving stipend, registration must be for at least 15 hours per semester.

Research Seminar
Students are required to make a research presentation, on campus, in a manner to be determined by the department and the Dissertation Advisory Committee.

A dissertation, based on original investigation, is required which gives evidence of mature scholarship and critical judgment, indicates knowledge of research methods and techniques, and demonstrates the ability to carry out independent investigation. Preparation of the dissertation may comply with the regulations contained in A Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, which is available in the graduate school office or through the CGS website. The candidate is required to notify the Graduate School officer of the date, time and place no less than three weeks prior to defense.

Final Examination
Each candidate is required to pass a general oral examination directed primarily to the defense of the dissertation. This shall begin with a formal presentation with appropriate slides and shall be at least 30 minutes in length for the Ph.D. candidate.

The examination is conducted by the Dissertation Advisory Committee, with its chairperson presiding. The Dissertation Advisory Committee will have primary responsibility for evaluating the student’s research, including the written dissertation, the formal oral presentation (which is open to the general graduate faculty), and for administering the final oral examination.

Approval of the Advisory Committee, with no more than one dissenting vote, is necessary for recommendation for awarding the degree. The decision of the Advisory Committee will be forwarded to the dean. The graduate faculty has the authority, which it has delegated to the Dean, for final approval of the candidate for the awarding of the degree.

Upon completion of the defense, each faculty will fill out a defense rubric form and give them to the Major Advisor. The Major Advisor will in turn collate the evaluations into one form, discuss it with the trainee and them submit it to the College's Registrar.

In the event of disapproval, the candidate may be permitted to retake the examination in not less than six months and not more than two years from the time this decision was made. Only one opportunity for re-examination is given. Any candidate who is granted this privilege shall retain the status and obligations of a graduate student until the time of such re-examination. 

Time Limit
In the event that all work is not completed within four years following the qualifying examination, a second qualifying examination will be required. All work for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within seven years. This time limit may be extended upon approval by the Dean.

Last Published with Edits:July 28, 2014 8:35 AM
Last Comprehensive Review: June 2014

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