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Graduate Training


Training in pharmacology is inherently interdisciplinary and our organization of the graduate program to include faculty from programs outside of the Pharmacology Department strongly reinforces this idea. Didactic training in the Pharmacology Graduate Program has three components.

The first is the common first year offered by the College of Graduate Studies that provides a general knowledge base in the biomedical sciences and an introduction to the basic skills required for success in graduate school.

The second component is specific training in pharmacology and physiology. This includes a graduate pharmacology course called Principles of Pharmacology with emphasis on evaluation of experimental data, along with development of an understanding of how scientific discoveries lead to a progression of understanding of basic phenomena using pharmacology as an example. The second course is Core Pharmacology (Dental or Medical Pharmacology) which provides a knowledge base of the range of pharmacological actions with integrated exposure to physiology. This training provides all of our students a unique perspective on biomedical research based on a fundamental understanding of the function of intact organisms (i.e., man).

The third component of our didactic training consists of advanced elective courses focused on one of two research tracks, organized around departmental research strengths. They are purposefully interdisciplinary, yet also well grounded in the fundamentals of pharmacology. These two research tracks are: Cell Signaling and Molecular and Biochemical Pharmacology; and Genomics and Proteomics in Disease and Therapy.


During the first semester, the student meets with all faculty in the program. The student then rotates through at least two laboratories, spending a semester in each. During the rotation, the student works with a senior investigator on a research project. This entails reading the pertinent scientific literature, discussion of background material and participation in experimental design, data collection and analysis of results. The purposes of these rotations are: (1) to orientate the student to the process of scientific investigation; (2) to allow acquisition of laboratory techniques; (3) to allow the student and faculty to know each other; and (4) to provide the student with the basis for selection of a dissertation project.

Upon passing the qualifying examinations, a student typically selects an area of research, laboratory and faculty advisor(s) for his/her dissertation work. A plan for the dissertation work is written in the form of a National Institutes of Health research proposal. Upon approval by the student's advisory committee, dissertation research continues and culminates in the writing of manuscripts and the dissertation, followed by defense of the latter before the student's advisory committee and the graduate faculty of the University.

Students also attend seminars and present a seminar at least once per year. Over the last two-to-three years of training, students are encouraged to attend national meetings and present research findings. In addition to the desired scientific interaction, this allows recognition of a student as a developing investigator at a national level and facilitates the attainment of high-quality postdoctoral positions and career placement.


Prospective students in interested in Pharmacology are encouraged to submit their graduate application to the Admissions Committee. Information about the admissions process can be found at the MUSC admissions page.