Graduate Training Program
The theme of our doctoral training program is signal transduction with focus upon three interrelated questions:
—How do physical and chemical events in the extracellular environment alter cell function?
— Is this response causally linked to, or modified, by certain diseases?
— Can the sequence linking receipt of a signal to change in cell function be altered to ameliorate the disease or consequence of the disease under study?
The rationale for the design of the program is that discoveries about signal transduction can provide important new targets and strategies for drug design and treatment when considered in conjunction with state-of-the-art analytical chemistry and outstanding clinical investigation facilities.
TRAINING PROGRAM COMPONENTS
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 courses focused on one of three research tracks. These tracks represent promising areas of future research organized around departmental and institutional research strengths. They are purposefully interdisciplinary and interactive with multiple programs on campus, but they are also well grounded in the fundamentals of pharmacology. These three tracks include Cell Signaling/Cancer Biology, Drug Disposition/Toxicology, and Functional Genomics.
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.
During the first year of graduate training, MSTP students are required to take the following components of the College of Graduate Studies First Year Curriculum:
Essentials of Scientific Practice, I, II, III-CGS 710, 711, 712;
Important Unanswered Questions in the Biomedical Sciences-CGS 760; and
Foundations of Biomedical Science: Receptors and Signaling Unit-CGS 701G.
During the fall of the first year of graduate training, Principles of Pharmacology (PCOL 721) is required. Clinical Biostatistics MCR-700 is required by the graduate school and can be taken any time during graduate training. Exemption of this course may be allowed, upon demonstration of competency in statistics.
In addition to the courses required by the College of Graduate Studies, 12 hours of advanced coursework is required for the Ph.D. degree. Completion of these credits may be satisfied by enrollment in Principles of Pharmacology PCOL 721 (4 hr), the Receptors and Signaling Unit-CGS 701G (2hr), a Spring Selective of your choosing (3hr), and elective courses within your area of research interest.