Cellular & Molecular Physiology

Program Overview

Broadly speaking, the research activities of the laboratories in the Cell and Molecular Physiology program aim to understand the ways in which molecules, cells and tissues work together to cause form and function in the whole organism.  Not surprisingly, given such a broad charge, these questions are pursued using an extraordinary range of techniques from protein structure to electrophysiology in conscious learning animals, with cell biology, tissue development and function, cutting-edge genetics and molecular biology, high end microscopy and other techniques along the way.  Because of this breadth and the breadth of future possibilities open to our graduates, the Program offers maximum flexibility for individual tailoring of programs of study at the molecular, cellular or organ system level according to a student’s interests, research needs, and chosen career path.

Requirements of the PhD Program

Since physiology is the gateway to experimental medicine, a 5-module foundation in fundamental principles of physiology is required to ensure that each student can appreciate the whole organism ramifications of their research and be able to interact with the world of medicine as a knowledgeable colleague.  A required course in professional development ensures that students are at a professional level of writing, speaking, and conduct.  Beyond these course requirements, all accepted students will be expected to have pursued a rigorous selection of courses in year 1, and to be eager to pursue beneficial courses in year 2.

Students enrolled in the Physiology Program and pursuing research in neurobiology will be required to, and would want to, take the PHYI 722-3 series as well.

Once accepted into the program, students are required to

Pass the series of modular courses in principles of physiology (PHYI 702 and 703) if not taken in year 1

Attend the program’s professional development course (PHYI 705-6) in years 2 and 3

Devise, in concert with the thesis adviser, a set of electives for year 2 that will prepare the student for their specific research program and ultimate career path

Attend at least one seminar a week drawn from the Departmental seminar series, from other series on campus, or from any of the several medical Grand Rounds series.

Pass a written qualifying exam shortly after joining a laboratory and the Program.  This exam is intended to assess progress in general scientific reasoning, knowledge, and maturity.

Defend a thesis proposal before a thesis committee chosen by the student and the thesis adviser and submit the proposal to a granting agency.  The target date for this defense should be December of the third year or earlier.

Present a poster at each annual Research Day celebration of the Department.

Present annual “research in progress” talks to the Department from year 3 on.

Publish at least one first-author paper.

Write a dissertation, defend it before the thesis committee, and present a public seminar of the results, with the target for graduation being at the end of year 5.