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The first-ever crystal structure of the dopamine 2 receptor bound to an antipsychotic drug risperidone. Image courtesy of Bryan Roth’s lab
Program Website
Director of Graduate Studies: Mauro Calabrese, PhD
Student Services Specialist: April Villanueva

Program Overview

The objective of the Graduate Training Program is to ensure that the student who receives the Ph.D. from this Department is a highly trained, competitive scientist capable of pursuing a productive career in the pharmacological sciences. The student will acquire a broad background of knowledge in the biomedical sciences, detailed knowledge of his or her research area, the ability to pose scientific questions, the skills to seek answers in the laboratory, the ability to present clearly and concisely his or her research in both oral and written form, the ability to carry out a critical analysis of the scientific literature, and the ability to prepare and present formal lectures.


Required:  PHCO 701, PHCO 702, PHCO 730, PHCO 732, BBSP 610

Electives: At least two graduate-level courses at 2 or > credit hours. *Students may choose courses offered by the Pharmacology Dept. and/or any discipline or scientific area.


Doctoral Written Examination
The written exam in Pharmacology is developed in the Grant Writing course (PHCO 732), which is directed by program faculty, in the Fall semester of the student’s second year.  Students write their written proposal on their thesis topic provided that the project has not been developed by the P.I. for a grant. During the course, the students develop their Abstract and Specific Aims under the guidance of the faculty, and at the end of the course, the students have honed their project into testable hypotheses that meet the approval of the course directors. The students then prepare a written proposal in the format of an NIH grant application (1 page Specific Aims, 6 pages Research Approach). The proposals are assigned to four faculty for review, and then all proposals are discussed by all faculty in a “study section” format. Some students may be asked to submit a revised proposal to clarify issues identified during review.

Doctoral Oral Examination
The Oral Exam is an oral defense of the written exam administered by the same faculty who evaluated the written proposal. This exam is typically held within a month following approval of the written exam. The oral exam is focused on the subject matter of the proposal and questions are aimed at assessing the student’s command of their proposal and knowledge of pharmacology. Students may be asked to provide alternative strategies for achieving the specific aims proposed.

Thesis Committee Meetings
Once the student has passed both exams, a dissertation committee meeting is held within 6 months. The dissertation committee is comprised of the thesis mentor and 4 additional faculty chosen by the student who are familiar with their research area. The thesis project, along with supporting preliminary data, is introduced and discussed in the first meeting, and a formal 6 page formal proposal is discussed and approved in the 2nd meeting, which is held 6 months later. Additional meetings are held once a year to review student progress towards completion of their thesis project.