Course of Study

All students MUST register for a minimum of

  • Nine (9) credit hours in the fall and spring semesters to maintain full-time status.
  • Seven (7) credit hours in the summer semesters until completion of the comprehensive examination, at which time the requirement changes to two (2) credit hours.

Courses by year: 

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Subsequent Year(s)

Selecting a Thesis Committee

Additional Course Requirements and Options

Comprehensive Exam and PhD Candidacy 

Seminars  ~   Journal Clubs   ~   Laboratory Meetings/Discussion Groups

Department Graduate Committee

 

Year 1

All students take courses within the Biomedical Research Training Program (BRTP) graduate curriculum. These courses provide a fundamental background in biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, neuroscience and immunology. Faculty members from various campus departments teach these courses. This unified year-one syllabus provides students the opportunity to get to know their colleagues on campus.

Fall Semester
(To view the syllabus for classes, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. Download it free from Adobe.)

Required
BRTP 821- Macromolecular Structure and Function (4 credit hrs)
BRTP 822- The Cell and Gene Regulation (3 credit hrs)
PHAR 896 - Research Other than Thesis (1 credit hr)
PHAR 950- Special Topics:  Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar  (1 credit hr)

Spring Semester

Required
BRTP 823- Molecular Cell Biology (2 credit hrs)
BRTP 824- Cell Signaling (3 credit hrs)
PHAR 820- Current Methods in Neuroscience (2 credit hrs)
PHAR 896 - Research Other than Thesis (1 credit hr)
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar - (1 credit hr)

Optional: Students interested in optional courses should consult their advisor or the department's Chair of Graduate Studies.

Summer Semester

Required
PHAR 896- Research Other than Thesis (1-7 credit hrs)

Additional first year requirements:

  • Students must complete three laboratory rotations each lasting 8-10 weeks during the first and second semesters.
  • Rotations must be completed by March 31.

These rotations provide an introduction to research systems, techniques and approaches. Equally important, these rotations help students in selecting an advisor for their dissertation research. The rotations are credit in PHAR 899.

Selecting a Thesis Committee
A Thesis Committee must be assembled and convened within three months of joining a laboratory and no later than July 31 first year.  The Thesis Committee will assist students in selecting the course work for year two. Thereafter, meetings must be held every six months.

The student, in consultation with his/her mentor, selects members of the Thesis Committee.

  • A committee should consist of five members.
  • One must be outside the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience (PEN). 
  • Justification for each member must be provided to the PEN Graduate Committee. 
     

Year 2

Fall Semester:

Required
PHAR 901- Receptors and Cell Signaling (3 credit hrs)
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, second year students must present a 10 minute seminar (fall or spring semester)
PHAR 999 - Dissertation Research (adjusted so that the total credit hrs equals nine)

Optional
GCBA 922- Neurobiology I (3 credit hrs)
PHAR 950A- Graduate Pharmacology (2 credit hrs)
PHAR930- Neuroimmunology (3 credit hrs, if offered)

Students interested in pharmacology should consider PHAR815- Medical Pharmacology I (5 credit hrs)
Students interested in neuroscience should consider PHAR922- Neurobiology I (3 credit hrs)

The student should meet with his/her Thesis Committee during the fall semester second year and every six months thereafter. Scheduling timely committee meetings is the responsibility of the student.

Spring Semester:

Required
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, a student must present a 10 minute seminar during the second year (fall or spring semester)
PHAR 999 - Dissertation Research (1-2 credit hrs)

Optional
GCBA - Neurobiology II (3 credit hrs)
PAMM 857- Medical Immunology (2 credit hrs)
PHAR 816- Medical Pharmacology II (5 credit hrs)
PHAR 930- Neuroimmunology (3 credit hrs, if offered)
PHYS 920- Ion Channels and Disease (course offered every other year in the spring; check with course director on diseases being studied) (2 credit hrs)
PHYS 924 - Advanced Neurophysiology (2 credit hrs)

Summer Semester

Required
PHAR 999- Dissertation Research (1-7 credit hrs)

The student's Thesis Committee may recommend additional courses to help a student with his/her project.

Additional Second Year Requirement - Comprehensive Exam

By the end of year two, a student should be working with his/her Thesis Committee to set topic, date, and time for the comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam consists of two parts:

  • Complete knowledge base (completed by end of year two)
  • Research proposal (completed by end of first semester, year three)

The comprehensive exam research proposal should not be the same as the student's thesis project unless the research is a new project that is very different from the current research funded in the mentor's laboratory.

Year 3

Fall Semester

Required
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, a student must present a 20 minute seminar during the third year (fall or spring semester)
PHAR 999- Dissertation Research (7 credit hrs - could be reduced appropriately if student is signed up for other courses recommended by Thesis Committee)

Optional
CIP 814/PEN 814- Scientific Writing (2 credit hrs)

Spring Semester

Required
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, a student must present a 20 minute seminar during the third year.
PHAR 999 - Dissertation Research (7 credit hrs - could be reduced appropriately if student is signed up for other courses)

Optional
CIP 814/PEN 814- Scientific Writing (if not taken previously)

Summer Semester

Required
PHAR999- Dissertation Research (1-7 credit hrs)

Year 4

Fall Semester

Required
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, a student must present a 40 minute seminar during the fourth year.
PHAR 999 - Dissertation Research (1 credit hr)

Spring Semester

Required
PHAR 950- Special topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 970- Seminar (1 credit hr); besides attending weekly seminars, a student must present a 40 minute seminar during the second year.
PHAR 999 - Dissertation Research

Summer Semester

Required
PHAR999- Dissertation Research (1-7 credit hrs)

Subsequent Year(s)

Fall Semester

Required
PHAR 950- Special Topics: Journal Club (1 credit hr)
PHAR 999- Dissertation Research (1 credit hr)
Dissertation defense in lieu of PHAR 970  

Spring Semester

Required
PHAR 999- Dissertation Research (1 credit hr)
Dissertation defense in lieu of seminar -PHAR 970 - Seminar

Additional graduation requirements

  • Students must complete at least nine graduate level courses with a minimum of three being at the 900 level that are graded (pass/fail courses not included).

  • Complete Ethical Conduct in Research

  • Publish one first author, original research paper accessible via PubMed.

Comprehensive Exam and PhD Candidacy

Comprehensive exam will be a two-part examination:

Section 1 - Knowledge-based oral examination.  A committee of faculty (3-4 total), who are not on the student's Thesis Committee, will administer the knowledge-based oral comprehensive exam. This Supervisory Committee rotates on a yearly basis and is responsible for testing all second year students for that year.

This section of the qualifying examination will focus primarily on material learned in the required PEN year one and year two courses. Questions may also be taken from the BRTP courses as they relate to PEN course materials.

The knowledge-based oral comprehensive will be a 60-90 minute examination taken during the first week of June at the end of the student’s second year of study (the exact date will be pre-arranged and scheduled for the student).

If the student’s knowledge base is deemed sufficient, the student will be approved to write his or her 12-page research proposal (section 2 of the qualifying examination). 

If the student’s knowledge base is deemed deficient, the student will be allowed to re-test during the first week of August (two months after the first exam). If the student remains deficient following the re-test, he or she will be offered a terminal Master’s degree (a third attempt is not allowed). 

Students will not be able to register for year 3 fall classes until successful completion of the knowledge-based oral comprehensive.

Section 2 - Research proposal. Upon successful completion of the knowledge-based oral examination, a student will prepare a research proposal on a topic approved by his/her Thesis Committee. The research proposal will be written following the current NIH R01 format (1 page for specific aims followed by the proposal (no more than 12 pages). For additional information and format of research proposal, students can contact the department's grant administrator.

Guidelines for Research Proposal and Defense:

  • Student must submit specific aims to his/her Thesis Committee no later than the last week of August (start of year 3).
  • Thesis Committee must approve the specific aims (1 page) of the research proposal before the student proceeds with research section (no more than 12 pages).
  • The specific aims, as well as the committee's approval, must be documented within the minutes of his/her pre-comprehensive supervisory committee meeting and submitted to the PEN administrative office (2013, Letecia Tran).
  • Approved specific aims will be submitted to the Graduate Studies office.

Defense of Research Proposal:

  • Student must defend the research proposal three months after approval of specific aims.
  • Student must submit a copy of the research proposal to his/her Thesis Committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date of the defense.
  • Thesis Committee will question the student on the proposal and related material for no more than three hours.
    • If the Thesis Committee deems the student's performance satisfactory, the student will be awarded PhD candidacy.
    • If the Thesis Committee deems the student's performance unsatisfactory, the student will have one additional opportunity (within three months of the first oral defense) to rectify any deficiencies. the student must pass this second examination before the end of the following spring semester.  If the student does not pass the re-test, he/she will be offered a terminal Master's degree.  A third attempt is not allowed.
  • The research proposal oral defense must be completed by December 31 during the student's third year of study.

Seminars, journal clubs, and laboratory meetings

Seminars: Guest speakers from other departments and institutions are invited to present their research at formal department seminars (generally held on Fridays).

Graduate students' attendance is required for all department seminars and as part of PHAR 970.

In addition, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty present their research for input and discussion at department seminars. Students should review the above requirements for seminar presentation.

Journal Clubs: Each year, two topics are selected for discussion. Graduate students are placed into one of the topic groups.  Each student presents and critiques a paper from the recent research literature, with questions and discussion from their peers. Students receive Special Topics in Pharmacology credit for their participation.

The goals of these sessions are to develop students' skills in

  • Critical reading of the research literature
  • Analytical thinking and problem solving
  • Manuscript writing and data presentation
  • Oral presentations of scientific research.
  • In addition, students are exposed to a wide variety of new research techniques and experimental systems as well as keeping up with the latest advances in understanding topics related to pharmacology and neuroscience.

Laboratory Meetings: In addition, most laboratories have their own research meetings on a regular basis. Laboratories with shared interests may hold joint meetings, with a focus on planning day-to-day experiments and solving specific problems related to the ongoing research. Students are active participants in these sessions, together with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and research technicians.

2012-2013 Committee Members

Keshore Bidasee, PhD, Chairman
Shilpa Buch, PhD
Dan Monaghan, PhD
Tony Wilson, PhD
Huangui Xiong, MD, PhD  

 

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