Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Physiology

Overview of the graduate program in Cell and Molecular Physiology


Director of Graduate Studies:

Benjamin Philpot, PhD    (919) 966-0025

Student Services Manager:

Janice Warfford (919) 962-9873

Program Overview

The pre-doctoral training program in Cell & Molecular Physiology is designed to be highly flexible, allowing each student to tailor his or her exact course of study at the molecular, cellular or organ system level according to his/her interests, research needs, and chosen career path.  Since physiology is the gateway to experimental medicine, a two-course foundation in fundamental principles of physiology is required to assure 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.

Program of Study

Students will typically be accepted into the program at the end of academic year 1 concurrent with selecting a Departmental laboratory for their thesis research.  All accepted students are expected to have pursued a rigorous selection of biomedical courses in year 1.  Once accepted into the program, students are required to

  • Pass two courses in principles of physiology (PHYI 702 and 703) if not taken in year 1
  • Attend the program's professional development course (PHYI 705 and 706) in year 2 and fall semester of year 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 in the spring of year 2. 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 their thesis committee, and present a public seminar of the results, usually by the end of year 5.

Typically, students' coursework will form a broad focus area which may be traditional or may be specifically tailored by the student and thesis adviser.  Common focus areas in the Department include neurobiology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, cardiovascular and renal biology, gastrointestinal biology, and cancer.  In any focus area, a concentration on translation to medicine, involving interaction between the thesis laboratory and clinician/researchers, is possible.

Recent graduates of this program are postdoctoral fellows in some of our country's most prestigious universities (Harvard, Yale, UC San Francisco, Columbia), hold faculty positions, or are in research positions in pharmaceutical companies large and small.  The full list can be consulted at the program's pages in the Departmental website.