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This PhD program is for clinical fellows who already have an MD degree (or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degree) and will (or are already doing) clinical lab research during their fellowship training at UNC (University of North Carolina) Chapel Hill. Applicants must already have UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine faculty sponsorship/employment that will support the fellow/resident during this PhD training program.

This is NOT a joint MD-PhD program; for that program start here:

This is NOT a PhD in biomedical science for someone who does not already hold an MD (or DO) degree; for those applicants start here:

If you meet the above criteria, you will apply here:

Program Description

There are many advantages to this degree, built upon our current Cell Biology & Physiology (CBP) Curriculum: more integrative/translational science in the Curriculum (focus of the CSIP T32 NIH training grant), more team science for our faculty and trainees, and more educational partnerships with School of Medicine clinical units. The students who complete this program would benefit from enhanced competitiveness for national physician scientist awards (e.g. NIH K08, K23, K21) with enhanced training for becoming independent physician scientists conducting part time or full-time research. The MD trainees would pay tuition and fees out-of-pocket, or their clinical department or faculty mentor could provide funds through research grants (e.g. NIH grants) as a research assistant awarded to the mentor or student, or through other mentor/department funds. The students would be full time (minimum 9 units or enrolled in 994) each semester and eligible for research assistantships through their mentor/department.

The Cell Biology & Physiology Curriculum has long been approved for PhD research with a graduate school-filed thesis (CBPH994) and has a long record of successfully training PhDs and MD-PhDs.


Medical clinical fellowships vary widely in duration based on the medical specialty. However, we would expect most trainees to be officially enrolled for two to four years in this program during their clinical fellowships. Students entering this program should immediately begin to think about their potential dissertation (thesis) committee (minimum 5 members; at least 3 of which must be CBP Curriculum faculty members, see here:

At the latest, by the end of the first year (2 semesters) of enrollment, the student in consultation with their advisor should be able to form their dissertation (thesis) committee.

We encourage you to explore the webpages for PhD (MD-PhD) Cell Biology & Physiology students for more details not listed here since the requirements are identical to MD-PhD students.

Curriculum for the PhD for MDs degree:

The Cell Biology and Physiology degree granting program must meet all the graduate school requirements with program specific requirements layered on top.

Graduate School Requirements for the PhD:

Minimum program residence total of 4 semesters; a semester in residence:

  • 9 or more credit hours earn a full semester of residence.
  • 6 to 8.9 credit hours earn three-fourths semester of residence.
  • 3 to 5.9 credit hours earn one-half semester of residence.
  • 0 to 2.9 credit hours earn one-fourth semester of residence.

At least 2 semesters must be of 6 or more credit hours and be contiguous.

Minimum of 6 credit hours total of CBPH994 (minimum two semesters of CBPH994; 3 units each semester).

For Program specific requirements start here:

Course Requirements

In brief, for each semester in the Program, the student should be enrolled in seminar attendance (CBPH855 Fall; CBPH856 Spring). This is a standing seminar series with different topics and/or speakers each semester which is why repetition for credit is allowed. Speakers are typically professors from other Universities/Medical Schools with some from private industry; our students, and professors from UNC also present in this series; the topics cover modern methods, approaches and findings relevant to cell biology and physiology.

Students are also required to present research in progress type mini seminars at this series once a year.

(Fall/Spring – Year 1 only). Mentored Lab Research, letter grade (H,P,L,F). (CBPH 910; 2-15 units – typically 9 units)

Year 1 (no later than Year 2) Fall CBPH705 – presentation class; typically Wednesday afternoons. A course on how to give a solid science talk. Year 1 (no later than Year 2) Spring CBPH706 – grant writing class. Wednesdays 2-4PM. An intro course on how to approach a graduate student-type biomedical research grant; also beneficial for students to prepare a thesis proposal even if not applying for federal funds.

Year 2 or later (offered in Fall) Refresher in Responsible Conduct of Research (research ethics) CBPH895 (1 unit). Typically 6 Fridays 1-2:30PM.

Minimum 2 grad level electives (see below); at least one of which must be a CBPH prefix graduate level course.

–  Other acceptable electives include biostatistics/statistical modeling (must be grad level) or choose from CBPH852-853 series (Cell Biology & Physiology of Human Health and Disease; 852Fall/853Spring); Other courses chosen by the student and mentor are also permitted if beneficial to the training plan. Students may wish to consider either or both of CBPH852/853 in their first year to help prepare for the first milestone exam if they feel the need to refresh their primary literature reading/synthesis/interpretation skills.

The number of units completed will vary widely depending on how many years the student will be enrolled.

A student is considered full-time with 3 units of CBPH994 or 9 or more enrolled units that do not include CBPH994; CBPH994 enrollment typically begins in year 2 and replaces CBPH910.

Non-Course Requirements/Milestones

-participation in CBP research day with either a scientific poster presentation or scientific talk (currently occurs annually Spring)

-form a Dissertation Committee by the end of the 2nd semester in the program; the Committee will be the Examination Committee. The Chair of the committee cannot be the advisor but must be a faculty member in the Cell Biology and Physiology Curriculum.

– there are technically four milestone exams required by the graduate school:

ALL UNC MILESTONE EXAMS require the student be enrolled during the date the exam is considered passed (dated by the committee chair).


The student, and only the student, must go into ConnectCarolina and follow instructions for intent to graduate. The instructions are below as very early in the semester you intend to graduate you must notify the registrar. These are HARD DEADLINES we have no input into: