In the first year of study, “core” courses covering cornerstone topics in biochemistry and cell signaling and molecular and cellular biology are taken, as well as pharmacology-specific courses in receptor and systems pharmacology.
Students are also required to attend and present topics at seminars, and to do laboratory rotations, with the objective of identifying a thesis topic area and a faculty PhD mentor by the end of the first year.
The student, with help from the faculty member chosen as thesis advisor, constructs a grant-like document describing a plan for thesis research, which serves as a basis for a comprehensive PhD qualifying examination, administered early in the second year of study.
When the student passes this examination, he/she is officially admitted into candidacy for the PhD degree, and thereafter performs thesis-based research, which is presented to, and evaluated by, their faculty thesis committee at periodic intervals.
During the second and subsequent years in the program, students continue to participate in the seminar program, and take required pharmacology courses, as well as elective courses chosen from a group of elective courses designed to help and guide the student through their thesis training and thesis project.
When the thesis advisor and thesis committee agree that the student has completed a sufficient body of research, he/she writes the dissertation and later defends it, before the thesis committee, and then in a public forum.
After successful public defense of the thesis and submission of the approved written thesis document, the PhD degree is awarded.