Molecular and Cellular Physiology Program
Norman Harris, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Head
Physiology is the study of how biological systems perform their functions to maintain the steady-state internal environment of living organisms. As physiologists, we can study these processes at the genetic, cellular, organ system or whole-animal level. Our departmental name reflects the increasing application of molecular biology techniques in the understanding of physiological function. Understanding the basic concepts of physiological control of organ systems in the human body is key to identifying regulatory processes during organ dysfunction and disease states, which, in turn, may elucidate a novel approach in therapeutic intervention.
The Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology recruits highly motivated individuals from biomedical undergraduate backgrounds who wish to pursue a rewarding career in biomedical research. Our Ph.D. program provides individualized training for each student to successfully fulfill the requirements leading to the attainment of a Ph.D. degree. This will provide highly skilled graduates with the investigative tools necessary for an intellectually challenging and rewarding career in an ever- evolving field at academic, industrial or government institutes. The graduate program consists of lecture courses, seminar presentations and independent research. Our program emphasizes the need for a strong, knowledgeable background of reviewed literature, a well-planned experimental approach to problem-solving and skilled interpretation of results. In addition, students will be guided in the development of excellent written and oral communication skills.
During the first year of study each student is required to complete a series of core courses that provide a broad perspective in the field of Physiology. These core courses include: Basic Biochemistry and the Graduate Core Curriculum in physiology. In addition, students are required to take advanced courses during the second, and possibly third, year of study. At the end of the second semester of the first year, each student must pass the Preliminary Examination that consists of an essay-type written examination followed by an oral qualifying examination. During the first year of study the student also rotates through four research laboratories to become familiar with faculty research interests and to assist in the selection of their research mentor. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination and the selection of a research mentor, the student progresses onto a program of original and independent research under the guidance of their mentor. Students must write a grant proposal and defend their research progress to their advisory committees in regularly scheduled meetings throughout the duration of their research study. Students are expected to publish at least two peer-reviewed papers from their dissertation work. One published manuscript is required for completion of the Ph.D. degree.
Following the first year of study, PhD candidates will also have the opportunity to participate in teaching students in the School of Allied Health Professions. This training is under the guidance of the student’s mentor and would constitute no more than 6 hours of lecturing. During the PhD program students will be encouraged to participate in the presentation of their research results at National Scientific Meetings. Not only does this provide an ideal platform for students to get feedback on their own data, this also provides the opportunity to meet peers and be exposed to current developments within their own area of research.
Students are provided with desk space in the graduate student room during their first year prior to selection of their mentor. Students are encouraged to interact with faculty members upon joining the department and attend departmental social events.