Ph.D. Requirements

Pharmacology Ph.D. Timeline

This section provides information on the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.  A description of all graduate courses in Pharmacology is provided later in the handbook. The requirements stated here include those set by the Department and those set by the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.  Departmental requirements for all graduate degrees are administered by the Graduate Program Committee, a committee of seven faculty members and one student representative. This Committee has been delegated the authority by the faculty to interpret rules and requirements and, when the circumstances warrant, to grant exceptions upon formal appeal. 

Year One

The first year of the Pharmacology graduate program will mostly consist of taking the core Pharmacology courses and rotating in labs. By the end of the first year, you will have joined a lab and begun with research full-time. Students must be registered full time (9 units for pre-candidates and 8 for candidates) for the fall and winter terms of each academic year.

Fall Semester
  • PIBS 503 - Research Responsibility and Ethics (1 credit)
  • PIBS 600 - Biomedical Sciences Independent Study (3 credits)
  • PIBS 800 - PIBS Seminar Series (1 credit)
  • Pharmacology 601 - From Molecules to Patients: Basic Quantitative Principle of Pharmacology (3 credits)
  • Pharmacology 603 - Practical Statistics (2 credit) or a cognate course (2-4 credits)
  • Pharmacology 614 - Seminars in Autonomic Pharmacology (3 credits)
  • Pharmacology 646 - Student Seminars (1 credit)

Other requirements

  • Participate in lab rotations and fill out appropriate paperwork.
  • Attend weekly Pharm 646 Student Seminars and Guest Speaker Seminars.
 
Winter Semester
  • PIBS 600 - Biomedical Science Independent Study ( 3 credits)
  • PIBS 800 - PIBS Seminar Series (1 credit)
  • Pharmacology 612 - Antimicrobial & Cancer Pharmacology (2 credits)
  • Pharmacology 615 - Seminars in Molecular Neuropharmacology (2 credits)
  • Pharmacology 616 - Seminars in Cardiovascular Pharmacology (2 credits)
  • Pharmacology 617 - Endocrine Pharmacology (2 credits)
  • Pharmacology 646 - Student Seminars (1 credit)

Other requirements

  • Participate in lab rotations and fill out appropriate paperwork
  • Attend weekly Pharm 646 Student Seminars and Guest Speaker Seminars
  • Before the end of July, identify a lab to join for PhD research

Year Two

By now, you should have joined a thesis lab and begun working on your research work. This year also includes giving your very first Pharm 646 Student Seminar as well as achieving Doctoral Candidacy following success in the preliminary exam. By the end of this year, you will also have completed you core Pharmacology coursework. This year, you should also be registered for the required cognate course as part of the requirements to achieve candidacy. 

Fall Semester
  • Pharmacology 502 - Introduction to Scientific Communication/Grant Writing (2 credits)
  • Pharmacology 646, section 001 - Seminar Course (1 credit)
  • Pharmacology 990 - Pre-candidacy Research (3-8 credits)
  • Cognate course or Pharmacology 603 (2-4 credits)
Winter Semester
  • Pharmacology 646, section 001 - Seminar Course (1 credit)
  • Pharmacology 990 - Pre-candidacy Research (8 credits)

 

Other requirements

  • Attend weekly Pharm 646 Student Seminars and Guest Speaker Seminars
  • Participate in first Pharm 646 Student Seminar
  • Build your Individual Development Plan 
  • Complete the preliminary exam 

Year Three +

By this point, you will have completed all the required coursework and will focus on your thesis research. Shortly after passing your preliminary exam, you should begin to assemble your doctoral dissertation committee, with the help of your thesis mentor. You are required to meet with your dissertation committee at least once a year. Year 3 is also typically the year in which you will teach for one semester.

Fall/Winter Semesters
  • Pharmacology 646, section 001 - Seminar Course (1 credit)
  • Pharmacology 995 - Candidacy Research (12 credits)
  • Candidates may take up to 4 non-research credits per semester.

 

Other requirements

  • Meet at least once a year with your dissertation committee
  • Submit an Annual Report and CV after your committee meeting.
  • Teaching assistant (only year 3 for one semester)

Cognate Courses

Cognate courses are those in a discipline or area different from a student’s field of study but that are related or connected with some aspect of this field. The Rackham Graduate School requires 4 credit hours of coursework in approved graduate-level cognate courses with a grade of B-.  Cognate courses must be approved by Graduate Program Committee. Pharmacology courses that are cross-listed in another department may be used to satisfy the cognate requirement. See below for a list of common cognate course for Pharmacology student. Please consult with the Graduate Coordinator, GPC Chair or your Research Advisor for additional courses.

Popular Choices

PHRMACOL 621 – Translational Pharmacology (2 credits)
PHRMACOL 622 – Translational Research (2 credits)
PHRMACOL 625 – Translational Pharmacology Journal Club (1 credit)
PHYSIOL 510 – Systems and Integrative Physiology (4 credits)
BIOLCHEM 515 – Introduction to Biological Chemistry (3 credits)
BIOLCHEM 550 – Macromolecular Structure & Function (3 credits)
CDB 530 – Cell Biology (3 credits)
HUMGEN 541 – Molecular Genetics (3 credits).

Program Requirements

Student Seminar

This Pharmacology Student Seminar course, PHRMACOL 646, provides students with the confidence and ability to present their work clearly and succinctly to an audience and is considered the most important course offered in the department. Consequently, it is a required course throughout the student’s entire time in the graduate program. All students including first-year PIBS students who are Pharmacology primaries are required to attend Pharmacology 646 and register for the 1 credit course Pharmacology 646 each term, a grade of “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” will be given. The student seminar is scheduled weekly on Fridays at 12 pm. Each year prior to the start of the academic term, one of the PHRMACOL 646 course directors with all students who will be presenting in the coming year. Students are also provided with a list of seminars before the start of each academic year.

Beginning in their second-year students must present a yearly seminar. Students directly admitted to the Ph.D. program will present in their first year in the program, having previously completed one year of research in their lab as an MS student. Students must present on a yearly basis to remain in good standing. Students may opt out of this presentation in the year in which they present their thesis defense. However, in order to opt out, a scheduled defense date must be in place by the time the 646 schedule is prepared for the current year.

Third- and fourth-year students are encouraged to present a description of their own research. Second year students should present a critical review of 1-2 reports in the current scientific literature, or if their own research is sufficiently advanced, they may present their own research. A second-year seminar presenting critical reviews of published research should deal with a recent significant advance in pharmacology or an advance in physiology, chemistry, cell biology, etc., that provides techniques or concepts that are important for understanding drug action. The presentation should be a critical evaluation of the work, not simply a summary. Discussion and criticism of the research by the audience is encouraged; the speaker should be prepared to answer questions about the work. Presentations of purely clinical literature are discouraged (although exceptions can be made) because of the empirical nature of most clinical work and the specialized expertise required for its proper evaluation. In keeping with the tradition of the university being open to all forms of inquiry, students should not present data on compounds whose structures cannot be revealed because of patent or other considerations.

Individual Development Plan

Pharmacology doctoral students should initiate the Pharmacology Individual Development Plan (IDP) at the beginning of their second year in the graduate program.  This plan is intended to help students monitor progress towards completion of their graduate training, including identifying skills and strengths, but also areas for improvement as well as helping make decisions about possible career paths. The IDP process also provides a mechanism for students to communicate ideas or problems with their mentors in a neutral setting.  

Preliminary Examination & Achieving Candidacy

The preliminary examination for advancement to doctoral candidacy in Pharmacology is an oral exam based on a short research proposal chosen by the student; the topic may not be related to the student's own research topic. Students are asked to conceive and design their own research project. Each student initially submits a research idea to the Graduate Program Committee which then chooses an Examination Chair and a three-member examination committee (including one member from the GPC). The examination committee comprises members of the Pharmacology faculty (but not the student’s thesis advisor) and may include a non-Pharmacology faculty member who is an expert in the research are chosen. The exam is given is generally given in April of the student's second year, however under specific conditions a student may take the exam in December. The purpose of the oral exam is to evaluate and strengthen the student’s abilities to conceive and organize an original research project, and to discuss that project in a critical manner with other scientists. Progress to candidacy is determined by the GPC based on the examination performance and general performance in all other parts of the program. Failure of the preliminary examination for advancement to candidacy may lead to immediate dismissal. The Graduate Program Committee may vote to offer remediation including, but not limited to, a second attempt at a written proposal and/or oral examination. 

Advancement to Candidacy

Once a student has completed all necessary Departmental and Rackham Graduate School requirements* and has passed their preliminary exam, the Graduate Program Committee will consider them for candidacy. If successful, advancement to candidacy will occur in the following term (for example if the preliminary exam is passed in April, the student may become a candidate at the beginning of the spring/summer term, May 1, of that year).  As a requirement for good academic standing, students must be advanced to candidacy by the Fall semester of their 3rd year, unless there are extenuating circumstances that have been approved by the Graduate Program Committee.  

Before admission to candidacy can be recommended, the following requirements must be met: 

  • Completion of all course requirements, including 4 credits of cognate coursework by the end of the term in which the preliminary exam is completed.
  • Achievement of 3.0 or better grade point average (graded courses only).
  • Passage of the oral examination.

Teaching Requirement

Teaching is a valuable and integral part of graduate training in pharmacology. During the third year of study, all students are expected to assist in the teaching of pharmacology in the department and will be encouraged to take coursework that will complement the chosen field of specialization. In early summer teaching assignments for the upcoming academic year will be made by GPC & the Graduate Coordinator with student and faculty input. Please note: T32 appointments may alter this schedule. Courses that have a GSI include: the fall semester are PHRMACOL 502, 601, 603, 621 and MEDCHEM 600 and for the winter semester are PHRMACOL 425, MEDCHEM 510 and 610.

Dissertation Committee

A Dissertation Committee should be assembled by each graduate student in consultation with his/her Research Mentor by September 30 of their third year following their preliminary exam.   Students should submit the Departmental Dissertation Committee form to the Graduate Coordinator so it can be recorded with the Graduate School. Students must have a dissertation committee in place, with the dissertation committee form properly submitted to the Department to remain in good standing in the program. Note however, that students may, at any time, switch or add committee members.  The Research Mentor serves as Chair and shares with the Committee the responsibilities of guiding the student toward the doctoral degree. For detailed guidelines on forming your dissertation committee see: (http://www.rackham.umich.edu/current-students/dissertation/committees/gu...). 

Annual Committee Meetings 

Starting in their 3rd year students are required to meet with their thesis committee each year, preferably within two months of their PHARMACOL 646 seminar, but no later than May 31st. A student who has not completed their yearly Dissertation Committee Meeting by May 31 will not be considered in good standing in the program. The function of the committee is to guide and support students throughout their research and writing. Committee meetings are more important when things are not working than when they are. Regular committee meetings can serve to reduce the time to degree. 

Students should plan to have a dissertation committee meeting at least once a year (or more often). 

  1. Students should invite dissertation committee members from outside of the department to attend their PHARMACOL 646 seminar soon after the course schedule is released/finalized. Dissertation committee members are not required to go.
  2. Students should email their dissertation committee 2-3 months in advance of their desired window for the dissertation committee meeting in order to find an available time for everyone.  Plan for two hours only. After the committee has responded, an email should be sent to all members confirming the date and time.
  3. The Graduate Coordinator must be informed of the planned date/time of the student’s yearly dissertation committee meeting. They can also assist in scheduling a room for the meeting.
  4. Every dissertation committee member should be sent an email reminder about the student’s dissertation committee meeting (including the date, time, building/room) one week in advance. This email message should include a project summary/outline (see below) for the committee to review, as well as attachments of manuscripts in review or in press. Please copy the Graduate Coordinator on this email.

Policies & Procedures

Academic Probation

Pre-candidacy

  • During pre-candidacy, students must maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.00 and complete each required course with a B- or better.
  • Students must be actively conducting laboratory research under PIBS 600 or PHRMACOL 990, as agreed upon with their rotation or thesis advisor. Students should meet with their advisors regularly to discuss their performance and progress in lab.
  • Students must present one research seminar to the department under PHRMACOL 646.
  • Students must pass a preliminary examination conducted by a committee of three faculty appointed by the Graduate Program Committee.
  • Students must attend all departmental seminars and academic or professional development events unless excused by the Graduate Chair or Department Chair.

During Candidacy

  • Students must make continuous progress on a thesis project under PHRMCOL 995, as agreed upon with their thesis advisor. Students should meet with their advisors regularly to discuss their performance and progress in lab.
  • Students must present one research seminar to the department under PHRMACOL 646 each year, unless their defense is scheduled in the semester in which their seminar would take place.
  • Students must present their research during at least one major Departmental event each year, which may be the PSTP Symposium, the Annual Colloquium, or the Department Retreat.
  • Students must complete one assigned GSI appointment under the instruction of a Pharmacology course director.
  • Students must hold a thesis committee meeting every twelve months and submit a progress report in a personal meeting with the Graduate Chair.
  • Students must attend all departmental seminars and academic or professional development events unless excused by the Graduate Chair or Department Chair.

Options for re-taking candidacy or qualifying exams

Failure of the preliminary examination for advancement to candidacy may lead to immediate dismissal. The Graduate Program Committee may vote to offer remediation including, but not limited to, a second attempt at a written proposal and/or oral examination.

Advisor requirement

At no time after the PIBS year should a student be without an advisor. If a thesis advisor intends to terminate the relationship, they must follow the program’s academic probation procedures, during which time a student may look for a new rotation advisor. If a student intends to terminate the relationship, they should work closely with the Graduate Chair to first establish a new rotation advisor.

Procedures for placing a student on academic probation

Students who fail to maintain good academic standing may be placed on academic probation by the Graduate Chair, who will provide a letter stating the requirements that have not been met, the duration of the probationary period (no less than two months), and expectations for improvement. Probation may be recorded on the transcript and become a permanent part of the student’s academic record. Failure to meet the outlined expectations within the defined probationary period may result in dismissal from the program.

Length of academic probation

The minimum length of academic probation is two months, as determined by the Rackham Graduate School. This period may be extended at the discretion of the Graduate Chair.

Funding

The advisor’s original funding commitment to the student remains throughout the probationary period. In the event that the probationary status renders the student ineligible for their original funding source (e.g. GSI appointment), the Department of Pharmacology will provide the funding from a general fund.

Faculty group responsible for dismissal or probation decision

A group of faculty responsible for deciding whether to dismiss a student for academic reasons will include the Graduate Chair, the student’s advisor, and a member of the Graduate Program Committee designated by the Graduate Chair.

Options for appeal

Students may use the Rackham Graduate School’s Academic Dispute Resolution process for issues concerning fair and equal treatment under the Department of Pharmacology policies and procedures.

 

The Department of Pharmacology academic probation and dismissal policy and procedures have been reviewed and approved by the Graduate Program Committee (11/15/2018).

Good Standing 

The preliminary examination for advancement to doctoral candidacy in Pharmacology is an oral exam based on a short research proposal chosen by the student.  The exam is given in May of year two.

Conflict Resolution 

The preliminary examination for advancement to doctoral candidacy in Pharmacology is an oral exam based on a short research proposal chosen by the student.  The exam is given in May of year two.