Molecular & Integrative Physiology

Molecular and integrative physiology lab

The Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary gateway program that coordinates admissions and the first year of Ph.D. studies for 14 department programs, including Molecular & Integrative Physiology. PIBS offers you the flexibility and convenience of applying to any of our participating programs through one application. We invite you to explore Molecular & Integrative Physiology and the other programs before selecting your top preferences when you apply.

Program Overview

Are you writing an essay for your graduate school application that discusses how a disease alters normal body function? If so, you should consider physiology. Do you like the process of integrating several lines of evidence to answer a scientific question? If so, you should consider physiology. Are you interested in exploring a wide array of careers in which you can apply your scientific knowledge? If so, then you should definitely consider physiology at Michigan.

Physiology is not just a course you might have taken; it is the field of scientific investigation that is closest to medicine. Physiologists specialize in integrative aspects of biology. That doesn’t mean we aren’t involved in identifying critical components of cellular and molecular function—we are. But we consider it essential to push our science even further, to figure out how these components fit together into tissues, organs and organisms to explain function in both health and disease. 

Michigan’s Department of Physiology was one of the first, established in 1882. In 2002, we changed our name to Molecular and Integrative Physiology (MIP) to more completely reflect the true breadth of our science. Our program has almost 50 PhD students and over 65 faculty research labs to choose from.

Research Areas

Physiologists use cutting-edge techniques employed by modern biomedical scientists, including genomics, proteomics, epigenetic, cell and molecular biological, and computational methods. Our trainees exploit the unique advantages of a variety of animal models including nematode worms, fruit flies, rodents and humans. We have an outstanding international reputation in areas as diverse as metabolism, obesity, cancer, aging, neuroscience, cardiovascular function, skeletal muscle biology, circadian rhythms, reproduction, gastrointestinal physiology, computational and systems biology.

Physiologists specialize in these integrative aspects of biology, identifying not just the important components but how these fit together and how integrative aspects are altered by environmental factors and disease. This makes physiology the science closest to medicine, and translational research is indeed a strength of the department. We are among the few physiology departments in the US that has an international reputation in areas as diverse as aging, metabolism, neuroscience, muscle (cardiac and skeletal), reproductive, gastrointestinal and circadian physiology.

Explore our faculty.

How do you know we are any good?

You should ask this question about every place you apply; don’t just go by what is on the surface, talk to current students and look at the data. How well does the program do in attracting research funding? Michigan MIP is the number one Physiology department in the country in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and top funded basic science department at Michigan. We also receive support from many foundations specializing in specific diseases, as well as other government programs. 

Is the training environment recognized as one of the best? We take student success very seriously. Our goal is to develop not only your technical bench skills, but also you as a scientist who can independently pose questions, formulate hypotheses, design experiments to effectively test these hypotheses, analyze and interpret the results, and, importantly, communicate your science in oral and written forms to a variety of audiences. We are continually sculpting our courses and other programs to meet and respond to trainee needs. We believe in career diversity for biomedical scientists; our faculty voted to provide our trainees protected time to explore and gain experience in a variety of careers. We are nationally recognized for our success in training and career development. MIP faculty lead several six different NIH-sponsored training grants, more than any other PIBS program. A high percentage of our trainees also receive individual fellowship awards from the NIH, NSF and disease-focused foundations. These awards are given at the national level, are very competitive, and leave our students better positioned to pursue successful research careers.

Program Requirements


MIP is a vibrant program in modern physiology. Required courses in cellular, signaling and systems physiology are geared to prepare students to think creatively and to integrate various levels of organization from molecules to organisms. Electives are flexible to tailor to your interests. Our course requirements are completed within the first year.

Preliminary Examination

Students take the preliminary examination by the end of the summer following their first year.

Teaching Requirement

All MIP students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for one term. Additional teaching opportunities are available to match the career goals of our students. Learning to teach and communicate effectively prepares you to work in an increasingly complex world. Communication skills make you a key player in many careers.

How long will it take?

Usually four and half to six years. Mentoring and tracking the success and progress of our students is a critical component of our program.

Trainee Activities

MIP sponsors an annual student-organized research symposium that includes inviting an internationally-renowned speaker (selected by the students), poster and oral presentations by students. We recognize our top students annually for their efforts in research, service, education and academic achievement. Trainees input is sought and incorporated in many aspects of the department including policies, recruiting, career development and keeping the graduate programs aligned with student needs.

 We play as hard as we work, with social events throughout the year, including monthly pub nights, fall picnic, spring BBQ, Detroit Tigers baseball game, holiday party, ice skating, intramural sports teams.

Career Expectations

More than 200 alumni have obtained the Ph.D. in our program. A vast majority of these alumni enjoy highly successful careers and leadership roles using their scientific training in academia (~60%), industry (~15%), education (~10%), medicine (~10%), and administration. This includes a number of CEOS, Deans and Department Chairs. Many are eager to chat with and help our current trainees investigate career possibilities.