Detailed Descriptions

Ph.D. Program

This graduate program is designed to produce physiologists of high quality and broad expertise, capable of conducting independent research and teaching effectively. Students are exposed to all aspects of physiology and a variety of related sciences. As a result of this rigorous training, our graduates may pursue careers in any area of physiology and can interact creatively with scientists in diverse fields.

During Year 1, all new graduate students in the biomedical sciences graduate programs matriculate in a common interdisciplinary core curriculum. This integrated first year allows students to build competence in key areas of contemporary science, gain exposure to the various training program options, meet potential thesis advisors, and form social connections with each other before having to select an advisor, training program, or research specialization.

Thus, the first year of the Ph.D. program is both undifferentiated and integrated to provide maximum flexibility. This enables students to select a training program that fits their goals. For students who had pre-selected a specific department upon application, this integrated first year gives them the opportunity to change programs at the end of Year 1 without disrupting their academic progress or their stipend support.

In the second semester of Year 1, students who already have clear research or program interests may customize their coursework by selecting from an array of program-specific electives. At the end of Year 1, students can select one of the program tracks for their advanced graduate research training.

Ph.D. training typically takes 4-5 years to complete. Stipend support and tuition waivers are provided for the duration of this training.

During the second year the student combines course work with the continuing development of research interests. A graduate advisor is selected during this year. The second-year curriculum takes the student beyond the basic curriculum, emphasizing critical appraisal of the current research literature in the Advanced Physiology course. In addition, the student begins to develop teaching skills (Teaching Practium). The purposes of the Graduate Colloquium and Seminar courses are two-fold. First, they give students an opportunity to become informed of the latest scientific advances. Second, students have an opportunity to develop and practice presentation of research seminars. In addition to presentations by faculty and students from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, faculty members from other departments at WVU and from other institutions are invited to present seminars in the program. After successful completion of the second academic year, the student takes a two-part qualifying examination. The qualifying examination consists of a comprehensive oral examination covering all of the major areas of physiology, followed by a written and oral research design examination. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in physiology.

During the third and fourth years the student may enroll in elective courses, with the approval of the major advisor. Yearly participation in the Teaching Practicum provides additional experience in delivering lectures to undergraduate and professional students. However, the student's major effort is directed toward dissertation research. Results of this effort are presented annually in the Graduate Colloquium. During these years the student will attend and present papers at national meetings of scientific societies (e.g., American Physiological Society, Biophysical Society, Endocrine Society, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Society for Neurosciences). The Ph.D. degree generally can be completed in four to five years.

M.S. and M.D./Ph.D. Options

The M.S. degree is a two-year program that includes the integrated core curriculum. The School also offers a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. These students take the first two years of the medical curriculum, followed typically by three years of research for the Ph.D. degree, before returning to the M.D. program.

Objectives: This program is designed as an introduction to research in physiology for students interested in, but not yet committed to, a research career. Students in this program receive training in the fundamentals of physiology and experience in a research laboratory. The objectives of this program differ from those of the Ph.D. program. Students interested in obtaining a Ph.D. degree need not apply to the master's program.

The curriculum during the first two semesters is similar to that for students enrolled in the Ph.D. program. At the end of this time, students are expected to select a thesis advisor and then spend the first summer working in the advisor's research laboratory. In the second year, the students spend most of their second year working on a research project that eventually becomes their master's thesis. A master's degree is generally completed in 2-3 years.