Pharmacology Ph.D. Training Program

Mission and Objectives

The mission of the Pharmacology Ph.D. Training Program is to develop innovative scientists with a strong foundation in pharmacological principles. The program focuses on 6 key competencies: Applied Pharmacology, Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity, Teamwork, and Professionalism.

The global objective of the training program is to train students with the knowledge base and research skills to pursue a broad range of career opportunities in the pharmacological sciences ranging from academic and industrial bench science to scientific writing, patent law, science policy, biotech management, and teaching. Our multifaceted approach provides students with a strong foundation in fundamental pharmacology and modern experimental pharmacology through individualized advanced training. The interdisciplinary design fosters productive interactions among students and faculty in basic and clinical departments around the common theme of therapeutics. The goal of the program is to develop professional scientists with the maturity to address new research questions through creativity and collaboration and to communicate their findings to a wide audience documented by publications in premier scientific journals and effective communication with the lay public. 

Overview of Program Design

The Pharmacology Ph.D. Training Program is developed in three progressive stages:

MTTP overview 2020
  • Stage 1: All students enroll in the recently renovated Core Curriculum in Cell and Molecular Biology (C3MB) to provide a common foundation in cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and protein chemistry. Throughout the program, there is a focus on research rigor and reproducibility and biostatistics. Students engage in three different research rotations to identify a suitable match with a mentor and laboratory environment for their thesis research. 
  • Stage 2: Students focus on research and advanced coursework relevant to pharmacology and their thesis project. The 2-part core course in pharmacology emphasizes molecular and physiological bases of drug action, placing the study of selected drug classes in the context of targeted diseases. An advanced elective course that complements their thesis project is selected each semester to be completed along with the Pharmacology Core Courses. They also complete a comprehensive grant writing course that generates an F31 application that is the basis for their thesis proposal.  Stage 2 culminates in the PhD qualifying exam that assesses each student’s ability to demonstrate an understanding of the core principles of their coursework and ability to incorporate these concepts into their thesis project. Success in Stage 2 results in advancement to PhD candidacy. 
  • Stage 3: Students focus on developing their thesis project, communication skills, and becoming a professional scientist. Stage 3 is focused on generating a complete body of research sufficient for at least two first author original publications, and a scholarly thesis presentation and defense, culminating in the award of the PhD degree.

Requirements for Graduation

To fulfill requirements for the PhD degree in Pharmacology, the candidate must have:

  1. Completed all required coursework and qualifying examination;
  2. Published at least one first-authored paper and submitted at least one other manuscript;
  3. Completed a well-written dissertation, including a thoughtful plan for future development of the project;
  4. Successfully defended the dissertation;
  5. Presented an effective public seminar on the thesis research;
  6. Completed all revisions to the dissertation.

For a detailed up-to-date list of graduation requirement see the CWRU Bulletin.

Student Leadership

The Ph.D. Training Program in Pharmacology is viewed as a faculty-student partnership in education. Students drive the direction of the program through participation in faculty meetings and key committees.

Opportunities to Present Your Work

  • There is a weekly Departmental Journal club where students present a published article or their own work. This provides an opportunity to refine presentation skills to a diverse audience. Pharmacology students are routinely awarded presentation prizes at local and national meetings.
  • The Annual Pharmacology Retreat simulates the atmosphere of an international professional meeting and provides a training opportunity for students and postdoctoral scholars to hone their presentation skills while fostering collaborative interactions and unity.