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The Graduate College > Pharmacology > Pharmacology Graduate Programs > Pharmacology Degree Options
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Philosophy of Graduate Programs in Pharmacology

The Doctor of Philosophy and Master's of Science programs offer training in pharmacology and biomedical research. We believe that a sound training in medical pharmacology and cell biology should be integral to a pharmacology research degree, and students are trained in both disciplines in the first year. A student then does research in a selected area of pharmacology. During the course of the research, emphasis is placed on developing the student's understanding and communication of research.

Master's students complete all coursework and research in two years and submit a thesis. Graduates of the master's program proceed to careers working in academic or industry laboratories or may pursue other advanced degrees. The vast majority of our MS graduates find job opportunities or successfully matriculate in advanced training programs within three months of graduation.

For PhD students, the research in the first two years is aimed at developing a novel research proposal. PhD students continue research over the next three years, and are required to complete a dissertation and publish novel scientific findings in peer-reviewed journals with at least one first author manuscript submitted by the student. The ultimate outcome of the PhD research experience is the development of an independent investigator who has the necessary scientific skills and credentials to pursue a career in either an industrial or academic setting. Students in the PhD program receive full tuition remission and a stipend. Completion is expected within five years.

For detailed information about degree requirements, see the?Rush University Catalog.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacology

Overview
When the applicant enters the program, a research advisor is assigned, and the student begins directed research on an active project. In the first three quarters, there is minimal research as classroom studies are emphasized. During these quarters, both Masters and PhD graduate students take the Graduate Core Curriculum (GCC) classes and required Pharmacology (PHR) courses. The summer quarter is devoted to laboratory research. Although research predominates the second year, the student also takes the medical school pharmacology sequence and additional electives. For required courses for first two years, see curriculum information in the Rush University Catalog.

PhD Program Progression/Dissertation
In years 3-5, the emphasis is on research, and a typical registration is as listed below.

Elective (3): May be selected from any graduate program at Rush University and may be taken through a consortium with other universities. Approval of mentor is necessary. A total of 12 hrs of elective credit is required. Electives may be taken as Pass/No Pass or for a letter grade.

  • PHR 590 Special Topics in Pharmacology (1)
  • PHR 691 Seminar in Pharmacology (1)
  • PHR 699 Dissertation Research (7)

While registrations appear similar in years 3-5, the nature and character of the research changes and the student passes through a number of steps towards completing the PhD.

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Research Overview
During the first and second years, the student selects a research project in conjunction with a faculty mentor. The student and mentor then select a committee of faculty to guide the student's research activities. This committee approves the proposed research project and determines when the student has completed his/her dissertation. The research project is designed to advance knowledge in a specific discipline and to yield "first author" scientific publications for the student. Research internships at pharmaceutical companies may also be available to the students and are designed to enhance the research activities of the student.

Academic Advisor/Principal Advisor
The graduate division director functions as the academic advisor to the student during the first year. The director, during this time, determines the course schedule with the student and monitors the student's progress. Beginning in the first year, the student is expected to gain laboratory experience. This activity is intended to lead to the definition of research interests and to the selection of a principal advisor or mentor from the faculty of the Division of Pharmacology. The advisor then accepts the supervisory role in the development of the student as a scientific investigator.

Qualifying Exams
By the end of June of the second year, the student will be expected to take the qualifying exams. Written exams will last two full days and cover all aspects of the basic principles of pharmacology through essay questions provided by the faculty. Each exam question may be graded by at least two faculty and reviewed by a faculty committee. Passing the comprehensive exam allows the student to move on to the research phase.

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Dissertation Research Committee
After passing qualifying exams, the student and mentor select a research committee. This committee advises the student and evaluates the dissertation. The committee includes the student's mentor/advisor and one outside faculty member that may be from another Rush department or other institution according to Rush University policy. Additional faculty may be from the Department of Pharmacology at Rush or from Rush faculty members located at pharmaceutical companies. A majority of the members of the five-member committee must be faculty with full-time appointments at Rush who are members of the Graduate College. The director of the pharmacology graduate division, and the chair of the pharmacology department may serve as ex officio members of the committee. The chair of this committee, who cannot be the student's mentor/advisor, will be chosen at the first committee meeting and will preside at all subsequent meetings and arrange for a timely completion of the dissertation work. The dissertation committee strives for consensus in all its actions. A majority vote of the committee's membership, however, is sufficient for all activities except the final approval of the dissertation.

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Dissertation Proposal and Presentation
The student will propose a series of publication-grade research projects. The research projects will include an exhaustive literature review, clear objectives for the project, detailed methods, a critical preview of the potential results, and an evaluation of the potential impact of the project. The proposal will be written and will take the form of an NIH grant application (R-21). The proposal will also be presented to the faculty in a public forum and this will constitute the oral exam. The dissertation proposal must be approved by the student's committee and forms the basis for the student's continued research. The dissertation committee must meet at least twice before the student is considered for graduation. Upon completion of all experiments agreed to by the dissertation committee, the student will present the dissertation to the university in written form (approved by the director of the Rush University library) and present the work in a public one-hour lecture attended by the dissertation committee and faculty of the University. The dissertation committee then meets in closed session to approve the dissertation. Typically the meeting immediately follows the public lecture. In line with the rules and procedures of the Graduate College, the committee strives for a consensus, but the dissertation can be approved over the objections of a single committee member. However, if two committee members disapprove the dissertation, then it is not approved. The awarding of the PhD degree requires the demonstration of a capability for independent research and a contribution to scientific knowledge.

Generally, the required courses are taken in the first two years. In the second year, the student may begin to take elective courses. Elective courses provide additional background in areas related to the student's research and must be approved by the student's advisor. In June following the second year, the student takes comprehensive exams in pharmacology. Upon passing the comprehensive exams, the student becomes a candidate for a PhD degree. At this time, the student and their advisor select a dissertation committee. The student continues research and presents a dissertation proposal to the committee. The student maintains regular contact with the committee to update research progress. The dissertation committee decides when the student is ready to defend the dissertation. The research is defended in a forum open to the University and public, followed by a closed meeting of the committee. The committee then recommends the student for degree approval to the graduate college.

For more detailed information about the program, see the Rush University Catalog:

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Master's Program

When the applicant enters the program, a research advisor is assigned, and the student begins directed research on an active project. In the first three quarters, there is minimal research as classroom studies are emphasized. During these quarters, both Masters and PhD graduate students take the Graduate Core Curriculum (GCC) classes and required Pharmacology (PHR) courses. The summer quarter is devoted to laboratory research. Although research predominates in the second year, the student also takes the medical school pharmacology sequence and additional electives. Master's students are involved in a directed research project that culminates in a thesis.

A written thesis, describing the work accomplished, is required to be completed by the end of the second year. The thesis is presented to the Rush University community in an open meeting at the conclusion of the training period. The student's advisor, the program director and the director of the Rush University Library, must approve the written document.

For more detailed information about the program, see the Rush University Catalog:

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