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PhD Program Guidelines
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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology program requirements are specified in the Rush University Catalog. The information below provides an overview of requirements.

The PhD program in anatomical sciences is a laboratory-based research degree which ordinarily would be completed in 4-6 years depending on an applicant's background. The first- and second-year curricula are devoted to anatomy course work and complementary electives selected from cell biology, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, immunology, biostatistics and ethics in research. Students must take a two-part preliminary examination following the completion of their coursework in order to be admitted to degree candidacy for completion of their dissertation research.

At least one, if not two, manuscripts on the student's research project should be submitted for journal publication before the dissertation defense is scheduled. Production and defense of the research dissertation is the major final requirement and provides the principal measure of quality of a student's work.

Summary of Requirements for PhD Program in Anatomical Sciences

Courses Hours
Core Anatomy Courses [5] 34

Anatomy I, II







Elective Courses - 5 (recommended 2 extradepartmental) 10+
Teaching Assistantship - 3 quarters 9
Journal Club - (all quarters) 15
Research 75
Total hours: 140

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Program Plans: Program plans are recorded on a master spreadsheet which includes individual sheets for each student with their courses and grades. After the first quarter of study when the student has selected an advisor, he/she should work with the program director or dissertation research advisor to fill out a program plan which will be entered into the spreadsheet. The graduate program director can help students with their program plans until they have selected a research advisor. This document will serve as a guide for the student registration each quarter and can be modified as is appropriate.

Requirements for the MD/PhD degree are explained below:

  1. Core Courses: 34 hours
    • Graduate histology, gross anatomy and neurobiology are required core courses. A student may petition the Program Director to substitute Ana 462 (Introductory Neurobiology) for Ana 512 (Graduate Neurobiology):
      • Graduate Histology (Ana 511; 7 hrs) (F)
      • Graduate Human Anatomy I (Ana 513; 7 hrs) (F)
      • Graduate Human Anatomy II (Ana 514;7 hrs) (W)
      • Graduate Neurobiology (Ana 512; 9 hrs) (S)
      • [Introduction to Neurobiology (Ana 462; 4 hrs) (W)
    • Embryology (Ana 505; 4 hrs; W) is required for doctoral students. This course provides the balance of core course hours and will be delivered in winter quarter of alternate years. It is essentially an introduction to embryology and developmental biology held in 2 two-hour sessions each week: the first deals with organ system morphogenesis; the second involves discussion of papers in developmental and molecular biology related to the unit. The plan is to hold the departmental journal club in conjunction with these developmental biology discussions during the Embryology quarter.
  2. Electives (5): 10+ hours
    • Three of these must be 500 level electives from anatomy or from outside the department. Two may include 400 level medical courses. Recommendations include:
      • Research Methods in Anatomy (Ana 581; 4 hrs) (W or S)
      • Special Topics in Anatomy; (Ana 590; v 2 hrs) (S)
      • Cell Biology I/ II (BcH 53/,[532]; 3 hrs each) (F/W)
      • Biostatistics (PVM 541; 3 hrs) (S)
      • Molecular Biology (MIC 521; 4 hrs) (W)
      • Ethics in Research (IMM 510; 1 hr) (S)
      • Interdisciiplinary Seminar (IDS 502; 1 hr) (F-W-S
    • The Special Topics elective provides an opportunity for doctoral students to develop a background in literature related to their thesis topics and to formulate a discussion that might serve as an introduction to the Thesis.
  3. Journal Club
    • Journal Club (Ana 595; 1 hr, every quarter). Attendance by all students is required each quarter for Journal Club except with special permission of the program director. The journal club is intended to develop skills in critical evaluation of scientific papers. Discussion stresses rationale and experimental design, statistics, controls, formats for data presentation and interpretation of results. Papers are principally targeted to faculty/student research projects and provide an opportunity to expand perspectives on an area of study.
  4. Teaching Assistantship
    • The teaching assistantship (Ana 591; 3 hrs) is required in two of the three core courses (Anatomy I,II, Histology and/or Neurobiology). Ordinarily a student is expected to engage in teaching for an entire quarter; special permission is required to receive credit for assisting for part of a quarter or to be exempted from a teaching requirement.
    • Other than gross anatomy assistantships, the opportunities for teaching experience in histology and neurobiology is variable based on the format and/or number of the laboratories. See the course director.
  5. The Preliminary Examination
    • At the completion of all required courses, including advanced electives, doctoral students must pass the Preliminary Examination to achieve candidacy status. Exceptions to the rules regarding completion of all required courses must be granted by written permission from the program director: e.g. if a course necessary of completion of elective requirements is only taught in alternate years. The Preliminary Examination consists of two parts. Part I must be passed in order to take Part II of the examination. When both parts of the examination have been completed satisfactorily, a student is regarded as a degree candidate.
      • Part I: The Written Comprehensive Examination
        • Part I Guidelines: The student may be examined on any topic related to course material including extradepartmental courses. This portion of the exam is intended to explore the student's knowledge base in Anatomy and collateral subject areas. Attention is given to the student's ability to answer questions directly, to conceptualize difficult issues, and to provide well-written commentary. Answers to questions are considered for scope, depth of thought, and specific examples used to support a line of discussion. Exam Format and Grading (1/2002): The student will be given a list of questions one month before the examination which is to be scheduled over 3-4 consecutive days. The study list will consist of about 3-7 questions in each of the following categories: 1) gross anatomy; 2) histology; 3) neurobiology; 4) embryology and developmental biology; 5) cell and molecular biology; 6) collateral coursework. A question(s) questions from each of these categories will be selected for the examination which is to be taken without resource materials. One additional question will be a closed book examination on one or two questions the student has not seen beforehand. A student must receive a pass on all examination questions. Unsatisfactory performance on any question may require that the question be rewritten or that a remedial strategy be adopted. Failures on multiple sections or failure to follow remedial recommendations can subject a student to dismissal from the program.
      • Part II: The Dissertation Proposal-Oral Examination
        • Part II Guidelines: A dissertation committee (see below) needs to be selected before the scheduling of this second part of the preliminary examination. The student's Dissertation Proposal is to be presented formally to the committee members in written and oral form. The written Dissertation Proposal should be outline the project rational, methods, study endpoints, and potential significance. It is recommended that this document be formatted as an NIH grant and that its elements provide a basis for construction of the final dissertation. The student can be expected to answer questions about the proposed work or related areas in which a committee member might be interested in exploring the student's knowledge about information or methods that would help support the study. The scope of the work being proposed needs be considered carefully; the committee provides oversight in this regard.
  6. Dissertation Committee
    • All students enrolled in Doctor of Philosophy programs in the Graduate College must adhere to certain requirements and conditions for dissertation committees. For more information on these requirements, see the Rush University Catalog.
  7. Dissertation Research and Dissertation
    • Once a student has achieved candidacy, he or she works in conjunction with the research advisor. Prior to candidacy, research hours are taken pass-no pass (P/F); after candidacy grades are provided for research hours. The dissertation committee members should be updated on at least a six-month basis about the progress of this research.
    • Before a student schedules his or her dissertation defense, at least one if not two manuscripts should have been submitted by the student on the dissertation project.
    • Chapters of the dissertation may conform to the structure of any paper(s) submitted for publication usually supplemented with additional results or figures. The literature background, however, should fully set forth the scope of the project and explicitly state research questions, hypotheses, rationale, and specific aims. Discussion, which may be limited in a manuscript for publication, should be expanded to include not only interpretation of experimental results but also its significance and possibilities for extension of the work.
  8. Dissertation and Dissertation Defense
    • The dissertation should be submitted to committee members for critical review and revisions once the student and research advisor feel that the document is in satisfactory order. The committee should then be convened for the dissertation defense. Ordinarily this is conducted following a public presentation of the student's work.
    • Unsatisfactory performance on a dissertation defense would be unexpected with appropriate consultation with committee members. Issues concerning the student's dissertation should be resolved by this committee. If a resolution cannot be reached, the issues should be presented to the program director and reviewed by the Graduate Advisory Committee for recommendations to the chairman of the Department of Anatomy.
    • In order for the student to be listed for graduation and inclusion in Commencement Program for June, the dissertation defense must be completed by early May. Signatures of the committee members, research advisor, and chairman on the Rush University Degree Approval Form are necessary to validate completion of degree requirements. The student must also fill out a Rush University Intent to Graduate Form.

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