Overview

The Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) at VCU is as an entry point for students interested in doctoral training leading to careers in academic research, biotechnology, scientific policy-making, higher education, and many other areas. The BSDP oversees admissions for and recruits students into six Ph.D. programs within the School of Medicine. Five of these programs are departmentally based (Biochemistry, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Physiology and Biophysics) and one program (Neuroscience) is interdepartmental. Additionally, students may elect a curriculum concentration in Molecular Biology and Genetics within several of these Ph.D. programs. Within each program, students follow a unique curriculum and have research training experiences that align with the interests of the students and individual faculty mentors.

Please follow the links below for more information about doctoral training in each of the Ph.D. programs associated with the BSDP.

Biochemistry

Program Description

The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students for a research-oriented career in academia or the private sector. The core of this degree program is an original independent research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. While emphasizing independent research in biochemistry and molecular biology, the program also provides a background of courses designed to match the needs and interests of each student. A recommended schedule of courses is shown below. Selection of an independent research project, leading to a final thesis and dissertation, is facilitated by a series of "rotations." PhD students are expected to enroll as full-time graduate students.

PhD Curriculum in Biochemistry Molecular Biology

Ph.D. students in Biochemistry take courses designed for graduate students with an emphasis on research design and experimentation. Usually, a student will have earned about 30 semester hour credits before taking the written examination. For students holding the MD, DDS, or other professional degrees, successful completion of biochemistry / cell biology is equivalent to the BIOC 503-504 series.

The following graduate courses are required:

  • BIOC 690.901: Biochemistry Seminar (each semester)
  • BIOC 690.902: Biochemistry Student Seminar (each semester)
  • BIOC 691.901: Special Topics in Biochemistry/Student Journal Club (each semester years 02-04 in the program)

The following graduate courses are recommended:

  • Laboratory rotation (typically year 01, arranged through the BSDP admissions portal)
  • BIOC 503: Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology I (typically year 01)
  • BIOC 504: Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology II (typically year 01)
  • BIOC 602: Physical Properties of Macromolecules (1-4 modules, typically year 01)*
  • BIOC 604: Enzymology (1-3 modules, typically year 02)*
  • BIOC 605: Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology (typically year 02)
  • MICR 507: Techniques in Molecular Biology and Genetics (typically year 02)
  • BIOC 691.904: Special Topics in Biochemistry: Critical Thinking (typically year 01)
  • MICR 512: Laboratory Safety (typically year 01)
  • MICR 510: Scientific Integrity (typically year 02)
  • BIOC 697: Directed research in Biochemistry (each semester)
  • BIOC 606, Control Processes & Signal Transduction
  • BIOC 601, Lipids & Membranes
  • MICR 605, Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics
  • ANAT 615, Techniques in Neuroscience and Cell Biology
  • MICR 653, Adv. Molecular Genetics: Bioinformatics
  • GEN 501, Human Genetics
  • MICR 505, Immunology
  • PHTX 691.803, Research Design Analysis (statistics)

Contact Information

Tomasz Kordula, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-0771
E-mail: tomasz.kordula@vcuhealth.org

Human Genetics

Graduate Programs

The Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University is home to internationally recognized faculty members with diverse research interests. Graduate students can choose from a wide range of rigorous laboratory and classroom training opportunities. Additionally, our department offers clinical training experiences that provide a unique advantage to students as they  progress through their careers at VCU and beyond. Even for students that do not anticipate a career in clinical genetics per se, exposure to the clinical aspects of human genetics is an invaluable experience, particularly when combined with strong traditional classroom and laboratory training.

The Department of Human and Molecular Genetics offers three programs of graduate study leading to three different degrees: a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Genetics, a Master of Science (M.S.) in Human Genetics, and a Master of Science (M.S.) in Genetic Counseling.  Additionally, our department offers a dual Ph.D. in Human Genetics/M.S. in Genetic Counseling and participates in training leading to a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree.

The mission of the graduate program is to train scientists and genetic counselors for research, teaching and clinical service in the rapidly expanding field of human genetics.  Major areas of study include the following broad categories: molecular carcinogenesis and experimental therapeutics; neurogenetics, neurodegeneration and deafness; development and differentiation; psychiatric genetics; quantitative genetics; clinical genetics and genetic counseling.

For more information on our graduate programs, contact the appropriate program director(s):

Rita Shiang, Ph.D.
Director, Graduate Program in Human Genetics
Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
Virginia Commonwealth University
Box 980033
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0033
Phone: (804) 628-4083
Fax: (804) 827-1124

Rachel Baughman Gannaway, M.S., C.G.C.
Director of Genetic Counseling Program
Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
Virginia Commonwealth University
Box 980033
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0033
Phone: (804) 628-3507
Fax: (804) 828-3760

John M. Quillin, Ph.D., M.P.H., C.G.C.
Director, Dual Degree MSGC/Ph.D. Program
Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
Massey Cancer Center
Virginia Commonwealth University
Box 980033
Richmond, Virginia 23298-0033
Phone: (804) 628-1925
Fax: (804) 827-4100

For additional information, please see the VCU Graduate School or Graduate Bulletin websites.

Neuroscience

Program overview

The doctoral program in neuroscience at Virginia Commonwealth University offers an interdepartmental, integrated curriculum for graduate study leading to the Ph.D. degree in neuroscience. The program offers flexibility for students to train in a laboratory chosen among 60 neuroscience faculty members exploring the fields of molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, behavioral and clinical neuroscience. The curriculum consists of a set of core courses and electives that are customized for each student to best complement their individual research interests.

The Neuroscience Ph.D. Program offers an interdepartmental, integrated curriculum for graduate study leading to the Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience. The Neuroscience Ph.D. Program prepares students to teach in the neuroscience disciplines at a university or academic health center, and is distinguished by its objective to prepare the students to function as an independent research investigator.

The goal of the doctoral program in neuroscience is to provide students with a core of knowledge of the basic structure and function of the central nervous system while allowing flexibility in the choice of their advisers, electives and areas of research specialization.

Upon completion of the Neuroscience Ph.D., students will have:

  • Demonstrated a mastery of Neuroscience and related Bioscience knowledge.
  • Developed effective oral, written and electronic communication skills.
  • Demonstrated the ability to formulate, design, implement and interpret experimental approaches.
  • Achieved a level of competency to advance to positions as Neuroscience researchers and teachers in a broad spectrum of academic, industrial and government employment venues.
  • Obtained employment in a Neuroscience-related position.

Contact Information

John Bigbee, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-0948
E-mail: john.bigbee@vcuhealth.org

Microbiology & Immunology

First Year of Graduate School

During the first year of graduate school for those seeking the Ph.D. degree, students rotate in laboratories and select courses from any basic science department in the School of Medicine. After this year of didactic study, students select their dissertation advisor, join his/her department and adopt the curriculum recommendations of that department. Ph.D. students typically complete at least 27 credit hours: for example, four elective courses (15-20 credits), three laboratory rotations (9 credits) and two seminars (2 credits). These credits, regardless of the departments in which they were taken, will count toward the Ph.D. requirements. Students have an option to specialize in Microbiology & Immunology immediately upon admission to the Ph.D. program simply by electing courses and laboratories exclusively within the department's program recommendations (see below). Note that official entry into Microbiology & Immunology takes place at the end of the first year. Please visit the web sites of the umbrella admissions portals for more details: Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal or Molecular Biology & Genetics. More information on pursuing the VCU M.D./Ph.D. degree can be found at the program's web site.

Contact Information

Cynthia N. Cornelissen, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-827-1754
E-mail: cynthia.cornelissen@vcuhealth.org

Physiology & Biophysics

Program Overview

The department offers courses of study leading to two graduate degrees in Physiology and Biophysics, the Master of Science (M.S.) and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). A combined M.D./Ph.D. degree program is also available through this Department and the School of Medicine. It is generally recommended that students intending to pursue careers as professional physiologists should attempt to earn the Ph.D. Work done in partial or complete fulfillment of the requirements for the M.S. may be applied toward the PhD degree provided that it is of adequate quality. A one-year post-baccalaureate Certificate program is also available for premedical and other students, and the Certificate degree is a prerequisite for admission to the M.S. program.

Students seeking a Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics enter through the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal. In their first year, all students may rotate in laboratories and select courses from any department, after which students select their dissertation advisors and thus enter the Physiology and Biophysics Doctoral Program. In the first year, students typically complete about 30 credit hours; for example, four didactic courses (15-20 credits), two or three laboratory rotations (6-9 credits) and two seminars (2 credits). These credits, regardless of the departments in which they are taken, count toward the Ph.D. requirements in Physiology and Biophysics. Students are free, however, to specialize in Physiology and Biophysics immediately by electing courses and laboratories in this program. Please visit the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal for more details. The Graduate Bulletin and the VCU Graduate School pages include more general information about graduate programs at VCU.

Contact Information

Christina I. Kyrus, M.B.A.
Program Coordinator
804-628-5506
E-mail: cikyrus@vcu.edu

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Ph.D. Program

Prospective Ph.D. students in pharmacology and toxicology are admitted through the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal. The BSDP admits students into the first year of their Ph.D. training in six departments: Anatomy and NeurobiologyBiochemistry and Molecular BiologyHuman and Molecular Genetics,Microbiology and ImmunologyPharmacology and Toxicology or Physiology and Biophysics. In addition, the portal admits students into the first year of two interdisciplinary training programs in Neuroscience and Molecular Biology and Genetics.

Students in the BSDP who seek the Ph.D. degree in pharmacology and toxicology may do all their research rotations in laboratories of the department’s faculty and take courses that satisfy the department’s requirements. Official entry into the Ph.D. program of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology occurs after two semesters when the student choses a mentor from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Admission into the BSDP does not impede the progress of applicants who are  committed to earning the Ph.D. degree in pharmacology and toxicology but offers flexibility to students who have not decided on a particular discipline or field. Visit the BSDP website for details and instructions for applying. It is helpful to indicate interest in pharmacology and toxicology in the personal statement section of the BSDP application for those prospective students committed to the department’s Ph.D. program.

Curriculum

All students in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Program take “core” courses in biochemistry, pharmacology and statistics. This is followed with advanced courses in more specialized areas of pharmacology and toxicology that relate directly to the student’s research interests. Students participate in a weekly seminar program that teaches them how to present research data more effectively.Applicants should have a baccalaureate degree in some aspect of biological science such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or in pharmacy.  Previous course work in  the following areas are encouraged:

  • General and organic chemistry
  • The biological sciences
  • Physiology
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biochemistry

Ph.D. students in pharmacology and toxicology take courses designed for graduate students with an emphasis on research design and experimentation. They do not take classes with medical students or other professional students. A full-time course load for graduate students is 15 credits in the fall and spring semesters and six credits in the summer.  Student must achieve a minimum 3.0 overall GPA in graduate courses and a minimum 3.0 GPA in pharmacology and toxicology courses to graduate.

Contact Information

Hamid I. Akbarali, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-8400
E-mail: hamid.akbarali@vcuhealth.org

Molecular Biology and Genetics (MBG)

About MBG

The Molecular Biology and Genetics (MBG) curriculum is an integrated interdisciplinary program of study that builds on the graduate programs of participating departments in the School of Medicine. The core curriculum is specifically designed to provide a strong foundation in biochemistry, cell biology and molecular genetics. Electives drawn from various departments allow individual specialization. The departments through which a Ph.D. or M.S. with a concentration in MBG can be pursued include Anatomy and Neurobiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacology and Toxicology. Participating faculty are associated not only with programs and departments within the School of Medicine, but also the Massey Cancer Center, Philips Institute for Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology (School of Dentistry), Institute of Structural Biology and Drug Discovery (School of Pharmacy), VCU Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, and the Department of Biology. The interdisciplinary approach to the solution of biological problems provided by this training is designed to teach students the flexibility and problem-solving skills necessary for success in a variety of scientific career opportunities.

Applications

PhD applicants should apply through the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal

Domestic Applications should be submitted through the VCU Graduate School. International students are directed to the VCU Office of Global Education.  Please indicate "Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal - School of Medicine - PHD" as your program on the application and "Fall semester" as your term of entry.

Contact Information

Michael McVoy, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-1739
E-mail: michael.mcvoy@vcuhealth.org

How it Works

The Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) coordinates the training of first year students that will ultimately earn Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Toxicology and Physiology and Biophysics. Additionally, the BSDP coordinates the first year of training for students pursuing the Molecular Biology and Genetics curriculum in many of the departmentally-based Ph.D. programs. Students are typically in the BSDP during year 1, after which they join a laboratory and transition into their chosen Ph.D. program.

Financial Support, Tuition & Fees

Full-time Ph.D. students typically receive financial support that includes a stipend (currently $27,000 per year) plus tuition and fees for the duration of their training as long as they are making satisfactory academic progress. U.S. citizens and permanent residents should contact the VCU School of Medicine Financial Aid Office for information on financial aid.

Contact the VCU SOM Financial Aid Office

How to Apply

All prospective Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) students must apply on-line through the VCU Office of Graduate Admissions. To apply to the BSDP, please:

  • Follow the instructions at VCU Graduate Admissions
  • Create your account in the application system
  • Set the School and Program Level filters to "School of Medicine" and "Doctoral"
  • Select "Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal"
  • Complete the application

Alternatively, applicants can apply to one or more of the component programs of the BSDP by selecting any number of the following:

  • Biochemistry - Doctoral Portal
  • Human Genetics - Doctoral Portal
  • Microbiology and Immunology - Doctoral Portal
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics - Doctoral Portal
  • Neuroscience - Doctoral Portal
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology - Doctoral Portal
  • Physiology and Biophysics - Doctoral Portal

Applicants should submit only one application regardless of areas of interest. All "Doctoral Portal" applications are reviewed by the same committee. Selection of a component program (i.e. Biochemistry - Doctoral Portal) is not binding, but does help us ensure your application is reviewed by the appropriate committee members. Applications to the BSDP should be completed (i.e. receipt of all forms, letters, transcripts, etc.) by February 1 of the anticipated enrollment year. Applications completed after this date will be reviewed only as remaining spaces permit.

Contacts

Please contact the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) office or any of the BSDP programs for more information.

Program

BSDP









Biochemistry



Human Genetics



Microbiology and Immunology



Molecular Biology and Genetics



Neuroscience



Pharmacology and Toxicology



Physiology and Biophysics



Contact

Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Graduate Recruitment and Admissions
804-828-0273
E-mail: roxann.robersonnay@vcuhealth.org

Mary Rosenthal
Coordinator
804-828-0609
E-mail: mary.rosenthal@vcuhealth.org

Tomasz Kordula, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-0771
E-mail: tomasz.kordula@vcuhealth.org

Rita Shiang, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-628-4083
E-mail: rita.shiang@vcuhealth.org

Lisa Shock, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-628-2289
E-mail: lisa.shock@vcuhealth.org

Michael McVoy, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-1739
E-mail: michael.mcvoy@vcuhealth.org

John Bigbee, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-0948
E-mail: john.bigbee@vcuhealth.org

Hamid I. Akbarali, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-828-8400
E-mail: hamid.akbarali@vcuhealth.org

Christina I. Kyrus, M.B.A.
Program Coordinator
804-628-5506
E-mail: cikyrus@vcu.edu