PhD Programs

The School of Medicine provides a broad range of Ph.D. training opportunities in basic through applied biomedical and social sciences, public health, translational research and other areas. Although each program is unique, all students pursuing Ph.D. degrees complete coursework and an independent research project leading to a dissertation under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Graduates of our doctoral programs are well positioned for national and international positions as postdoctoral scientists in academia and industry, scientific publishing, higher education and numerous other areas requiring highly skilled, critically thinking, creative leaders.

Please see the individual programs below for specific information about doctoral training opportunities in the VCU School of Medicine. Note that programs on the left are part of the VCU Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal and have a common admissions process.

Biochemistry

Program Overview:

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.

Contact:

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

PhD in Biostatistics

Program Overview:

Data are an abundant feature in nearly all professions, from medicine and public health to business and government. As the amount of data available to us increases in both quantity and complexity, the abilities to manage data, to analyze and make meaning out of data, and to communicate what data show, are becoming increasingly important. The trend of complicated data being drawn from progressively disparate sources has naturally necessitated the creation of more sophisticated methods that can handle such complexity. The VCU Department of Biostatistics has trained biostatisticians for over 40 years and continues to help students prepare for an ever-changing landscape. In addition to training in database management and analysis, our students are provided experiential training in biostatistical collaboration and consulting, where they work with real researchers on actual projects. Our Ph.D. students also conduct original and novel methodological research that helps address the complexities of modern data analyses. Our graduates are well-prepared to serve as leaders in academia, industry and state and federal agencies.

Contact:

Russ Boyle, M.A. 
Program Director
804-828-9824
E-mail: russell.boyle@vcuhealth.org

Human Genetics

Program Overview:

Our Ph.D. program in human genetics prepares students for life-long careers by developing their knowledge of the field and skills in writing, laboratory techniques, critical thinking, data interpretation, study design, literature research and review, and data integration while fostering the student’s development toward being an independent researcher, laboratory director or teacher. Additionally, our program provides students with a core foundation of knowledge which will equip them to carry out translational research and compete for postdoctoral training slots.

Contact:

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

PhD in Epidemiology

Program Overview:

The mission of the Ph.D. Program in Epidemiology is to educate and train students to become independent, competent and self-directed research scientists so they can conduct outstanding clinical and population-based research. Students will learn methods for studying disease etiology and prevention in populations and evaluating interventions, diagnostic tests and treatment efficacy; they will implement such methods in an independent research study under the mentorship of an experienced epidemiology researcher.

Contact:

Lisa S. Anderson, MPH
Director of Educational Programs
804-628-2512 
E-mail: lisa.s.anderson@vcuhealth.org

Microbiology & Immunology

Program Overview:

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.

Contact:

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

PhD in Healthcare Policy and Research

Program Overview:

The Ph.D. in Healthcare Policy and Research, offered through Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, trains students to use economic and statistical frameworks and methods to address important health policy issues. In preparation for academic careers or senior research positions in government or the private sector, students receive methodological and policy training supplemented with electives in health services research, economics, statistical methods, decision sciences, organizational theory and other public health domains. The program provides dedicated mentoring to support students as they conduct independent original research and develop individual research portfolios. Students also have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty on research projects throughout their academic experience.

Contact:

Kate Grant, M.S.
Program Coordinator
804-828-5329
E-mail: kate.grant@vcuhealth.org

Neuroscience

Program Overview:

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.

Contact:

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

PhD in Medical Physics

Program Overview:

The CAMPEP-accredited Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Physics at VCU offers students course work and research training as it is applied to the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Research interests include topics such as functional imaging using PET and NMR, CT image artifact removal and deformation, radiation therapy dose calculations, 4D radiation therapy, and brachytherapy. To apply to the VCU Medical Physics Graduate program, you must complete and submit an electronic application through the university's graduate admissions page. More informaiton can be found at https://medicalphysics.vcu.edu/information/faq/

Contact:

William Song, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-628-3457
E-mail: william.song@vcuhealth.org

Pharmacology & Toxicology

Program Overview:

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.

Contact:

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

PhD in Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

Program Overview:

The Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences offers doctoral level training that prepares students to make meaningful, independent scientific contributions to public health. Students in the SBS doctoral program will acquire the skills to become scientists, educators and program administrators in a broad spectrum of healthcare areas and settings. Our program equips students with an understanding of health as the intersection of structural, cultural, social, behavioral and biological factors. The program trains students to design and interpret studies that address the questions that can contribute to the state of the science in public health. Through innovative instruction with an emphasis on applied research and personalized mentorship, students gain the skills needed to make meaningful, independent scientific contributions in social and behavioral science and health. Students have opportunities to work with patients in clinical and community settings and to collaborate with faculty on research projects.

Contact:

Kate Grant, M.S.
Program Coordinator
804-828-5329
E-mail: kate.grant@vcuhealth.org

Physiology & Biophysics

Program Overview

Students working toward the Ph.D. are considered applicants until they have been admitted to candidacy upon proving evidence of superior scholarship. As a minimum, this evidence shall consist of:

  1. Completion of at least two years of course work with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 overall and in courses taken within the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Research and Seminar shall not be included in the computation of the grade point average.
  2. Passing Phase 1: Comprehensive Exam
    See this page (section titled, Candidacy Years) for details.
  3. Passing Phase 2: Thesis Proposal Exam
    See this page (section titled, Candidacy Years) for details

Guidelines for our Ph.D. Program are linked Program Guidelines 2015-2016.

PhD in Molecular Biology & Genetics

Program Overview

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.

How to Apply

All prospective Ph.D. students (except for applicants to Epidemiology, Healthcare Policy and Research and Social and Behavioral Sciences) must apply on-line through the VCU Office of Graduate Admissions. To apply to a Ph.D. program, 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 the Program or Programs of interest as indicated in the table below
  • Complete the application(s)

To apply to

Select

Biochemistry

Biochemistry - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Human Genetics

Human Genetics - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Microbiology and Immunology

Microbiology and Immunology - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology and Genetics - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Neuroscience

Neuroscience - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Pharmacology and Toxicology

Pharmacology and Toxicology- Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Physiology and Biophysics

Physiology and Biophysics - Doctoral Portal or

Biomedical Sciences - Undifferentiated - Doctoral Portal

Biostatistics

Biostatistics or

Biostatistics-Genomic Biostatistics

Epidemiology

more information

Healthcare Policy and Research

more information

Medical Physics

Medical Physics

Social and Behavioral Sciences

more information

*The first six Ph.D. options have a common admissions process organized by the Biomedical Science Doctoral Portal.

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.

VCU School of Medicine Financial Aid Office

Contacts

Please contact the individuals below for additional information about each Ph.D. program.

Program

Biochemistry



Biostatistics



Epidemiology



Health Care Policy Research



Human Genetics



Medical Physics



Microbiology and Immunology



Molecular Biology and Genetics



Neuroscience



Pharmacology and Toxicology



Physiology and Biophysics



Social and Behavioral Sciences



Contact

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

Russ Boyle, M.A. 
Program Director
804-828-9824
E-mail: russell.boyle@vcuhealth.org

Lisa S. Anderson, MPH
Director of Educational Programs
804-628-2512 
E-mail: lisa.s.anderson@vcuhealth.org

Kate Grant, M.S.
Program Coordinator
804-828-5329
E-mail: kate.grant@vcuhealth.org

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

William Song, Ph.D.
Program Director
804-628-3457
E-mail: william.song@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

Kate Grant, M.S.
Program Coordinator
804-828-5329
E-mail: kate.grant@vcuhealth.org