The Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) at VCU is 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. 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.

BSDP Virtual Open House

Tuesday, Nov. 9, 4-6 p.m.

Join us for a virtual open house to learn more about the six Ph.D. programs supported by the BSDP. Hosted by Dr. Roxann Roberson-Nay, the assistant dean for graduate recruitment admissions, the event will feature an introduction of the BSDP, presentations by each program director and opportunities to engage with current students in breakout rooms.

Register here

See Yourself in Science

What is it like to learn and train at VCU? Here’s what some of our current graduate students have to say about their experience in and out of the lab.

View this video in fullscreen on Kaltura


The Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry is designed to prepare students for research-oriented careers in academia or the private sector. Trainees in the program develop a broad knowledge of biochemistry and molecular biology in addition to skills in laboratory techniques, critical thinking, experimental design, and data analysis. Trainees complete an original research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The program has nationally and internationally recognized faculty members investigating cellular and molecular signaling, structural biology, eukaryotic molecular biology, lipid and membrane biochemistry, enzymology, and tumor biology. For more information, please see the website for the program or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.

Human Genetics

The Ph.D. program in human genetics prepares students for life-long careers by developing their knowledge of human genetics and skills in oral and written communication, study design, critical thinking, data analysis and interpretation, working with large data sets, research reproducibility and open science 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 or clinical diagnostic fellowships slots. A concentration in quantitative genetics is also available as well as an unique dual degree program with a Ph.D. in Human Genetics and a M.S. in Genetic Counseling. For more information, please see the websites for the Human Genetics graduate programs and the Department of Human & Molecular Genetics or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.


The Neuroscience Program offers an integrated, interdepartmental curriculum leading to the Ph.D. degree. Graduate students train in a laboratory with one of 60 faculty members investigating molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, behavioral or clinical neuroscience while pursuing course work in several foundational areas of neuroscience. The Neuroscience Ph.D. Program therefore provides students with core knowledge in the structure and function of the central nervous system while allowing flexibility in the choice of the students’ advisors, electives and areas of research specialization. Graduates from the Neuroscience Ph.D. Program are prepared for independent research or other leadership careers in academia or the private sector. For more information, please see the website for the program or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.

Microbiology & Immunology

The goal of the Ph.D. program in Microbiology and Immunology is to prepare students to become creative problem-solvers and leaders in scientific research. Ph.D. students conduct an original, independent research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor, leading to a dissertation. Our students’ research experience is complemented with excellent course offerings providing a core foundation of knowledge, seminar programs, teaching opportunities, presentations at scientific meetings and writing scientific papers and grant proposals. Our department has an outstanding faculty with diverse research interests, extending flexibility to students in their choice of a research mentor. Our graduates are competitive for postdoctoral training positions and are well-prepared to function as independent scientific investigators. For more information, please see the websites for the program and the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.

Pharmacology & Toxicology

The mission of the Pharmacology & Toxicology Ph.D. Program is to prepare trainees for leadership positions in the biomedical sciences. Trainees pursue graduate course work (including electives in specialty areas) and complete an original research project under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Trainees can pursue research projects in a broad range of areas including neuro-behavioral pharmacology, drugs of abuse, cardiovascular pharmacology, gastrointestinal pharmacology and cancer therapeutics. Graduates from the Ph.D. Program in Pharmacology & Toxicology are prepared for careers as independent investigators and leaders in research and teaching in academia, research and regulatory oversight in government, and research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. For more information, please see the websites for the program and the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.

Physiology & Biophysics

Doctoral training in Physiology and Biophysics is an individualized enterprise that combines didactic course work, a significant apprenticeship in research supervised by an advisor, and the preparation and oral defense of a dissertation. The goals of the program are acquisition of a knowledge base and the development of analytical, critical thinking, presentation and scholarship skills. Students develop an original research project in one of several areas including molecular biophysics, cardiovascular physiology, gastrointestinal physiology, chemical senses and neuroscience. This program exposes students to important, modern questions addressed via physiological and biophysical approaches at the molecular, cellular, organ and system levels. Graduates from our program pursue diverse careers in academia, government, and industry. For more information, please see the program's website or Contact Us. Please also see How to Apply for application instructions.

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. 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 $30,000 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
  • 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 January 1 of the anticipated enrollment year. Applications completed after this date will be reviewed only as remaining spaces permit.


Please contact the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal (BSDP) office or any of the BSDP programs for more information. You also can fill out our contact form.




Human Genetics

Microbiology and Immunology


Pharmacology and Toxicology

Physiology and Biophysics


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

Mary Rosenthal, M.S.
E-mail: mary.rosenthal@vcuhealth.org

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

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

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

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

Keith Shelton, Ph.D.
Program Director
E-mail: keith.shelton@vcuhealth.org

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