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.
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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.
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
BSDP students are guided through two key training steps during their first year: selection of their program/curriculum and matching with their dissertation laboratory. In anticipation of completing these two steps, students spend their first year taking courses while performing research rotations in laboratories in their area(s) of interest. The coursework and curriculum are chosen with the guidance of an academic counselor from one of the Ph.D. programs. Although each program is unique, the coursework will normally include a series of foundational and elective courses as well as seminars. Research rotations can be performed in a wide range of participating laboratories. Students should join both a Ph.D. program and a dissertation laboratory by the end of the spring semester of their first year.
After selecting their Ph.D. programs and dissertation training labs, students continue taking courses (typically through the second year), continue participating in journal clubs and seminars (typically throughout their training), and initiate or expand independent, mentored research projects in their dissertation labs. Students identify faculty members to serve on their graduate advisory committees and take comprehensive exams administered by the individual programs typically toward the completion of the second year. Upon completion of these key steps, students focus on their research projects and research productivity (publishing articles, presenting at regional, national and international conferences, etc.). Ph.D. training culminates with each student writing and defending a dissertation, typically 5 years after initially enrolling via the BSDP.
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.
Applicants to the BSDP must have earned a baccalaureate (i.e. bachelor's) degree (or higher) in the biological, chemical or related sciences by the time of enrollment. Successful applicants will have completed undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry through organic chemistry, and mathematics often through calculus. Typically, we target applicants with grade point averages of 3.3 or higher and substantial research experience in a biological, biomedical or chemical laboratory setting. International applicants must have a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS. We take a holistic approach when evaluating applications, though, and strength in one or more aspects of an application can compensate for another area that is not as well developed.
A completed application contains all information requested on-line, transcripts, three letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Letters of recommendation should comment on the applicant's suitability for graduate training and on the applicant's research or other relevant experience. The personal statement should be 500-1000 words and describe the applicant's:
- anticipated Ph.D. programs/curriculum (if known)
- research or other relevant experience including the overall project goals and the applicant's role (e.g. design of experiments, performing experiments independently, data collection under the guidance of a more senior laboratory member, etc.) in the experiments
- main graduate research interests and a short list of prospective faculty mentors
- rationale for pursuing Ph.D. training and any tentative career plans
- other pertinent information that will help us evaluate the applicant as a prospective Ph.D. trainee including information on circumstances that may have hindered the applicant's progress or development
International applicants must provide TOEFL or IELTS scores (VCU code 5570). In addition, international applicants must arrange to have their academic credentials evaluated by a service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) and must include the evaluation of their credentials in the application for graduate training. See VCU Graduate Admissions for more information.
Applicants with governmental or other scholarships, fellowships, etc. should also submit a copy of the financial guarantee or award letters.
Applicants should make every effort to submit all documents electronically to ensure efficient handling. Please contact VCU Graduate Admissions at email@example.com for instructions regarding materials that cannot be submitted electronically.
After being reviewed, selected applicants for the 2020-2021 application cycle will be invited for a day-long session of virtual interviews. The interviews are a critical step in the admissions process during which we learn more about the applicants and the applicants learn more about VCU. Applicants should be prepared to discuss their prior training at a depth appropriate for their level of education and experience during the interviews.
Interview dates for 2021 t.b.a.
Roxann Roberson-Nay, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Graduate Recruitment and Admissions
Mary Rosenthal, M.S.
Tomasz Kordula, Ph.D.
Rita Shiang, Ph.D.
Lisa Shock, Ph.D.
John Bigbee, Ph.D.
Keith Shelton, Ph.D.
Christina I. Kyrus, M.B.A.