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.

Graduate education in Physiology and Biophysics is a highly individualized enterprise of which the formal course requirements comprise only a portion. The degree programs described here provide an opportunity for apprenticeship in research and, through this, the development of a capacity for scholarship. The essence of this type of education lies in the development of a close relationship between the student and the faculty advisor. The advisor and the student, jointly and with the approval of the Chairman of the Department and the Dean of Medicine, select the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee.

The Graduate Advisory Committee serves several functions. First, it guides the student’s selection of elective courses and conducts such oral examinations as are appropriate to the degree program. It also helps to guide the student’s dissertation research, determines acceptability of the dissertation and conducts the student’s final oral examination. The importance of selecting an advisor and committee requires that this be done no later than twelve months after matriculation. Changes may be made in advisor or composition of the committee any time thereafter. Prior to the selection of a dissertation advisor in the student's first year, the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal will assign a first year advisor to all new graduate students; the BSDP advisor will maintain close contact with the students during the first year and guide them toward courses and rotation laboratories aimed toward their ultimate goals.


For students wishing to specialize immediately in Physiology and Biophysics, the first year curriculum outlined below is recommended but not required.

Fall Semester
o PHIS 501-002 (5): 5 credits
o PHIS 691-501 (2): 2 credits
o BIOC 503-001 (5): 5 credits
o BIOC 691 (1): 1 credit
o IBMS 600 (1): 1 credit
o IBMS 610 (0.5): 0.5 credit
o PHIS 690-901 (1): 1 credit
o PHIS 697-801 (2): 2 credits
TOTAL = 17.5 credits

Spring Semester
o PHIS 606-001 (3): 3 credits
o PHIS 692-606 (1): 1 credit
o BIOC 504-001 (5): 5 credits
o PHIS 690-901 (1): 1 credit
o PHIS 697-801 (2): 2 credits
o Complete Phase 1
TOTAL = 12 credits

Summer Session
o PHIS 697: Research or 3rd rotation: 1-6 credits
o Grantsmanship (New Course), 2 credits
TOTAL = 3-8 credits

Back to top