Master's Program

Overview and Admission Requirements for the Master of Science (M.S.) Program in Physiology and Biophysics

Master of Science Degree in Physiology and Biophysics

Graduate education in Physiology and Biophysics is a highly individualized enterprise that combines didactic course work, an apprenticeship in research supervised by a mentor, and the preparation and oral defense of a thesis.  The goals are acquisition of a knowledge base and the development of the capacity for critical thinking and scholarship. The program usually is completed in 2 years.  Individuals with a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent at the time of enrollment are eligible to apply. Although there are no absolute course requirements for admission, fundamental knowledge of general and organic chemistry, biology and mathematics are considered necessary to pursue advanced studies.  Upper-level courses in cellular and molecular biology are desirable. Previous research experience or demonstration of a serious interest in a research-oriented career is also desirable.

Prospective M.S. students also may enter upon completion of the VCU Premedical Health Sciences CERT program, and appropriate courses taken during CERT can be applied to M.S. program requirements. CERT students typically begin the M.S. the Summer after completing CERT and with diligence are able to defend the following Spring. In some cases, students defend the following Summer.  Identifying a research advisor (mentor) during Spring prior to entering the M.S. is essential and will allow CERT students to make more rapid progress.  

Research Advisor/Mentor.  Research is done in the laboratory of the chosen advisor or a candidate may rotate through several labs before deciding on a lab in which to do a research thesis project.  Selection of a research advisor is a critical step for all M.S. students and requires approval of the Graduate Program Director.  Preference is given to mentors within the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and then to our affiliate faculty.  This provides a broad range of interests and expertise to match student interests and career goals.  Potential mentors who are not part of our primary or affiliate faculty will be considered if adequately justified.  With the assistance of the research advisor, a Graduate Student Advisory Committee is selected; this committee provides additional guidance and oversight of the research project.

Teaching experience. Selected M.S. students also have the opportunity to acquire teaching experience and financial support by serving as teaching assistants for PHIZ 206 Human Physiology Laboratory for one semester.  Teaching assistants must have completed PHIS 501 and be making good progress in the program.

Thesis and Final Examination.  The thesis must be submitted to the Graduate Advisory Committee at least two weeks prior to the Final Examination. The Final Examination is an oral examination covering formal course work as well as being a defense of the thesis. Students must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 overall and in courses within the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in order to take this examination. The examiners are the Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the Dean of the School of Medicine or his representative. The examination is open to the faculty but only the examiners may vote. Their approval of the thesis with no more than one negative vote on the candidate‚Äôs performance on the examination is required. Upon successful completion of the oral examination and approval of the thesis document, the candidate is recommended for awarding of the degree.

Residency. A minimum of two semesters in residence is required for the MS. This requirement can be waived by the Director of the Graduate Program in exceptional cases.

Contact Information.
Christina I. Kyrus, M.B.A.
Program Coordinator

CURRICULUUM REQUIREMENTS    (A minimum of 30 graduate credit-hours is required for M.S.)

ElectivesSelected advanced PHIS courses 
PHIS 650 Critical Thinking in Physiology (strongly recommended) 1 credit
PHIS 512 Cardiac Function in Health and Disease 3 credits
PHIS 604 Cell Physiology: Cardiovascular & Respiratory 3 credits
PHIS 607 Molecular Basis for Disease 3 credits
PHIS 608 Cell Physiology: GI & Endocrine 3 credits
PHIS 612 Cardiovascular Physiology 3 credits
PHIS 619 Mitochondrial Pathophysiology and Human Disease 3 credits
PHIS 620 Ion Channels in Membranes 3 credits
PHIS 692 Special Topics 1-4 credits
PHIS 692-801 Molecular Biology, Genetics and Epigenetics in Psychiatry  2 credits
IBMS 635 Cellular Signalling 3 credits
Core Courses  
PHIS 501 Mammalian Physiology 5 credits
BIOC 503 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 5 credits
BIOC 504 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 5 credits
IBMS 600 Laboratory Safety   1 credit
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity 1 credit
  or OVPR 602     or Responsible Scientific Conduct  
  or OVPR 603   or Responsible Conduct of Research  
PHIS 690  Physiology Research Seminar (taken twice) 2 credits
PHIS 697 Directed Research in Physiology (each semester) 5 credits, variable
Electives Any graduate-level PHIS or other basic science 6 credits
  course with approval or additional Directed Research  
  Total credit hours 30