Ph.D. Program

Trainee Recruitment, Selection and Retention



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The Program in Physiology and Biophysics targets four major national meetings: Biophysical Society, American Physiological Society, SACNAS (minority recruitment), and ABRCMS (minority recruitment). The Biophysical and American Physiological Society meetings are well attended by faculty in the program who man a booth to disseminate information about the program in particular and the VCU School of Medicine at large. Dr. De Felice, who is in charge of graduate recruitment for the program and the School of Medicine, brings strong recruitment experience, having led a very successful Neuroscience Program and the minority Bridges Program at Vanderbilt University. He has already provided presence of the Training Program in Physiology and Biophysics at regional (Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences, Virginia Academy of Sciences, university fairs in Virginia and in neighboring states), and national meetings targeting undergraduates interested in research careers. The Program also taps into VCU resources (the Honors College, HHMI undergraduates, and HERO programs) including its own Summer Undergraduate Research Program (see below). A brochure has been developed summarizing the Training Program and primary faculty research interests to be distributed to directors of targeted undergraduate programs and students who inquire about training opportunities in Physiology and Biophysics. The Program is committed to diversity in recruitment and enrollment and is actively engaged in School of Medicine initiatives to promote underrepresented minorities.



Admission to the PhD programs in the first year is through the BSDP, as described above. After the first year, students matching to laboratories in the Physiology and Biophysics Program are reviewed by the Steering Committee of the Program, which has the authority of an Admissions committee to accept or reject a student. 


Oversight and Retention

The first year advisor, appointed by the BSDP, is Dr. Roland N. Pittman and Ms. Kelly Bowery for students interested in Physiology and Biophysics. During the first year academic progress is tracked closely by the BSDP and is reported to the GPD. After a student has selected Physiology and Biophysics and joined a research group, progress is tracked by his or her research mentor, under the oversight of the Graduate Program Director and Coordinator. 

Twice a year the mentor submits a brief written report describing the student's status and progress. These reports are discussed at meetings of the Graduate Program Training/Research Committee, which includes as members all faculty in whose laboratories a student is currently training. In addition, following completion of the Phase 1 Qualifying Exam, the student meets with his or her Dissertation Committee at least once a year.  Prior to each of these meetings the student should prepare (or update) an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and submit a printed synopsis to his/her Dissertation Committee, to the GPC (Kelly Bowery), and to the Graduate School. (A convenient resource for preparation of the IDP is


Current Ph.D. Students

The current Ph.D. trainees are listed below. For more information, visit the Student Directory.

Ph.D. Students: (year of matriculation, Graduate Year, [lab head])

  • Alkahtani, Reem (2012, G4) [Karnam]
  • Bennett, Ashley (2014, G2) [Ramsey]
  • Cao, Tuoxin (2011, G5) [Ramsey]
  • Davis, Michael (2012, G4) [Rubin]
  • Ellaithy, Amr (2013, G3) [Logothetis]
  • Hatcher, Candice (2010, G6) [Logothetis]
  • Hendon, Tyler (2014, G2) [Hackett]
  • Idikuda, Vinaykumar (2013, G3) [Zhou]
  • Nalli, Ancy Dimpy (2013, G3) [Karnam]
  • Park, Sung (2010, G6) [Baumgarten]
  • Ruchala, Iwona (2012, G4) [De Felice]
  • Santosh, Vishaka (2013, G3) [Escalante]
  • Steele, Tyler (2012, G4) [De Felice]
  • Waite, Christopher (2013, G3) [Zhou]
  • Xiang, Guoqing (2013, G3) [Logothetis]
  • Younkin, Jason (2010, G6) [Logothetis]

M.D./Ph.D. Students

  • Blakeney, Adam (2013, G2) [Heise]
  • Ha, Junghoon (2011, G4) [Logothetis]


Masters Program

All prospective students for the Master of Science (MS) degree in Physiology and Biophysics generally enter through the Premedical Graduate Health Sciences Certificate Program, or an equivalent program: The Certificate Program is usually a duration of one year and students must successfully graduate from this program in order to enter our Masters program. Certificate Program students who have interest in applying to our Masters program should email the Physiology and Biophysics Program Coordinator (Christina Kyrus, no later than April 30th of that year, for Summer entry. 

After the Certificate program, a minimum of two semesters (30 credit hours) in residence is required for the Masters Degree. Although most MS students will pursue careers in professional schools, it is hoped that the exposure to research will serve as an invaluable experience that will shape the way in which these students will approach their future studies and careers. Often enough, students pursuing the MS degree become excited by research and decide to pursue a career in biomedical research, instead of one as a health practitioner. More information is found in the MS Program Section.


Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP)

The goal of this program is to recruit academically excellent undergraduate students in order to engage them in research projects during the summer with the goal of interesting them in research. Our hope is that we will enrich the candidate pools for the PhD and MD/PhD programs of the School of Medicine at VCU. The program provides limited support to 1-3 students (a $2,500 stipend for living expenses and, if needed, additional assistance for housing). The duration of SURP in Physiology and Biophysics is 10 weeks, usually from mid May to end of July. Several other students also join the program without support. Mechanisms to enhance interactions among participating students and faculty include: 1) a breakfast gathering once per week with scientific presentations from members of the Department hosting students, student presentations of progress reports, and group discussion of original papers from labs participating in the program; and 2) departmental social events (happy hours, doctoral student post-defense parties, etc.). At the conclusion of the program, each student presents a poster summarizing his/her results at the “SURP in Physiology and Biophysics Poster Symposium”. Dr. Qinglian Liu serves as the SURP Director.