NIGMS Program in Biomolecular Pharmacology

Retention, Time-to-Degree, and Career Outcomes

Of the 61 appointees to the Biomolecular Pharmacology Training Grant in the last 15 years, 87% earned the Ph.D. degree (7% completed with an M.A. degree). The average time-to-degree has been 5.2 years for the 20 most recent graduates enrolled since September 2007. The current professional positions of graduates in the last 15 years reflect the diversity of opportunities available for Ph.D.s with expertise in pharmacology. Thirteen graduates are employed in eleven pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies of varying sizes, from Pfizer (the world’s largest), Abbvie (a spinoff of Abbott Research Laboratories), and a variety of start-up companies. Graduates are also engaged in research within academic programs, including UPenn, Iowa State University, UCLA, University of Illinois, Harvard Medical School/Boston VA, Scripps Research Institute (FL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), Kavli Institute (Norway), and BU. Among the MD/PhD graduates several are pursuing medical research, one at UCLA and another at UCSF. Other graduates are employed as: a reviewer at the FDA, medical writer, undergraduate biology professor, Program Manager at Jackson Laboratories, Senior Scientist at Abbvie, and ASPET Washington Fellow. Six graduates work in consulting firms, and several have positions as clinical trial coordinators.

There are three points of entry into the Biomolecular Pharmacology training program: PhD in Pharmacology, PhD in Biomedical Engineering, and PhD in Neuroscience.

Heart and mind

PhD in Pharmacology

Students receiving the PhD in Pharmacology enroll in the Biomolecular Pharmacology Training Program that is supported by a training grant from NIGMS. During their first year they take an integrated curriculum of basic and pharmacological sciences that prepares them for more advanced study through a unique training partnership with Pfizer, bringing students with industrial experience into the classroom, providing a drug discovery course taught by industrial leaders, and summer internships for graduate students at the Pfizer Cambridge site. Three major focus areas for thesis research and advanced elective study are available: Cancer, Cardiovascular, and Biomedical Neuroscience. Administration of the PhD is through the Graduate Education Committee of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

PhD in Biomedical Engineering

PhD in Biomedical Engineering

Students admitted into the Department of Biomedical Engineering on the Charles River campus (CRC) can join the Biomolecular Pharmacology Training Program. Laboratory rotations are offered with CRC and BUSM research groups. Students take shared curriculum with pharmacology students, attend pharmacology events and seminars, and gain an invaluable translational perspective for their studies. Administration of the PhD is through the Department of Biomedical Engineering on the Charles River campus.

PhD in Neuroscience

Students receive their PhD in Neuroscience via the university-wide Graduate Program for Neuroscience (GPN). During their first year they take core neuroscience coursework that spans all areas of neuroscience including behavioral, cognitive, computational, molecular and systems. During their second year they have the option to specialize in neuropharmacology by joining the NIGMS Biomolecular Pharmacology Training program and take core coursework in pharmacological sciences with Pharmacology and Biomedical Engineering PhD students. Administration of the PhD is through the GPN Steering Committee.