Could it finally be the biomarker for Alzheimer's that we have been looking for?

Pharmacology has historically been an interdisciplinary field, positioned where physiology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, behavioral science, and medicine converge. The pharmacology of this century will bring together an even wider range of disciplines, combining traditional aspects of pharmacology with novel approaches drawn from other disciplines, such as biophysics, biomedical engineering, and molecular genetics.

Students enter immediately into the pharmacology core curriculum which includes Foundations in Biomedical Science, Physiology, Molecular and Translational Pharmacology, Laboratory Techniques in Modern Pharmacology, Systems Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, Current Topics in Pharmacological Sciences, and three advanced electives. The average tenure of PhD candidates in the Biomolecular Pharmacology training program is five years. The major focus of the training program is the development of expertise in basic and translational research. The first 18 months of the program emphasize formal course work. In addition, upon matriculation students begin a sequence of three required laboratory rotations. The laboratory rotations provide students with the opportunity to investigate potential areas for dissertation research while enhancing the breadth of their training.

During the last three years in the program, the primary emphasis is on dissertation research. Students are also required to complete advanced level course work, report on their dissertation research, and participate in activities consistent with their development as future scientists. Details of these activities are provided below. Students in the program receive essential training in pharmacology with a special emphasis on molecular pharmacology. The goal of this program is to produce scientists who have an understanding of, and first-hand experience with, the major questions and technologies on the cutting edge of molecular pharmacology.

Course Requirements

The Core Courses – 24 Credits
Foundations in Biomedical Sciences I, II, III, IV (GMS FC 711 Protein Structure, Catalysis and Interaction, GMS FC 712 Structure and Function of the Genome, GMS FC 713 Architecture and Dynamics of the Cell, GMS FC 714 Mechanisms of Cell Communication)
Molecular & Translational Pharmacology GMS PM 701 (2 cr)
Molecular Neurobiology & Pharmacology GMS PM 702 (2 cr)
Systems Pharmacology & Therapeutics I and II GMS PM 801, 802 (2 cr each)
Current Topics in Pharmacological Sciences GMS PM 810 (2 cr)
Technical and Professional Skills in Pharmacology GMS PM 932
Program electives — 6 credits minimum
GMS FC 715 Physiology of the Specialized Cell (3)
GMS PM 820 Behavioral Pharmacology (2 cr)
GMS PM 881 Drug Discovery and Development (2 cr)
GMS FC 720 Statistical Reasoning for the Basic Biomedical Sciences (3 cr)
SPH BS 704 Introduction to Biostatistics (3 cr)
GMS AN 704 Experimental Design and Statistics (3 cr)
GMS MS 700 Elementary Biostatistics (2 cr)
GMS AN 810 Systems Neurobiology (4 cr)
GMS AN 811 Cognitive Neuroscience (4 cr)
GRS MA 665/666 An Introduction to Mathematical Models & Data Analysis in Neuroscience (2 cr)
GMS BY 760 Foundations of Biophysics and Structural Biology (4 cr)
GMS BY 771 Biophysics of Macromolecular Assemblies (4 cr)
GMS BY 772 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in Biology & Biochemistry (2 cr)
ENG BE 560 Biomolecular Architecture (4 cr)
ENG BE 561 DNA and Protein Sequence Analysis (4 cr)
ENG BE 565 Molecular Biotechnology (2 cr)
ENG BE 568 Systems Biology of Human Disease (4 cr)
ENG BE 726 Fundamentals of Biomaterials (4 cr)
ENG BE 727 Principles and Applications of Tissue Engineering (4 cr)
GMS BI 776 Gene Targeting in Transgenic Mice (2 cr)
GMS BI 777 Techniques in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology (2 cr)
GMS MS 710 Transdisciplinary Addiction Science (2 cr)
GMS MS 783 Molecular Basis of Neurologic Disease (2 cr)
GRS NE 741 Neural systems: Functional circuit analysis (4 cr)
GRS NE 742 Neural systems: Cognition and Behavior (4 cr)
CAS CN 510 Principles and Methods of Cognitive and Neural Modeling (4 cr)
GMS MM 703 Cancer Biology and Genetics (2 cr)
GMS MM 710 Molecules to Molecular Therapeutics (4 cr)
GMS FC 715 Translational Genetics and Genomics (3 cr)

Laboratory Rotations -4 credits
GMS PM 710 Laboratory Techniques in Modern Pharmacology (2 cr; two semesters required in the first year; this is a laboratory rotation course and students may elect to complete additional laboratory rotations during the spring and summer of the first year)

Laboratory Rotations:
During the first year, predoctoral trainees register for two semesters of GMS PM 710 Laboratory Techniques in Modern Pharmacology, in which they complete three laboratory rotations of seven weeks each. Students choose rotation mentors from the participating faculty members of the Program, independent of department affiliation. This rotation experience provides exposure to a variety of experimental approaches to the study of pharmacology. Trainees are encouraged to select rotations in laboratories that approach problems from different perspectives, in keeping with the fundamental goal of providing them a broad and more complete understanding of research strategies that have been developed to address questions of pharmacological importance.

The Biomolecular Pharmacology seminar program has been expanded through support provided by institutional sources, the endowed Sterling Drug Visiting Professorship, and an award from the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation. All students are required to attend pharmacology seminars. In addition, students register for at least one semester of Current Topics in Pharmacological Sciences. In this course, the guest lecturer attends student presentations of research paper(s) related to the lecturer’s research. Discussion includes consideration of strategies for enhancing the rigor of scientific research and the reproducibility of experimental observations. This course has proved to be highly successful in providing students with the essential background to the seminar speaker’s work and thereby preparing the students to participate actively in the department seminar.

Qualifying Examination:
The qualifying examination for PhD candidates consists of a written and oral examination. PhD candidates are expected to take the qualifying exam no later than the end of the second curricular year. MD/PhD candidates normally take the exam at the end of their first year of graduate studies. The written portion of the qualifying exam is in the form of a research proposal on a topic selected by the student. The subject matter of the proposal is usually related to the topic of the student’s thesis research or may be on a separate topic. The topic of the proposal must be substantially original; it must not duplicate projects previously proposed or assigned by the student’s mentor. The oral portion of the qualifying examination is conducted by a Qualifying Exam Committee and assesses the students grasp of the hypothesis, experimental design, and understanding of statistics.