Academic Program

University Requirements for a PhD

Doctoral students must complete a total of 90 credits hours.

  • 30 hours of pathology courses (includes seminar & Individual study courses)
  • 30 hours of dissertation research
  • 30 hours of elective courses in areas related to the student's thesis topic

Detailed information regarding the requirements for completing a PhD, and resources for doing so, can be found on the Graduate School's website. 

Pathology Department Requirements for a PhD

In addition to meeting the basic university requirements, pathology PhD students are required to take General Pathology, Critical Review of Scientific Publications, and Seminar. In addition, students are expected to do three 6-10 week lab rotations before picking a thesis advisor and laboratory.  At the end of the second year, all students must take a qualifying exam, which contains three parts: 1) a one day written exam testing the students basic knowledge and ability to critically analyze and interpret data, 2) a written thesis prospectus describing the proposed thesis project, and 3) an oral defense of the prospectus. Part one is administered and graded by the departmental graduate officer and selected faculty members, parts 2 and 3 are administered and graded by the students thesis advisor and PhD thesis committee members. Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam, the student becomes an PhD Candidate.

Typical Curriculum and Academic Timeline

Year 1

  • The Fall term of the first year is devoted entirely to course work.  Students in all School of Medicine PhD programs take Biomedical Molecular Biology and Biomedical Cell Biology in this term. These two complementary courses are designed to provide a comprehensive, research oriented education in the basic biological processes relevant to biomedical research, as well as a theoretical understanding of the techniques used to study them.
  • The Winter term of the first year is divided between between course work and lab rotations.  Courses are electives chosen to complement the students research interests and are focused on specific physiological systems.
  • The Summer term is entirely focused on laboratory rotations, with the goal of choosing a thesis advisor and lab by the beginning of the second year.

Year 2

  • During the Fall term of the second year students take General Pathology and begin their thesis research.
  • The Winter term of the second year is divided between electives and research. The student may give their first departmental research seminar during this period.
  • The Summer term is focused on research and passing the qualifying exam.


Years 3-5

  • These years are comprised almost entirely of thesis research with a relatively small amount of coursework (mainly Seminar, Critical Review of Scientific Publications and electives related to the students research area).

PhD research advisors