Academic Programs Catalog

College of Natural Science

Department of Physiology

Charles Leroy Cox, Chairperson

The Department of Physiology is administered jointly by the colleges of Natural Science, Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine.

The Department of Physiology seeks to prevent and cure diseases through basic research on genes, proteins, and the regulatory signaling systems that control fundamental processes of cellular life.

Medical research in the modern era has enabled society to conquer many bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases, including polio, diphtheria, small pox, and pneumonia. Much of medical research today focuses on diseases that result from alterations of fundamental molecular mechanisms within cells and tissues and include cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, bone and joint disorders, and diabetes. DNA carries in its sequence the genes that encode vast numbers of different proteins that are synthesized throughout the life cycle. It also encodes the regulatory instructions that determine exactly when and where each of those genes will be expressed. The Department of Physiology’s research on genes and gene regulatory mechanisms includes explorations of both the normal expression of genetic information in development and abnormal expression in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart and pulmonary disease, and neuro-degenerative diseases.

Genomics at the Systems Level. The Department of Physiology conducts basic research aimed at understanding how the genes and proteins of multicellular organisms work. The basic goal is to understand the flow of genetic information during life and the translation of this information into functioning proteins, organized in complex systems that act as signaling ensembles to govern how cells multiply, differentiate, migrate, and die. Research conducted in pursuit of this goal is widely acknowledged to be crucial to the advancement of medical science.

The Department of Physiology seeks to provide fundamental information into the way genes, their regulation and dysregulation, determine our biological fate and how they can cause disease. The department takes a multidisciplinary approach that requires the scientific skills of a variety of disciplines, including many non-traditionally associated with biomedicine, and focuses on determining how genes and proteins signal cells in the processes of multiplication, differentiation, metabolism, migration, and cell death in the context of complex organisms. With a commitment to use the latest in cellular and molecular technologies, the Department of Physiology promotes an environment in which questions of fundamental importance to medicine and biology can be addressed.

The Department of Physiology’s approach is to promote research that probes the molecular mechanisms of particular medical problems, to investigate the interaction between environment and genes especially in causing disease, and to discover the role of many genes that are involved in particular diseases. Departmental scientists seek critical information into how specific genes are controlled and expressed by factors both internal and external to the organism. An ultimate aim is to achieve the ability to manipulate the expression of genes involved in disease such that illness can be ameliorated, prevented or cured.

For the most part, departmental scientists do not concentrate directly on treating patients or developing drug therapies, but instead focus on filling critical information gaps in understanding the molecular origins of a disease, and consequently serving as a knowledge bridge that is essential for other scientists and physicians, generally in collaboration, to translate that basic research into effective treatments and cures.

 


Undergraduate Program

The Bachelor of Science degree program in Physiology is intended primarily for students who wish to pursue careers in medicine or other health-related fields, research, and industry, for which a thorough knowledge of physiology is necessary. The physiology major is particularly suitable for students in the life sciences who plan advanced study at the graduate or professional level. It combines comprehensive study of physiology, including molecular, cellular, and organ systems physiology with courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Students may complete the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology either within the College of Natural Science or as a Lyman Briggs College coordinate major. Students are encouraged to complete their preparatory biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses early during their collegiate study in order to meet prerequisites for the required upper division courses in the major.

Physiology

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science Degree in Physiology

  1. The University requirements for bachelor's degrees as described in the Undergraduate Education section of this catalog; 120 credits, including general elective credits, are required for the Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology.

    The University's Tier II writing requirement for the Physiology major is met by completing Physiology 460.  That course is referenced in item 3. b. below.

    Students who are enrolled in the College of Natural Science may complete the alternative track to Integrative Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences that is described in item 1. under the heading Graduation Requirements in the College statement.  Certain courses referenced in requirement 3. below may be used to satisfy the alternative track.
  2. The requirements of the College of Natural Science for the Bachelor of Science degree.

    The completion of the Biological Science, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics courses referenced in requirement 3. below satisfies the requirements referenced under the heading Graduation Requirements in the College statement.  The credits earned in other courses referenced in requirement 3. below may be counted toward other College requirements as appropriate.
  3. The following requirements for the major:
    a. The following courses outside the Department of Physiology (62 to 71 credits):
    (1) One course from each of the following groups of courses (6 to 8 credits):
    (a) MTH 124 Survey of Calculus I 3
    MTH 132 Calculus I 3
    MTH 152H Honors Calculus I 3
    LB 118 Calculus I 4
    (b) MTH 126 Survey of Calculus II 3
    MTH 133 Calculus II 4
    MTH 153H Honors Calculus II 4
    LB 119 Calculus II 4
    STT 200 Statistical Methods 3
    STT 201 Statistical Methods 4
    STT 231 Statistics for Scientists 3
    STT 421 Statistics I 3
    STT 464 Statistics for Biologists 3
    (2) One of the following groups of courses (7 or 8 credits):
    (a) CEM 141 General Chemistry 4
    CEM 142 General and Inorganic Chemistry 3
    (b) CEM 151 General and Descriptive Chemistry 4
    CEM 152 Principles of Chemistry 3
    (c) CEM 181H Honors Chemistry I 4
    CEM 182H Honors Chemistry II 4
    (d) LB 171 Principles of Chemistry I 4
    LB 172 Principles of Chemistry II 3
    (3) One of the following groups of courses (2 credits):
    (a) CEM 161 Chemistry Laboratory I 1
    CEM 162 Chemistry Laboratory II 1
    (b) LB 171L Introductory Chemistry Laboratory I 1
    LB 172L Principles of Chemistry II – Reactivity Laboratory 1
    (c) CEM 185H Honors Chemistry Laboratory I 2
    (4) One of the following groups of courses (9 to 10 credits):
    (a) BS 161 Cell and Molecular Biology 3
    BS 162 Organismal and Population Biology 3
    BS 171 Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory 2
    BS 172 Organismal and Population Biology Laboratory 2
    (b) LB 144 Biology I: Organismal Biology 4
    LB 145 Biology II: Cellular and Molecular Biology 5
    (c) BS 181H Honors Cell and Molecular Biology 3
    BS 182H Honors Organismal and Population Biology 3
    BS 191H Honors Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory 2
    BS 192H Honors Organismal and Population Biology Laboratory 2
    (5) All of the following courses (8 credits):
    CEM 251 Organic Chemistry I 3
    CEM 252 Organic Chemistry II 3
    CEM 255 Organic Chemistry Laboratory 2
    (6) One of the following groups of courses (8 or 10 credits):
    (a) PHY 231 Introductory Physics I 3
    PHY 232 Introductory Physics II 3
    PHY 251 Introductory Physics Laboratory I 1
    PHY 252 Introductory Physics Laboratory II 1
    (b) PHY 183 Physics for Scientists and Engineers I 4
    PHY 184 Physics for Scientists and Engineers II 4
    PHY 191 Physics Laboratory for Scientists I 1
    PHY 192 Physics Laboratory for Scientists II 1
    (c) LB 273 Physics I 4
    LB 274 Physics II 4
    (7) One of the following courses (3 or 4 credits):
    ANTR 350 Human Gross Anatomy for Pre-Health Professionals 3
    IBIO 320 Developmental Biology 4
    IBIO 328 Comparative Anatomy and Biology of Vertebrates 4
    (8) One of the following courses or groups of courses (4 to 6 credits):
    (a) BMB 401 Comprehensive Biochemistry 4
    (b) BMB 461 Advanced Biochemistry I 3
    BMB 462 Advanced Biochemistry II 3
    (9) One of the following courses (3 credits):
    CEM 383 Introductory Physical Chemistry I 3
    PSL 425 Physiological Biophysics 3
    (10) Twelve credits in nonscience courses beyond the credits that are counted toward University requirements.
    b. All of the following courses in the Department of Physiology (16 credits):
    PSL 101 Frontiers in Physiology 1
    PSL 431 Human Physiology I 4
    PSL 432 Human Physiology II 4
    PSL 450 Physiology in Health and Disease 3
    PSL 460 Topics in Physiology (W) 2
    PSL 475L Capstone Laboratory in Physiology  2
    The completion of Physiology 450 and 475L satisfies the department's capstone course requirement. 


Linked Bachelor's-Master's Degree in Physiology

Bachelor of Science Degree in Physiology
Master of Science Degree in Physiology


The department welcomes applications from  Michigan State University Physiology undergraduate students in their junior and senior year.  Admission applications must be made during the prior spring semester for an anticipated spring graduation or the prior fall semester for an anticipated fall graduation to allow admission before the final semester as a Physiology undergraduate. Admission to the program requires a minimum undergraduate grade-point average of 3.5 and an approved program of study for the Master of Science degree in Physiology at the time of admission. Admission to the Linked Bachelor’s-Master’s program allows the application of up to 9 credits toward the master’s program for qualifying 400-level and above course work taken at the undergraduate level at Michigan State University or an external accredited institution. The number of approved credits, not to exceed 9, are applied toward the credit requirement of the master’s degree. Credits applied to the Linked Bachelor’s-Master’s program are not eligible to be applied to any other graduate degree program.
 

Graduate Study

The Department of Physiology is administered jointly by the colleges of Natural Science, Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine.  Study for the Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy degree with a major in physiology may be administered by any one of the four colleges referenced above. Study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree with a major in physiology-environmental toxicology is administered by the College of Natural Science.

Students who are enrolled in master’s or doctoral degree programs in the Department of Physiology may elect an Interdepartmental Specialization in Cognitive Science. For additional information, refer to the statement on Interdepartmental Graduate Specializations in Cognitive Science in the College of Social Science section of this catalog. For additional information, contact the Department of Physiology.


Physiology - Master of Science

The department offers work leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree and in some cases to the Master of Science degree. The principal objectives of graduate education in physiology are to obtain broad, basic knowledge in the subject matter of this and related fields, and to obtain training in physiological research methods. Major emphasis is placed upon the completion by the student of original research which should provide a significant contribution to knowledge. The facilities and staff are particularly suited to offer training in the following areas of physiology:  cellular and molecular physiology, endocrinology, the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal physiology and metabolism, neurophysiology, respiration, radiobiology, lactation, renal function, reproduction, comparative physiology, and biophysics.

A manual available at the department graduate office contains information on admission policies, financial support, and requirements for the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degree programs in physiology. Departmental graduate stipends are awarded on the basis of merit, subject to the availability of funds.

Master of Science

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Natural Science, Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, or Veterinary Medicine, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

An undergraduate major in physiology is not a prerequisite to graduate study. However, a broad background in the basic sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics (through calculus), is essential. The minimum requirements include one year of physiology, biology, or zoology; one year each of mathematics and physics; and chemistry through organic and quantitative analysis. A deficiency in these requirements may be removed by successfully completing appropriate courses as collateral work early in the graduate program. Admission is based upon evaluation of the student's past record, results of the Graduate Record Examination, and recommendations.

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in Physiology

The student must complete 30 credits under Plan A (with thesis). The program of study is planned by the student in consultation with a major advisor and an advisory committee that includes no fewer than two additional faculty members. Usually work in one or more supporting areas is required in addition to that taken in the major field. Completion of an original research problem and the writing of an acceptable thesis based upon at least 8 credits of research are required.

 


Physiology - Doctor of Philosophy

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Natural Science, Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, or Veterinary Medicine, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Admission

Entry into the Doctor of Philosophy degree program requires that the student has a major advisor and has earned 30 graduate credits, or holds a Master of Science or professional degree, or has passed the departmental Comprehensive Examination.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Physiology

Students entering a doctoral program with advanced standing must meet with the guidance committee within the first two semesters of doctoral study. The committee is composed of at least four faculty members, in addition to the major advisor, and must include one representative from another department. The course work, research program, and overall requirements needed to qualify for candidacy for the degree are planned in consultation with the guidance committee. However, the student's Guidance Committee Report is approved by the committee only after the student has demonstrated the potential to do research. Such potential may be demonstrated by any of the following:

a.    previous attainment of a master's degree with a thesis
b.    previous publication of research results
c.    other documented evidence of research capability.

The student must pass the Comprehensive Examination within the first two years of graduate study. The Comprehensive Examination which tests the student's breadth of knowledge in physiology, is administered by the Graduate and Professional Course and Curriculum Committee. The student prepares a thesis research proposal and presents the proposal to the faculty at a seminar. The proposal must be acceptable to the guidance committee. While the program is in progress, the student meets periodically with the guidance committee for evaluation.

A dissertation based on original research outlined in the proposal must be submitted to, approved by, and defended in an oral examination before the guidance committee. The dissertation is expected to show evidence of originality in its conception and execution and must be written in a clear and logical manner. Typically, three or more years of study beyond the bachelor's degree are needed to meet these requirements.

 


Physiology-Environmental Toxicology - Doctor of Philosophy

For information about the Doctor of Philosophy degree program in physiology—environmental toxicology, refer to the statement on Doctoral Program in Environmental and Integrative Toxicological Sciences in the Graduate Education section of this catalog.

BioMolecular Science Gateway - First Year

Students are encouraged to apply for admission to the Ph.D. program through the BioMolecular Science Gateway – First Year, where students choose a doctoral major from any of six Ph.D. programs: biochemistry and molecular biology, cell and molecular biology, genetics, microbiology and molecular genetics, pharmacology and toxicology, or physiology. For additional information refer to the College of Natural Science section of this catalog.