Academic Programs Catalog

College of Natural Science

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.


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.


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.