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MD/PhD Track

Coursework Comprehensive Examination PhD Dissertation Proposal Subsequent Years and Completion

The overall University of Pittsburgh and Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Program requirements for obtaining a PhD are the same for MD/PhD students. However, MD/PhD students obtain advance credit for medical school coursework and laboratory rotations completed prior to enrollment.


MD/PhD students will enter the MPGP  with 25 of their 32 required credit hours of coursework already completed: 16 credit hours from their MD coursework and 9 additional credit hours derived from the completion of IBGP required courses before officially entering the MPGP:
  • 4 credits for Foundations of Biomedical Sciences Conference (INTBP 2005)
  • 2 credit hours for two laboratory rotations (INTBP 2020; 1 credit hour each)
  • 3 credits for D2K: From Data to Knowledge – Biomedical Experimental Design & Analysis (INTBP 2013)*
*INTBP 2013 is required in addition to the Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics course taken during the first year of medical school. If an equivalent graduate level statistics course has already been completed with a grade of B or better, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies may be petitioned in writing for permission to credit out of this course. Documentation to support the petition must include a textbook used for the course or a syllabus that includes a detailed course description.

The remainder of the 7 credit hours of required coursework will be taken from one of the required Molecular Pharmacology courses (3 credit hours) and an elective course.

Required Molecular Pharmacology courses (choose one):
  • Molecular Pharmacology (2 credit hours),
  • Biology of Signal Transduction (3 credit hours)
  • Cancer Biology & Therapeutics (3 credit hours)
  • Neuropharmacology (3 credit hours)
The elective can be taken from either course offerings of the Molecular Pharmacology program or any graduate program that is included in the MD/PhD program.


Comprehensive Examination
All MD/PhD students in the Molecular Pharmacology program are required to complete their oral comprehensive examination during their first graduate year. A full description of the Comprehensive Examination is contained in the Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Student Handbook.

After completing the Comprehensive Examination, students may submit the Application to Candidacy form. This ensures that students can obtain PhD Dissertation Credit Hours beginning in Fall term of the second year.

The University requires that PhD students accumulate at least 40 credit hours of PhD Dissertation Research, which requires a minimum of 1.5 years to complete.

A Doctoral Committee is formed according to program guidelines (see Graduate Student Handbook) and will meet with the student soon after completion of the Comprehensive Examination.


PhD Dissertation Proposal
At the first meeting of the Doctoral Committee, the students must present a written research proposal (i.e. Dissertation Proposal). This proposal should detail the intended course of the dissertation research, and should include an indication of experimental techniques to be used, but need not provide extended experimental details or preliminary data.

The proposal must gain the unanimous approval of the Doctoral Committee to be considered acceptable. If deemed unacceptable, the student will be given an opportunity to present the proposal at a later date.


Subsequent Years and Completion
Students focus on dissertation research and are required to meet with their Doctoral Committee every six months to discuss progress and future plans. The final copy of the dissertation will be submitted to the Doctoral Committee.

The thesis defense will consist of a public seminar on the subject of the dissertation, followed by an examination by the Doctoral Committee, and chaired by a member of the Doctoral Committee other than the major advisor. Nonmembers of the Doctoral Committee who make a prior request may attend this latter examination, but such visitors may not participate in the questioning. Approval of the thesis will be granted if there is no more than one dissenting vote by full members of the Doctoral Committee exclusive of the major advisor.

Additional details regarding content and style of the dissertation are provided in the Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Student Handbook.