Pharmacology Graduate Group

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Academics

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Typical PGG Schedule/Course Descriptions

Studies at the PGG

Most students spend two pre-thesis years in coursework, laboratory rotations, seminars, journal clubs and related activities. Academic Review Committee Chair and Program advisers help students select courses and create academic plans that are relevant to their particular interests and aptitudes. Many students choose a broad curriculum with a variety of Pharmacology courses, as well as electives outside Pharmacology using courses offered by Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) Program. Students may also choose more specialized courses within thematic programs.

Students may begin graduate work in the summer preceding the usual fall starting date by carrying out a laboratory research rotation. Usually students take three semesters to rotate in three different labs, often working in very different areas. This endows them with a spectrum of knowledge of modern experimental approaches, familiarizes them with the faculty and students across the group and supports optimal selection of the thesis direction and lab. After each rotation students give short post-rotational presentation to their peers and faculty.

In the spring semester of the second year, students prepare to a qualifying exam. This process starts with selection of a research topic in a future thesis lab and submission of an abstract of the proposed research project. After approval of an abstract by the Chair of the Candidacy Exam Committee and appointing three members of the Committee, a student prepares written exam in a form of NIH-type (20-pages) grant and submits it to the Committee for primary evaluation and admission to an oral exam that consists of a 25 minute seminar presentation on the literature background the hypothesis and experimental strategy for the proposal in front of peers and faculty, followed by oral defense of the written proposal in form of answering questions and discussion with the Committee members. After passing the exam, students embark on the full-time thesis research in selected labs. More details on academic pursuits of the students in the PGG are given in the Student Handbook.

Above you will find the list of courses currently offered by the Pharmacology Graduate Program, and their brief description, linked to detailed syllabi of each course.

Thematic Programs

Teaching and research in Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania dates back more than a century. Our academic tradition is embodied in the figures of A.N.Richards, Carl Schmidt, George Koelle, Solomon Erulkar and other researchers. Annual lectures named after some of these eminent scientists (e.g., Lambertsen and Schmidt Lectures) are presented yearly by renowned scientists. Students not only attend the lectures but also meet (actually, have a lunch) with the speakers, to discuss with them not only the scientific subject matter of their lectures, but also diverse aspects of career and life in science. All students in the program are eligible to apply for a Solomon Erulkar Traveling Fellowship to visit any laboratory in the world to learn new techniques and approaches to their research problem.

Pharmacological sciences represent an extremely large field of modern science, intertwined with many other biomedical disciplines. Reflecting the research focus of the Penn Department of Pharmacology in the 1980’s, the Pharmacology Graduate Group enjoyed an outstanding reputation in cell signal transduction and neuropharmacology. During the last decade, while retaining strength and leadership in these areas, the Graduate Group significantly broadened and diversified the scope of research carried out by the faculty within the Department of Pharmacology and about twenty other Departments participating in our Graduate Group. In particular, the curriculum and research training opportunities in our Graduate Group were expanded in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular pharmacology, pharmacogenetics, pharmacological chemistry, and environmental health sciences.

A brief outline of research in these thematic programs is shown below in this section and description of related courses is shown in Curriculum. Of course, this section shows only a tip of an iceberg! To learn more about our research in areas of your interest, visit individual sites of our faculty and take a look of their key publications, or simply e-mail them with your enquiries. As icebergs float freely in oceans, there are no boundaries between our programs: you can take a course in cancer pharmacology, have one of rotations in a neuropharmacology lab, and embark on a thesis in a cell signaling lab – and other way around, too! In fact, we encourage students to rotate in labs doing very different types of research, to enrich their background and allow unrushed, instructed selection of direction of their future thesis research. And, of course, as icebergs constantly change their shape, our programs are dynamic and evolving creatures. Elements and nebulas of new programs constantly emerge – translational pharmacology, biotherapeutics, and targeted therapeutics, just to mention a few.