Physiology & Pharmacology Concentration
Program of Study
The Advanced Concentration in Physiology & Pharmacology is one of six advanced concentrations leading to the Ph.D. degree under the auspices of the Interdisciplinary Program (IDP) in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Imagine the thrill of discovering a new protein involved in a signal transduction pathway regulating cell death (apoptosis), the excitement in revealing that a specific gene is regulated during a disease or induced by a drug, or the immense reward of showing in a model system that a new drug affects a specific cellular target and slows the progression of a disease. These are possible because of the research training in the Advanced Concentration in Physiology and Pharmacology.
Historically, physiology and pharmacology have been closely allied. It was through the discovery of whole organism physiology that the effects and mechanisms of drugs were studied. For example, the physiological measurement of blood pressure allowed the development of antihypertensive drugs. This close alliance is also applicable in modern research. Molecular, cellular or whole organism physiology expands our knowledge of how biological systems function normally and what changes occur during disease. Modern pharmacology is integral to and expands on this effort as known drugs are used as tools to help delineate functionality at the cellular and molecular level and the physiological knowledge is used to target new drug development.
Because of the traditional interaction between physiology and pharmacology and the significant ongoing collaborative research interactions, the faculty from these two departments, as well as faculty from other departments and colleges with allied interests, form a critical mass for advanced educational opportunities and research training. Currently there are over 40 primary faculty and 25 graduate students in the physiology and pharmacology advanced concentration.
The advanced concentration is responsible for supervising the academic and intellectual development of each student, creating and maintaining supervisory committees for graduate students, overseeing student mentoring, and administering qualifying exams. Graduate training beyond the first or second semester mainly focuses on laboratory research supervised by the student’s mentor, and supplemented with a selection of advanced courses (modules). A weekly student seminar series and participation in journal clubs is required as these forums help to sharpen the students communication skills.
The basic goals in research training are to develop skills in: hypothesis development, experimental design to test hypotheses, technical execution, data analysis, and data interpretation. The faculty associated with the advanced concentration in Physiology and Pharmacology have expertise in a variety of biomedical disciplines, including cell and molecular biology, pharmacology, physiology, neuroscience, biochemistry, genetics and immunology and bring together unique strengths to provide the students with diverse training.
Major Research Interests Include:
- Aging and Obesity
- Alzheimer’s and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Cancer Biology and Treatment
- Drug Development
- Endocrine Systems
- Gene Therapy
- Heart Failure and Stroke
- Hypertension and Other Cardiovascular Diseases
- Ion Channels and Membrane Transport
- Pregnancy and Fetal Development
- Principles of Drug Action
- Renin-Angiotensin System
- Signal Transduction Pathways
- Toxicology and Environmental Medicine
- Vascular Biology
Students entering the advanced concentration in Physiology and Pharmacology will take additional, more specialized courses which strengthen their basic knowledge and enhance development of critical thinking skills. A minimum of six advanced modules, with four in the students major are required. The advanced program curriculum is flexible enough to allow the students to integrate coursework offered by other IDP advanced concentrations. The required classroom studies are typically completed by the end of their second year, although opportunities to take optional, specialized courses in subsequent years are available. The advanced courses offered by the Physiology/Pharmacology department include:
- Cancer Biology and Therapeutics
- Current Opinions in Hypertension
- Functional Genomics Applications in Pharmacology and Toxicology
- Graduate Student Data Discussion
- Ion Channels Journal Club
- Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes
- Molecular Pharmacology
- Natural Toxins: Mechanisms and Uses
- Neurobiology of Aging Journal Club
- Neurobiology of Aging
- Neurotoxins in Biomedical Research
- Physiology Journal Club
- Physiology of the Circulation of Blood
- Principles of Drug Action
- Recent Advances in Physiology
- Research Methods: Advanced Renal Physiology
- Signal Transduction
- Special Topics in Pharmacology and Toxicology
- Synaptic Function and Plasticity
Ph.D. candidacy is granted after successful completion of the minimum required course work and a qualifying exam. This exam consists of an oral defense of a dissertation research proposal written using the National Institutes of Health grant application format. The dissertation research project is overseen by a committee consisting of the supervisory faculty member and other graduate faculty. After finishing the dissertation research, the student presents their research in a seminar to the faculty at-large and then defends this research to their supervisory committee. The typical student will take 4-5 years to complete the necessary requirements leading to the Ph.D. degree.
In summary, students entering the advanced concentration in Physiology and Pharmacology will be able to tailor their educational experience in order to meet their individual needs and interests. The intellectual development and practical expertise learned will prepare the students to meet the challenges on the path establishing independent scientific careers.
The IDP seeks promising students with undergraduate training in chemistry, biology, psychology, pharmacy or related disciplines in the life sciences. Applicants are selected on the basis of previous academic performance, research experience, GRE general test scores, letters of recommendation and an interview. Students are admitted for the fall semester, which begins in late August. Application materials can be obtained from the main IDP website.
For more information about the Advanced Concentration in Physiology and Pharmacology or questions about the IDP in general, please feel free to contact either Dr. Kasahara or Dr. Harrison (contact info shown below).
- Suggested Courses for First-Year Students: First Year Fundamentals
- Suggested Courses for Advanced Students: Fall Semester Advanced Courses
- Spring Semester Advanced Courses
All Physiology & Pharmacology students are required to register for either the Physiology journal club (GMS 6491, Journal Club in Physiology) OR the pharmacology research conference (GMS 6590, Seminar in Pharmacology) each Fall and Spring semester beginning in their second year. Physiology & Pharmacology students may participate in other journal clubs in addition to Physiology or Pharmacology journal clubs if they wish.
The Faculty and their Research
For a list of faculty members in the Physiology & Pharmacology advanced program, please click here. Faculty names link to faculty web pages.
Correspondence and Information
- Glenn Walter, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Physiology and Pharmacology Advanced Concentration- Department of Physiology and Functional Genomics
University of Florida College of Medicine
P.O. Box 100274
Gainesville, FL 32610-0274
Phone: (352) 294-5996
- Gonzalo Torres, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Physiology and Pharmacology Advanced Concentration- Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics
University of Florida College of Medicine
P.O. Box 100267
Gainesville, FL 32610-0267
Phone: (352) 273-8315
- Robyn Edwards (Physiology)
Office: MSB room M556
- Ellen L. Esparolini (Pharmacology)
Office: ARB R5-234