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Degree Offered

The Physiology Graduate Program offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Program Admission Requirements

Those interested in pursuing education and research within the Department of Physiology should pursue admission directly to the Physiology PhD program and/or the Neuroscience Doctoral Program (NDP) as well as the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD).

A Bachelor’s degree (either completed or in the process of completing) is required for admission to any MCW graduate program. Applicants will ideally have a 3.0 or higher grade point average (GPA), as well as quantitative and verbal reasoning GRE scores at or above the 50th percentile (3.5 or higher writing score). Personal statements and letters of recommendation from professors, advisors, research supervisors, etc. who know you well are highly regarded in the admission process. Prior research experience is also strongly considered.

The MCW Graduate School operates on a rolling admissions basis. However, applications accepted by the priority application deadline of January 15th will receive first priority for admission the following Fall. Students are admitted once per year.

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Application Information

An applicant’s undergraduate or master degree program should be in a relevant area of science or mathematics in order to be eligible for consideration. Most applicants have previous research experience. Undergraduates may apply directly to the Physiology Graduate Program. By January 15th each year, the Program Directors prioritize applications based on the following criteria:


  1. The academic record of the applicant, including undergraduate and graduate transcripts and graduate record examination scores
  2. The quality and extent of previous research experience, including publications
  3. Letters of recommendation, which support a commitment of the applicant to biomedical research
  4. The personal statement of the applicant describing career goals and the importance of this program to the achievement of those goals.

Interview Information

On-campus interviews are then scheduled for the most qualified U.S. applicants. The schedule for your interview day will consist of:


  • An orientation by Program Directors
  • Attendance at course lectures
  • 30-minute individual interviews with four (4) faculty members
  • 10-minute oral presentation with 5 minutes of discussion for each candidate
  • Tour of research laboratories and educational faculties
  • Lunch and dinner with faculty and current graduate students.


The week following the interviews, all faculty and current graduate students provide input to the Program Directors and department chair regarding the potential of each applicant for a successful career in biomedical research. The oral presentation (articulation, poise, organization, understanding of topic, passion for research), the interpersonal interaction with faculty members and students, and the compatibility of research interests of the applicant with research opportunities available in the laboratories of the program faculty members are all important considerations for admission


Alternative Admission Options


Applicants may alternatively apply to either the Neuroscience Doctoral Program or the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences at MCW. These programs represent the combined recruitment efforts of multiple basic science departments. Physiology faculty members participate in the leadership of these programs, the screening of applications, the interview process, and the selection of applicants for admission. The criteria for invitation for an interview and for final selection into the program are similar to criteria for direct entrance into the Physiology PhD Program. These programs interview on two days separate from the Physiology interview day. Students matriculating into these interdisciplinary programs are not committed to a specific PhD granting department until the end of the first year in graduate school. Their selection of a program is based on rotations in laboratories in different departments and on the courses completed in the first year. These students may choose to matriculate into Physiology at the end of the first year of graduate studies. They will be required to take a different course load during year 2 than those students matriculating directly into Physiology. For more information on courses, click the blue “Curriculum” tab.


Students may also enter the Physiology PhD Program through the Medical Science Training Program (MCW’s combined MD/PhD program), or MSTP. These students complete the first two years of medical school and then complete three to four years in graduate school before completing medical school. The MSTP is directed by Joseph Barbieri, PhD, who chairs a committee of other basic science and clinical faculty members. This committee is responsible for all aspects of the MSTP. During the first two years in medical school, MSTP students complete research rotations in various departments and based on these rotations, choose a laboratory (preceptor) for their PhD research.