Current Students and Fellows

Carol Williams, PhD and Anthony Brandt

Carmen Bergom, MD, PhD and Rachel Schlaak

There are three aspects to the graduate training program in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. The first aspect is mastery by the student of the fundamentals of pharmacology, molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology, signal transduction, toxicology and physiology. These fundamentals are taught at the graduate level through formal courses, informal seminars and journal clubs and countless conversations at the lab bench. The second aspect is the development of the communication skills that are essential for a successful career in research. These skills are developed by practice; students in our program present seminars, and write scientific papers and mock grant proposals. Finally, and most importantly, the third aspect of the program is the development of research skills. This occurs in the laboratory of a research mentor who is a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

The major research emphasis in the Department is mechanistic studies of drug and toxicant action. In particular, faculty in the department study signal transduction processes, including fundamentals of receptors and second messengers (cyclic nucleotides, G proteins, ion channels, eicosanoids and calcium) as well as signaling cascades that result in changes in DNA transcription. Toxicological research programs include xenobiotic metabolism, biochemical toxicology, and neurotoxicology.

Recent graduates of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology have obtained postdoctoral positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Rochester, Purdue University, Monsanto Co., the University of Cincinnati and the University of Virginia. Graduates who are now beyond their postdoctoral training have obtained faculty positions at academic institutions, including the SUNY-Buffalo, Johns Hopkins University, Louisiana State University, University of Iowa, University of Cincinnati, Stanford University and The Medical College of Wisconsin. Other graduates have chosen careers in industry, including Somatogen in Colorado, Wyeth Laboratories in New York, Abbott Laboratories in Illinois and Chevron in California.

Current students in the Department come from all over the world. The undergraduate institutions of our current students include: University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Alverno College, Fundan University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Department recognizes that the intellectual growth of graduate students is facilitated in a stimulating and nurturing environment and recognizes an obligation to provide an environment that encourages scholarly work, promotes meritorious scientific research and is responsive to the academic needs of its students.

For more information contact Dr. John Auchampach, Course Director in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at (414) 456-5643 or

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  PhD Program

The doctoral program in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin has two major components: graduate level coursework and the completion of a novel, publishable research project.

The coursework requirements of the doctoral program are flexible and tailored to the needs of individual students as much as possible. Doctoral students take a first year core course covering the fundamentals of biochemistry, molecular genetics of the cell, molecular biology of the cell and cell signaling fundamentals. Subsequently, students may take semester long graduate courses on receptors and second messengers, ion channels and molecular toxicology. Many students elect to take medical pharmacology.

In addition to these core courses, students in the doctoral program choose one of four course "tracks" that reflect the three broad discipline areas represented in the Department:

  1. the physiological track which emphasizes coursework in physiology;
  2. the biochemical/ signaling track which emphasizes coursework in biochemistry, signal transduction, molecular genetics and molecular biology;
  3. the molecular toxicology track which emphasizes coursework in toxicology and molecular biology; and
  4. the neuroscience track which emphasizes coursework in cellular and systems neuroscience.

After completion of the initial coursework, students take a qualifying examination. The qualifying examination consists of writing and defending a research proposal in an area different from the student's dissertation research. The exam typically takes place in the second year of the doctoral program.

After a student has successfully passed his or her qualifying examination and completed the basic coursework, his or her time is spent engaged in a cutting edge research project in the laboratory of a member of the department's graduate faculty. The individual faculty members and their research interests are outlined on the Faculty Interest page. The final requirement of the program is for the student to write and defend a dissertation describing their research project.

  Graduate Program


The objective of the graduate training program in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin is to train biomedical researchers for the 21st Century. Our goal is to give our students the skills to conduct independent research at the cutting edge of biomedical science. Candidates can enter the graduate training program in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology directly or through the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences.

Yuttana prepares samples for the tension recording experiment
Yuttana prepares samples for the tension recording experiment

  Research Facilities

The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology is located in the Basic Science Medical Education Building on the grounds of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Complex, where it occupies about 20,000 square feet of space. In addition, a portion of the faculty is housed in the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center, Cardiovascular Research Center, Blood Research Institute for Southeastern Wisconsin and the Research Service and Research Laboratories of the Veterans Administration Medical Center campus of the Medical College. Additional facilities include the Great Lakes Center for Marine and Freshwater Research. The College has centers of specialized research in cardiovascular research, cancer and genetics. These centers house researchers from basic and clinical departments and contain the necessary equipment for this research.

The College has a computing center that houses a network of computers. The Medical College Libraries contain more than 250,000 volumes and subscribes to about 1,800 periodicals. The College has shared core research facilities including the protein-nucleic acid share facility, an adenoviral core facility, an electron microscopy core, bioinformatics center and cell sorting core. The Medical College is home to the National Electron Spin Resonance Research Resource.

PTI System
Wilson performs cellular Ca2+-imaging studies on a PTI system

The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology contains the necessary equipment for studying the cellular, molecular and systemic mechanisms of action of drugs and toxins. These resources include cell culture facilities, liquid and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry share core laboratory, fluorescence confocal and imaging microscopes, ultra and preparative centrifuge facility, analytical laboratories containing capillary electrophoresis equipment, HPLC's, FPLC's, spectrophotometers, fluorometers and radioactivity counters, dark room and electrophysiology laboratories.

For specific research interest of the faculty, go to the Faculty Interest page.

Agilent LC-Mass Spectrometer

  Financial Support

Full-time degree candidates who are in good academic standing receive a full scholarship plus a fellowship each year. For the 2014-15 academic year, this includes:

  • A full waiver of tuition and students fees.
  • Beginning July 1, 2015, a fellowship of $28,422 that is paid directly to each student.
  • The annual premium for single health insurance coverage.

This stipend, and the fact that students are not asked to serve as Teaching Assistants, allows each student to devote full time effort to their graduate courses and research. All degree-seeking students are required to have health insurance. Students who are covered under health insurance policies of their spouses or parents may waive the health insurance requirement. Those who are not so covered must enroll in the Humana Health Insurance, Anthem Dental Insurance and Professional Vision Services health insurance plans. The annual premium for single coverage will be paid by the College for all full-time students in the basic sciences.

Correspondence and Information

Pharmacology and Toxicology
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226-0509

(414) 955-8267 | Fax: (414) 955-6545

Guan Chen, PhD
Recruitment Director