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Pharmacology & Toxicology PhD Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin

The Pharmacology & Toxicology PhD program at MCW emphasizes research in mechanistic studies of drug actions/signaling molecules and is home to the Drug Discovery Center, which focuses on the translation of new discoveries into therapies that can be used to improve human health. If you are interested in conducting pharmacology & toxicology research at MCW, we invite you to apply directly to the program, or to either our Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP) or the Neuroscience Doctoral Program (NDP).

Message from the Director


Christopher Olsen, PhD

Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology
Director, Graduate Program in Pharmacology & Toxicology
(414) 955-7629

Welcome to the Pharmacology Graduate Program at MCW! Research in our department focuses on cancer biology, cardiovascular disease, neuropharmacology, and structural biology. We offer a flexible program for students interested in basic biological processes, translational science, and/or drug discovery.


Pharmacology and Toxicology

About the Program

About the Program

The Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology doctoral program provides diverse research opportunities in the areas of cardiovascular, cancer, and neuro  sciences. An emphasis is placed on cellular and molecular pharmacology/toxicology and signal transduction. The primary objective of our program is to provide students with an academic background and exposure to state-of-the-art scientific approaches needed to investigate and solve the important biological problems that will be the focus of research in the decades to come. Our graduate degree program is multidisciplinary in nature and has strong associations with researchers in other basic science and clinical departments.
Current Students

Current Students

Find out more about our current Pharmacology & Toxicology students.



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. Typically, the first-year curriculum for doctoral students consists of a set of core courses covering the fundamentals of biochemistry, molecular genetics, molecular biology of the cell and cellular signal transduction. However, an alternative translational core curriculum is available with focus on organ system biology and translational science.  Subsequently, students may take semester long graduate courses on pharmacological principles, receptors and second messengers, ion channels and drug discovery. The option to take a medical pharmacology course is available.

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 final requirement of the program is for the student to write and defend a dissertation describing their research project

Requirements and Guidelines for PhD Program (PDF) 



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 pursue their PhD degree by applying to either the Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP), the Neuroscience Research Program (NDP), or direct admission into the Pharmacology and Toxicology program.

Doctor of Philosophy; Master of Science (special arrangement only). These programs expose students to a variety of perspectives in biomedical research and allow exploration of multiple fields within the biomedical sciences before choosing a specific program for their dissertation.

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). Personal statements and letters of recommendation from professors, advisors, research supervisors, etc. who know you well are highly regarded in the admission process. An official test score, GRE or otherwise, is no longer required for admission consideration. However, test score submissions will be consider if they are submitted voluntarily. 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 December 15th will receive first priority for admission the following Fall. Students are admitted once per year.

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Tuition and Fees

Tuition and Fees

If you have questions regarding tuition or your account, please contact the Office of Student Accounts, at (414) 955-8172 or Please refer to the All Student Handbook (PDF) for tuition payment policies and information.

PhD Students
All full-time PhD degree-seeking students in good academic and professional standing receive the following financial support package:

  • Full tuition coverage
  • Yearly stipend ($33,612 for the '23-'24 academic year)
  • Complimentary health insurance

There is no additional process to secure this package aside from accepting an offer of admission. Further, this package is guaranteed from the time of enrollment through completion of degree requirements.

Current MCW Employees
Tuition Course Approval Form - Human Resources (PDF)

Late Fees
There is a $250 late payment fee for tuition not paid on time according to the Tuition Payments policy in the All Student Handbook (PDF).

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Graduate Program Student Information
Requirements and Guidelines - Student and Faculty Handbook (PDF)
Effective July 1, 2009 (updated version April 2019) for the Pharmacology & Toxicology Graduate Program

PhD and Master's Degree Forms

Please refer to the Graduate School webpage for more information

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Contact Us

Graduate School
Suite H2200
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

(414) 955-8218

MCW Graduate School Google map location