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Physiological Sciences (PHD) 
Program Description

Physiologists are at the frontier of biomedical research and many of our discoveries and techniques are rapidly translated into clinical breakthroughs for diseases. Physiology is the study of all molecular, cellular and organ level processes that support the life of an organism. 

In the Physiological Sciences Program at the University of Arizona, graduate students work side-by-side with the faculty investigators addressing disease processes in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, cancer, and asthma. Our faculty use innovative research techniques and experimental approaches from molecular to human studies.

Physiology PhD graduates can enter careers in academia, industry, and government. Our faculty are nationally recognized scientists, with expertise in professional development and with nationally recognized mentoring awards. We have an ethnically and educationally diverse student body, and offer both a PhD and a Research based Masters program (with funded Teaching Assistanships). Our program includes 60 faculty members from 19 departments, across 6 Colleges at the University of Arizona, and students have opportunities to work with scientists in clincial departments in the College of Medicine.                                    

Department/Academic Unit(s)

Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs -

The Graduate College sponsors several Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs (GIDPs) in addition to the many interdisciplinary possibilities available through regular graduate degree programs. GIDPs transcend departmental boundaries by facilitating cutting edge teaching and research at the nexus of traditional disciplines. The high value placed on interdisciplinary research and education is indicative of The University of Arizona's enthusiasm and commitment to fostering innovation and creativity among its faculty and students.


Graduate College/GIDP  
Campus where offered
Main Campus - Tucson  
Admissions Contact
Mary K Quinlan
Graduate Program Coordinator
Mary K Quinlan
Director of Graduate Studies
John P Konhilas
Graduate College Degree Counselor
Christina M Inocencio
Tuition and Fees
Please refer to the UA Bursar's Office Tuition and Fees Calculator for up-to-date information about tuition and fees. 
Please refer to the UA Registrar's's Office Special Course Fees for up-to-date information about special course fees. 

Admissions Information

Admissions Requirements

Prior to applying to the Physiological Sciences Program at the University of Arizona, please ensure that you have the following: 

  • A bachelor's degree from a college or university that grants degrees recognized by the University of Arizona.
  • A minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.000 for the most recently completed 60 units of coursework.
  • Undergraduate courses in the basic sciences, however deficits in one area can be made up during the early phase of training if they are offset by strengths in other areas. Undergraduate coursework in the following is recommended:
    • 2 semesters of coursework in the life sciences
    • 2 semesters of inorganic chemistry with labs (biochemistry is strongly recommended)
    • 1 semester of mathematics (preferably calculus)
    • 2 semesters of physics with lab
  • The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) standardized aptitutde test. 
  • Prior experience in a research laboratory is highly desirable althought not required.
  • International applicants must also provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).




Standardized Tests

General GRE

TOEFL required for International applicants

Financial Aid

It is the intention of the Physiological Sciences program to provide support for full-time predoctoral students in good standing for five consecutive years.

The current funding package for doctoral students includes:

Annual Stipend (living expenses) $25,000
Benefit: Registration Fees (tuition) $11,040
Benefit: Health Insurance $  2,308
Benefit: Out of State Tuition (if applicable) $18,322

Total Salary and Benefits  $56,670

The funds utilized by the Program to support the doctoral student stipends are derived from NIH Training Grants, Graduate College Fellowships, Teaching Assistantships, Other Fellowships, and faculty contributions.

Graduate students are guaranteed funding for their first-year via the program's NIH Training Grants, allowing them to spend their first year exploring different labs and finding the one best suited to their own research interests. In subsequent years, after the student has declared the lab in which they intend to do their dissertation, part of the student's funding is derived from support from their faculty advisor.

Because of uncertainties in funding sources, the intention of support cannot be construed as a guarantee of continuous support to any student. However, the Physiological Sciences Program makes every effort to provide financial aid to our students throughout their academic careers.

Admissions Deadlines

Domestic Applicants:

  • Fall: December 15th
  • No Spring Admission

International Applicants:

  • Fall: December 15th
  • No Spring Admission
International Conditional Admission
International applicants will not be considered for conditional admission by this program.
Other Information
The GRE Institution Code for The University of Arizona is 4832
NRC Taxon(a) for this program: Physiology

Completion Requirements

Degree Requirements

At the University of Arizona, the Graduate College sets the overall framework for the completion of the doctoral degree. Within these guidelines, the Physiological Sciences Program establishes specific requirements and monitors student progress to ensure:

Sufficient breadth of knowledge in Physiological Sciences
Sufficient depth of knowledge in the students area of specialty
Rigorous research training
Training in career skills (writing, speaking, critical evaluation of the literature)
Training in teaching skills

Typically, successful completion of the Doctoral program takes 4.5 to 5 years of study. Doctoral students must complete 36 units of graduate-level coursework. 18 units must be in the major subject area, must be taken as letter-grade, and must be courses at the 500-level or greater.

Students must maintain a grade point average of 3.00 (letter grade of B) or better to receive financial support and to be awarded a Ph.D. degree. All students in the Doctoral degree program are also expected to comply with the regulations of the Graduate College with respect to residence, credit hour requirements, and the qualifying and comprehensive examinations (please refer to the Graduate College Policies for more information).

With the input of their advisor, Doctoral students will also develop a minor area of study based upon the student's research goals or particular interests. The minor is satisfied with 9 units of relevant coursework, and must be completed before the student takes their Comprehensive Exams.

In addition, the Doctoral Program requires that each student complete a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 laboratory rotations within their first academic year. Furthermore, each Doctoral student must take a course in Ethics, take a course in Statistics, and complete a semester as a teaching assistant to gain experience as a teacher.

During their second academic year, Doctoral students form a Comprehensive Committee and, by the end of that academic year, they must pass their written and oral Comprehensive Exams based upon their coursework in the major and minor areas of study.

After a successful performance on the Comprehensive Exams, the Doctoral student will form a Dissertation Committee and complete their dissertation project to earn the Ph.D. degree.

Coursework: Major Area of Study

The Doctoral program requires that all students complete the following courses:

  • PSIO 503 - Cellular and Molecular Physiology
    (6 units, Fall Semester)
  • PSIO 603 - Systems Physiology
    (6 units, Spring semester)
  • PS 696c - Student Forum
    (1 unit, taken each academic semester until graduation)
    • Student Forum meets every two weeks. It is an opportunity for graduate students to give talks and receive peer evaluation from Physiology students and faculty to improve their public speaking skills. Ph.D. students are expected to attend each Student Forum and to present a minimum of two 20-30 minutes talks and one hour-long seminar over the course of their graduate careers.
  • PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar
    (1 unit, taken each academic semester until graduation)
    • On alternative weeks to Student Forum, Doctoral students are required to attend the Physiology Seminar, in which speakers are invited from on-campus and off-campus institutions to deliver seminars on subjects relevant to Physiology.
  • PS 595b - Scientific Writing Strategies
    (2 units, Fall semester, satisfies Ethics requirement)
  • PSIO 697a, PSIO 697b - Teaching Workshop
    (1 unit each semester, 2 semesters total)
  • Upper Division Statistics - (400-level or greater)
    Suggested Courses: PHL 576 - Biostatistics for Public Health, STAT 509 - Statistics for Research, PSIO 575 - Statistical Analysis
    (3 units, satisfies Statistics requirement)
  • PS 700 or PSIO610 - Laboratory Rotation
    (3 units, must be taken at least twice)

Obtaining a B or better in PSIO 503 (Cellular and Molecular Physiology) and PSIO 603 (Systems Physiology) is considered the equivalent of passing the Graduate College's Qualifying Exams.

Students will select additional courses in consultation with their advisor or Dissertation Committee, with a goal of developing a study plan that is individually tailored to the student's particular interests and that will satisfy Graduate College requirements.

In some cases, certain Program requirements may be waived or credits may be transferred if equivalent coursework has been completed previously. However, if a waiver or transfer of credits is desired, the student must submit a written petition to the Program Committee.

Laboratory Rotations

Participation in research, under the supervision and guidance of a faculty member, allows students to learn valuable skills, to gain experience in the research "process", and to organize and present research results in both written and oral formats.

Doctoral students are required to take a minimum of two laboratory rotations, but most students register for three. The purpose of the laboratory rotation will vary with the individual needs and interests of the student, and a primary goal for successful completion of each rotation will be agreed upon between the student and the investigator. The laboratory rotation should provide an opportunity to become acquainted with the ongoing research of the laboratory and to be exposed to the important technical aspects of the work.

Laboratory rotations must be performed under the tutelage of any faculty member with an active appointment in the Physiological Sciences Graduate Program, and each rotation must be completed with a different faculty member. Laboratory rotations with faculty outside of the PS GIDP must be petitioned and approved by the Program Committee.

Sample Graduate Career

This table represents a sample career of a generic Doctoral student, and is subject to change depending on the study plan developed by the student.

1st Year

PSIO 503 - Cellular & Molecular Physiology (6 units)
PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
PS 700 - Laboratory Rotation (3 units)

PSIO697a - Teaching Workshop (1 unit): TA for either 201 or 202

PSIO 603 - Systems Physiology (6 units)                                                                                                                       PS 595b - Scientific Writing Strategies (2 units)
PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
PS 700 - Laboratory Rotation (3 units)
20-30 min. Student Forum Talk (End of Semester) Choose an Advisor & Join a Lab

PSIO 697b - Teaching Workshop (1 unit): TA for either 201 or 202

PS 700 - Laboratory Rotation (3 units - if neccesary, summer registration not required)

2nd Year

Form Comprehensive Exam Committee
PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Additional Courses for Minor
Research units
20-30 min. Student Forum Talk

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Statistics Course (3 units)
Additional Courses
Research units
Complete Comprehensive Exam

3rd Year

Form Dissertation Committee
PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Dissertation units

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Dissertation units

4th Year

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Dissertation units
Full-length Student Forum Seminar

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Dissertaton units

5th Year

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Dissertation units

PS 696c - Student Forum (1 unit)
PSIO 696a - Physiology Seminar (1 unit)
Research units
Complete Dissertation, Defend

Attend the Biomedical and Life Sciences Graduation Ceremony!

Minor Requirements

A Minor in a related or complementary area is required.  The Minor is typically 9-12  units and is completed by the end of year 2.

Student Handbook  

Program StatisticsInformation about these numbers

Program-level Information
Application Acceptance Rate 40%
Med. Time-to-degree (years) 4.50
Department-level Information
Enrollment Percent Male 50%
Enrollment Percent Female 50%
Enrollment Percent International 6%
Enrollment Percent URM 28%

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Last revised 29 Oct 2017