Department of Pharmacology


Overview of Coursework


Most students enter our program through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) with a smaller number coming from the Chemical and Physical Biology (CPB) Program and the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Coursework is designed to impart to students a common framework of basic principles in Pharmacology and related disciplines. This framework is supplemented by exercises that allow students to use and integrate basic principles. An overview of the Program, including the IGP or CPB year, is presented below.






IGP Core Course-Bioregulation I (IGP 8300A)
Visit with Departments
First and Second Rotations

IGP Core Course-Bioregulation II (IGP 8300B) – Receptors Module required of Pharmacology Students
Third and Fourth RotationsAt least one Elective Course

Receptor Theory (PHAR 8324)
Begin Ph.D. Research


CPB Program students take a curriculum custom tailored to meet the needs of each student. Often this is mathematics and physics for biologists and biology for physicists and mathematicians. Laboratory Rotations.


Targets, Systems, and Drug Action (PHAR 8320)
Scientific Communication Skills (PHAR 8322)
At least one Elective Course
Present at Department Retreat
Continue Ph.D. Research

Targets, Systems, and Drug Action (PHAR 8321)
Scientific Communication Skills II (PHAR 8323)
At Least one Elective Course
Graduate Student Seminar
Student-Invited Forum
Meetings with Faculty
Continue Ph.D. Research

Qualifying Examinations
Parts I and II
Continue Ph.D. Research


Continued participation in dissertation research, presentation at Department Retreat, Student-Invited Forum, presentation and attendance at Student Seminars and Works in Progress, attendance at Department Seminars, lunches with faculty members, and meetings with Dissertation Committee. Continue Ph.D. Research



Pharmacology Training Program Required Coursework. In addition to the IGP or CPB core, there is a core curriculum for graduate students in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program that includes five (5) required courses, complemented by several available elective courses. The required courses are Receptor Theory  (PHAR 8324); Scientific Communication Skills (PHAR 8322); Scientific Communication Skills II (PHAR 8323); and Targets, Systems, and Drug Action, Parts I and II (PHAR 8320 and 8321).

The overall coursework plan for a graduate student who selects a participating mentor in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program and intends to graduate from Vanderbilt with a Ph.D. in Pharmacology is outlined below (click on the title of the course for a link to the current/most recent syllabus for that course):



PHAR 8324 - Receptor Theory & Signal Transduction – SUMMER COURSE

Receptor Theory (PHAR 8324); Course covering structure and function of cell-surface receptors and the molecular bases by which they activate cellular function. Topics include receptor identification; quantitation of simple and complex binding phenomena; molecular bases for receptor coupling to GTP-binding proteins; the structure and function of ligand-operated ion channels, receptor tyrosine kinases and receptor-induced signal transduction cascades receptors as oncogenes and proto-oncogenes. [1-3] (Shieh)


PHAR 8322 and 8323 - Scientific Communications Skills, Part I and Part II – FALL COURSE and SPRING COURSE

Scientific Communication Skills (PHAR 8322) in the Fall and Scientific Communication Skills II (PHAR 8323) in the Spring; Techniques in effective oral communication of scientific research as well as practical experience in research and literature presentation and in the preparation of grant proposals. [1 EACH] (Davies/Schneider/Zhang)


PHAR 8320 and 8321 - Targets, Systems, and Drug Action, Part I and Part II – FALL COURSE THAT RUNS INTO SPRING

Targets, Systems, and Drug Action (PHAR 8320 and PHAR 8321); Introduction to human physiology is integrated with the pathophysiology, pathological manifestations, and therapeutic interventions. Lectures and laboratories emphasize the molecular and cellular underpinnings of normal organ function and disease. Mechanisms of drug action are discussed in a systemic fashion and supported by guided readings on drug discovery and design. Paradigm shifting experiments will be discussed to illustrate clarity of thinking, how focused experimental strategies lead to discovery, and potential difficulties in interpretation of experimental results. [1-10] (Brash)


Summary of Required Coursework Expectations.  The overall goal of the Program is that each student graduating with a degree in Pharmacology will have a shared body of knowledge of cellular and integrated physiology; therapeutic agents, how they are handled by the body, how they work and how they affect diverse patient populations; and the molecular basis by which drugs, endogenous hormones, neurotransmitters, and autocrine agents regulate cellular pathways via diverse signaling pathways.  The students also will have refined their ability to communicate scientific knowledge they have read or obtained in their own research activities.  This shared body of knowledge obtained by all participates in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program is complemented by an area of distinct scholarship by each student, provided in part by the elective coursework described below.

Elective coursework.  In addition to the above required coursework, each student must take a minimum of six credit hours of elective coursework distributed over at least two elective courses.  The Scientific Communication Skills II course outlined above counts as 1 hour of required elective coursework. A large number of additional electives are available.