Program Overview


There are several inter-related goals in the training of pharmacological sciences at Vanderbilt University. At the scientific level, we seek to provide a didactic curriculum that assures that each student has an understanding of the core knowledge in pharmacology and related physiology, including the molecular, cellular and integrated understanding of drug action, receptor theory, pathways of drug metabolism, pharmacokinetics, and rational drug design.

Additional goals in our training program are to:

  1. show, by example, how to construct a rational hypothesis;
  2. teach, again by example, how to apply the scientific method to test an hypothesis;
  3. provide a basic understanding of a broad range of techniques;
  4. provide more in-depth training in those techniques that are particularly germane to a chosen research area of a particular student;
  5. teach how to communicate effectively their research findings to the scientific community, and
  6. instill a scientific ethic and respect for the pursuit of knowledge. 

Other aspirations of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program are:

  1. to foster the ability of students to learn how to learn on their own for the rest of their lives, a skill critical for continued excellence in scientific inquiry,
  2. to free students from the fear of failure, and
  3. to impart to students an appreciation for diversity.

Each of these latter goals is essential for sustained contributions and leadership in any career, and particularly in biomedical research.



The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program participates in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGP).

First Year

  • Students spend the first year in an interdisciplinary core course that blends insights in current topics on bioregulation with fundamental principles governing cell structure and regulation of biological processes. This course also provides exposure to the basic principles underlying modern laboratory techniques.
  • Flexible research rotations begin after the first seven weeks and through the spring semester to familiarize students with the science, personality and working environment in the laboratories of potential research advisors.
  • Elective course work also begins in the spring semester.
  • In April of the first year, students select an advisor and a graduate program and begin focused laboratory research during the first summer.

Second Year Through Completion

  • For those students who select the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program, additional course work is planned by students and mentors together to meet the individual interests and needs of each student. Interdepartmental course work and individualization of the curriculum for each student is emphasized.
  • Laboratory research continues nearly full time during the second year of course work and comprises the student's entire efforts in subsequent years of study.
  • Students are encouraged from the outset to understand science as a question-asking process and to acquire skills in posing questions, selecting and designing appropriate experimental strategies, and outlining possible outcomes and interpretations. This conceptual framework repeats itself in didactic course work, laboratory rotations, journal club presentations, and in scientific presentations at the annual fall departmental retreat, student-invited Spring Pharmacology Forum, and at national meetings.


Undergraduate Preparation

The Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt welcomes applications from graduates in chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, biology or pharmacy undergraduate programs. Other programs, such as physics and engineering, are especially appropriate for some areas of pharmacological research. Undergraduate research experience, although not a requirement, is favorably regarded.


How to Apply

An application may be obtained by

Contacting Pharmacology Directly

Department of Pharmacology
Training Program in Pharmacological Sciences
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
507E Light Hall
Nashville, TN 37232-0700

Contacting the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) Office

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
340 Light Hall
Nashville, TN 37232


Visiting our Graduate School's home page and downloading the application

The Graduate School

  • Applicants to the Ph.D. program must be completing or have completed a Bachelor's degree.
  • GRE scores (general test) are required.
  • Deadline for receipt of applications for the subsequent fall semester is January 15, but earlier application is recommended.
  • Applications may be made directly to the Department of Pharmacology or to the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt.