MD/PhD

MD/PhD students seeking to complete the PhD portion of their combined degree must complete required courses and thesis research in three to four years. Thus, MD/PhD students are encouraged to learn about and interact with the Physiology graduate faculty as often as possible during their early medical school years. These interactions are voluntary and should not be allowed to interfere with the student’s academic achievement in medical school. However, the student should be keenly aware that completion of the PhD degree in three years requires intensity, commitment and hard work.

A typical PhD program for MD/PhD students is outlined below. Students are encouraged (not required) to participate in certain activities before officially beginning the PhD program. These voluntary activities described below.

Please visit the M.D./Ph.D. website to learn more.

General Requirements

The general requirements for any Ph.D. degree are listed in the Loyola University Graduate School Catalog and thus will not be detailed again here. The Physiology program requires its M.D./Ph.D. students to participate in all Departmental activities such as research seminars, journal clubs, research retreats, dissertation and thesis defenses. Attendance at these functions is mandatory during the Ph.D. years, and thus the student is expected to schedule research or other activities accordingly. Attendance at these functions is voluntary during medical school years.

The M.D./Ph.D. program in Physiology requires completion of the following core courses: Excitation & Ion Transport PIOL 470 or approved substitute and Membrane Proteins PIOL 472 or approved substitute, Biostatistics BMSC 402, Bioethics BMSC 405, Student Journal Club. Other courses required for the noncombined M.D./Ph.D. program will have already been taken as part of the Medical School curriculum.  Enrollment in the formal seminar course during the first Ph.D. year is also required. Students in the second and third Ph.D. year are required to give one formal seminar, which will normally be associated with the oral defense of the student’s thesis research. Decisions concerning elective coursework must be made with the approval of the student, the student’s thesis adviser and the Graduate Program director. The total number of credits should be 24.

Selection of Dissertation Adviser

The Physiology program encourages M.D./Ph.D. students to formally select a dissertation adviser (mentor) during the first Ph.D. year. The choice of dissertation advisers should be based on, 1) the student's research interests, 2) experience during summer research projects and, 3) interactions with the Physiology graduate. If a student requires additional time to choose a dissertation adviser, then the student must seek the approval and advice of the Graduate Program director. To formalize the mentor/student relationship, the M.D./Ph.D. student will approach a faculty member and determine if pursuing thesis work in his/her lab will be possible. If the mentor agrees to accept the student into their laboratory, then the mentor and student will provide the Graduate Program director a signed formal letter stating their mutual commitment to timely completion of degree requirements.

Qualifying Exam

The M.D./Ph.D. program requires its students to pass a comprehensive exam after completion of the core courses. The examination will be given by the Qualifying Exam Committee and will consist of a written research grant proposal unrelated to the student’s dissertation work and that must be presented and defended in front of the Qualifying Exam Committee.  The format used for this work will be the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship guidelines or the National Research Service Award Fellowship guidelines. The proposal should include a specific aims page, background and significance, preliminary data (from the literature if necessary) and research design and methods. The topic of the proposal will be determined by the student, who should submit the specific aims page for approval no later than June 1 of Year 2.  A Qualifying Examination Committee comprising four faculty members, including the student’s adviser (as a nonvoting member), will evaluate the specific aims page and approve or recommend changes that must be completed in a satisfactory manner within one week. The committee will determine if the examination topic is different from the student’s dissertation research. After approval of the specific aims, the student should write the grant proposal and submit the complete document to the Examination Committee within two to four weeks (by the first week of July).

A two-hour oral defense of the grant proposal must be completed by Aug. 1. The Examination Committee will evaluate the written document and the oral presentation/discussion on the basis of originality, mastery of the material, degree of logicality/rationality of the presentation, quality of the justification and defense of the proposed research plan. To pass the Qualifying Exam the student must be assigned grades of 'pass' by at least two of the three grading examiners. The Qualifying Exam Form must be completed and forwarded to the Graduate School Office at the Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC).  In the event that a student fails the examination, they may petition the director of Graduate Programs for a remediation examination, which if granted, will be conducted as soon as possible under guidelines established for the track. If remediation is not granted, the student will be terminated from the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Committee

The M.D./Ph.D. student should select a Dissertation Committee before starting the second Ph.D. year. The Dissertation Committee for the Ph.D. degree will have five M.D./Ph.D.-level members, two of whom are preferably not from the Department of Physiology. The majority of dissertation committee members from Loyola University Chicago must be members of the Graduate Faculty. One of these two external committee members should be a distinguished scientist who is not a member of the Loyola University research community. Experts from outside Loyola University Chicago will have substantially the same credentials for appointment to the Graduate Faculty at Loyola University Chicago. The Graduate Program director serves as an ex officio member on all Dissertation Committees. The student together with her or his adviser will suggest an agreeable faculty member from the Department of Physiology, other than the adviser, to serve as chairperson of the Dissertation Committee. The selection of chairperson of the Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Graduate Program director and Department Chair. In Year 3, the student will prepare a Dissertation Proposal and submit it to his/her dissertation committee by Jan. 1. After approval of the dissertation proposal, the Thesis/Dissertation Recommendation Form must be completed and forwarded to the LUMC Graduate School office to formalize the existence of the Dissertation Committee.

The student will continue to conduct research, attend journal clubs and seminars. The student and adviser are both responsible for monitoring the student’s progress and academic performance. Students should plan to periodically (about every six months but no longer than one year) meet with their Dissertation Committee to discuss their research progress and to receive guidance/advice in attaining future research goals. The Dissertation Committee has the responsibility to assure that the quality of the dissertation or thesis work meets the standards required by the Physiology Graduate Program, and that the defense of the thesis or dissertation is conducted in a competent, knowledgeable and scholarly manner. Specific expectations during this period include measurable progress toward the aims stated in the approved dissertation proposal, and presentation of results at local, national or international scientific conferences.

Dissertation Proposal

The Physiology program requires that its M.D./Ph.D. students formally present a Thesis/Dissertation Proposal/Outline to their Dissertation Committee (by Jan. 1) . The Thesis Proposal should be written in a format consistent with a National Research Service Award (NRSA) application. Two weeks after presentation of the written proposal to committee members, the student will orally defend the proposal in a public seminar attended by the Dissertation Committee. The oral defense of the proposal requires the presence of at least four Dissertation Committee members. If the Dissertation Committee approves the proposal, a copy of the approved proposal/outline and a completed Thesis/Dissertation Outline Evaluation Form must be forwarded to the LUMC Graduate School office.

Application for Graduation

Once the M.D./Ph.D. student has made significant progress towards completing degree requirements and anticipates facing an oral defense of the dissertation, an Application for Graduation Form must be completed. Submission of this form to the LUMC Graduate School Office requires a fee.

Dissertation Reader’s Copy

Near the end of the Ph.D. work, the M.D./Ph.D. student should provide the Dissertation Committee with a Reader’s Copy of the dissertation. The Reader’s Copy of the dissertation must be approved by the Dissertation Committee prior to the final defense.

Dissertation Final Defense

After approval of the Reader’s Copy, the M.D./Ph.D. student should schedule the oral defense of the dissertation research. At least four members of the Dissertation Committee must be present at the oral defense. The oral defense is an open (public) event. The Report on the Thesis/Dissertation Oral Defense Form will be circulated to the Dissertation Committee after the oral defense for their signatures. The completed report form should be forwarded to the LUMC Graduate School Office immediately following the oral defense. This must occur by the third or fourth Ph.D. year.

M.D. Year 1:

Fall

  • Medical School
  • Meet the Faculty lunches

Spring

  • Medical School
  • Arrange: Summer Research Fellowship

Summer

  • Perform: Summer Research Project

M.D. Year 2:

Fall and Spring

  • Medical School

Summer

  • Perform: Summer Research Project

M.D. Years 3 & 4: 

Fall, Spring and Summer

  • Medical School

Fall

  • Methods (BMSC 416; 1 credit)
  • Excitation & Transport (PIOL 470; 3 credits or substitute elective)
  • Ethics in Biomedical Sciences (BMSC 405; 1 credit)
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL 446; 0 credits)
  • Research (PIOL 412; 7 credits)

12 credits

Spring

  • Membrane Proteins (PIOL 472; 3 credits, or substitute elective)
  • Statistics (BMSC 402; 2 credits)
  • Research Seminar (PIOL 416; 0 credits)
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL 446; 0 credits)
  • Research (PIOL 412; 7 credits)

12 credits

  • Formally Choose Dissertation Research Mentor
  • Qualifying Exam

Summer

  • Thesis Research (full-time)

Fall

  • Formation of Dissertation Committee
  • Presentation of Dissertation Proposal
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL 446; 0 credits)
  • Research (PIOL 412; 0 credits)

Spring

  • Dissertation Supervision (PIOL 600)
  • Research Seminar (PIOL 416, 0 credits)
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL 446; 0 credits)        

Summer

  • Dissertation Research (full-time)

Fall

  • Dissertation Supervision (PIOL 600)
  • Research Seminar (PIOL 416; 0 credits)
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL 446; 0 credits)

Spring

  • Dissertation Supervision (PIOL 600)
  • Research Seminar (PIOL 416; 0 credits)
  • Student Journal Club (PIOL; 0 credits)

Summer

  • Dissertation Research (full-time)
  • Final Dissertation Defense