Master's Program

Bulletin: Overview and Admission Requirements for the Master of Science (M.S.) Program in Physiology and Biophysics

Master of Science Degree in Physiology and Biophysics

Graduate education in Physiology and Biophysics is a highly individualized enterprise that combines didactic course work, an apprenticeship in research supervised by a mentor, and the preparation and oral defense of a thesis.  The goals are acquisition of a knowledge base and the development of the capacity for critical thinking and scholarship. The program usually is completed in 2 years.  Individuals with a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent at the time of enrollment are eligible to apply. Although there are no absolute course requirements for admission, fundamental knowledge of general and organic chemistry, biology and mathematics are considered necessary to pursue advanced studies.  Upper-level courses in cellular and molecular biology are desirable. Previous research experience or demonstration of a serious interest in a research-oriented career is also desirable.

Prospective M.S. students also may enter upon completion of the VCU Premedical Health Sciences Certificate program, CERT, and appropriate courses taken during CERT can be applied to M.S. program requirements. CERT students typically begin the M.S. the Summer after completing CERT and, with diligence, are able to defend the following Spring. In some cases, students defend the following Summer.  Identifying a research advisor (mentor) during Spring prior to entering the M.S. is essential and will allow CERT students to make more rapid progress.

Admission Requirements and Student Learning Outcomes are described in the Bulletin

Research Advisor/Mentor.  Research is done in the laboratory of the chosen advisor. A candidate may rotate through several labs before deciding on a lab in which to do a research thesis project.  Selection of a research advisor is a critical step for all M.S. students and requires approval of the Graduate Program Director.  Preference is given to mentors within the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and then to our affiliate faculty.  This provides a broad range of interests and expertise to match student interests and career goals.  Potential mentors who are not part of our primary or affiliate faculty will be considered if adequately justified.  With the assistance of the research advisor, a Graduate Student Advisory Committee is selected; this committee provides additional guidance and oversight of the research project.

Teaching experience. Selected M.S. students also have the opportunity to acquire teaching experience and financial support by serving as teaching assistants for PHIZ 206 Human Physiology Laboratory for one semester.  Teaching assistants must have completed PHIS 501 and be making good progress in the program.

Thesis and Final Examination.  The thesis must be submitted to the Graduate Advisory Committee at least two weeks prior to the Final Examination. The Final Examination is an oral examination that may cover formal course work as well as being a defense of the thesis. Students must have a grade point average of at least 3.0 overall and in courses within the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in order to take this examination. The examiners are the Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the Dean of the School of Medicine or their representative. The examination is open to the faculty, but only the examiners may vote. Their approval of the thesis with no more than one negative vote on the candidate’s performance on the examination is required. Upon successful completion of the oral examination and approval of the thesis document, the candidate is recommended for awarding of the degree.

Residency. A minimum of two semesters in residence is required for the MS. This requirement can be waived by the Director of the Graduate Program in exceptional cases.

The VCU Master's Program encourages students with disabilities, underrepresented minorities, and students who are disadvantaged to apply. We are committed to student diversity and make every effort to attract and recruit applicants with diverse backgrounds.


Contact Information.
Christina I. Kyrus, M.B.A.
Program Coordinator


PHIS 608Cell Physiology: GI & Endocrine 
PHIS 612Cardiovascular Physiology  
PHIS 619Mitochondrial Pathophysiology and Human Disease 
PHIS 620Ion Channels In Membranes 
PHIS 692-801Molecular Biology, Genetics and Epigenetics in Psychiatry  
Thesis Research Cardiovascular Physiology 
PHIS 697Directed Research in Physiology (variable credit course; required each semester) 
CourseTitle Hours
Required Core Courses  
BIOC 503Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology5
BIOC 504Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology5
IBMS 600Laboratory Safety  1
PHIS 501Mammalian Physiology 5
PHIS 650Critical Thinking in Physiology 1
PHIS 690

Physiology Research Seminar(one-credit course taken twice)


Required Additonal Courses  
OVPR 601Scientific Integrity1
  or OVPR 602    or Responsible Scientific Conduct 
  or OVPR 603  or Responsible Conduct of Research 
Elective Courses  Select six credits from the following or as recommended by the graduate advisor committee and approved by the graduate program director  
IBMS 635Cellular Signaling  
PHIS 512Cardiac Function in Health and Disease 
PHIS 604Cell Physiology: Cardiovascular & Respiratory  
PHIS 606 Molecular Basis for Disease 
PHIS 607 Molecular Basis for Disease 


Total Hours: 30

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 30.  Students often take more than the minimum.



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