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Physiology and Biophysics

Department Overview

G424 Health Sciences

Physiology deals with the processes, activities, and phenomena incidental to, and characteristic of, life and living organisms. Based upon physics, chemistry, and mathematics, physiology interlocks closely with the other basic medical sciences anatomy, molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, and with psychology. Research in physiology is accomplished by analyzing the molecular, cellular, and integrative properties of the system under study. For this reason, physiology appeals to students with diverse backgrounds and goals. Courses in this field are given for medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, and graduate students.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
G424 Health Sciences, Box 357290
(206) 685-0519

The Department of Physiology and Biophysics offers advanced instruction and training leading to both the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Students aspiring only to the M.S. degree are rarely accepted. Students pursuing a PhD degree in physiology and biophysics may emphasize molecular and cellular physiology, biophysics, neurobiology, respiratory physiology, or endocrinology. Studies leading to the doctoral degree require five to six years to complete. The first year is spent acquiring a broad knowledge of physiology via a sequence of courses and laboratory rotations. After selection of a special area of study, the second year is spent taking advanced seminars in the area of specialization and developing a thesis proposal. After admission to candidacy, the latter years are spent pursuing the area in depth and completing an original research project.

Individuals with graduate degrees in physiology and biophysics often pursue careers in teaching and research in colleges and universities and in biotech industries. The department participates in interdisciplinary PhD degree programs in neurobiology and behavior and in molecular and cellular biology. The department also participates in the medical scientist training program, and the biological physics structure and design program.

Master of Science

The Master of Science degree is normally granted as part of the path of study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Students are normally admitted only to the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

To apply for admission, a student must provide academic transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, four letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Because of the broad scope and interdisciplinary nature of the graduate program, there are no specific prerequisites for admission. However, most students have backgrounds in the physical and/or biological sciences. These include majors in biology, physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, chemistry, and psychology. The most important requirement is a strong motivation and excitement about doing science.

Degree Requirements

90 credits minimum, as follows:

Due to the broad nature of research interests in the department and the diversity of graduate-student backgrounds, formal course requirements are kept to a minimum and are completed in the first year. Students are encouraged to shape their own graduate education, as they choose the majority of their coursework and the scientific direction for their research. Courses available include those offered by other departments, both in the Medical School and elsewhere on campus. Electives may be chosen from a list of mini-courses whose topics reflect the current interests of faculty and students. Students are required to take at least six mini courses.

Required Courses:

  1. CONJ 531, CONJ 532, P BIO 532, NEUBEH 501, NEUBEH 502, P BIO 508, must be taken three times); P BIO 513, P BIO 519
  2. Six departmental mini-courses, to be completed prior to the general examination, from the following: P BIO 509, P BIO 545, P BIO 550, P BIO 551, P BIO 552, P BIO 553, P BIO 554, P BIO 555, P BIO 556, P BIO 557, P BIO 559.
  3. P BIO 600 (before general examination)
  4. P BIO 800 (after general examination)
  5. Note: P BIO 503 is highly recommended, but not required

General Examination

The general examination must be taken by the last day of autumn quarter of the third year. After passing the general examination the student is advanced to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The student then registers for P BIO 800 and continues working on thesis research.

Final Examination

The culmination of the program is the submission of a written doctoral thesis and the presentation of this work in a public lecture attended by members of the department and the University.

Research Facilities

The department is well equipped to provide instruction and research training in cellular and molecular physiology, neurobiology, membrane biophysics, respiratory physiology, muscle biophysics, endocrinology, reproduction, and physiological psychology. The facilities of the Regional Primate Research Center, adjacent to the department, are available to qualified trainees who need to use primates in their research.