PhD in Human Physiology

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program in Human Physiology is dedicated to preparing its graduates to become independent researchers, capable of leading research labs, publishing and presenting their research, and writing successful research proposals to funding agencies.

As you consider your doctoral education, recognize that a doctoral program differs in substantial ways from both undergraduate and master’s degree programs. Choosing to obtain your doctorate opens the door to obtaining a leadership position in the research world—whether that research is in the biotech or pharmaceutical industry, a university, or a clinical setting. You will spend approximately five years working closely with a mentor, focusing on a specific area of science. You are encouraged to look closely at the research coming out of the labs of our faculty: look at their web pages, do a Medline search on their papers, look at where they publish. When you have identified a mentor with whom you’d like to work, feel free to contact that faculty member to learn more about research in his or her lab.

Our outstanding faculty—leaders in the fields of muscle physiology and pathophysiology, cardiovascular disease, neuroinformatics, computational neuroscience, cognition and neural information processing, cytoskeletal biology, cancer biology, and protein-protein interactions—are dedicated to guiding your professional development. Your mentor will be your role model who will assist you in all aspects of your graduate education, including selecting courses, developing your research plan, and assisting in the development of your writing and presentation skills.

Admission Requirements

Applicants may be admitted with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the biological or health sciences. Test results of the Graduate Record Examination General Test (institution code 3028) and three letters of reference (two from those familiar with your academic background) must be submitted. Scores of 155 or more on the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE are strongly recommended.

To ensure that you will have a suitable mentor, you are strongly encouraged to meet with a research faculty member about your research interests prior to submitting an application. A personal interview by the doctoral program faculty is usually required.

Undergraduate Prerequisites

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Statistics

Application Deadline

The review of applications begins on January 15.

Applications received after January 15 will be reviewed on a space-available basis.

Degree Requirements

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree must complete the equivalent of 16 semester courses (64 credits); those admitted with a master’s degree must complete the equivalent of 8 semester courses (32 credits). In both cases, a minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained. No more than 8 credits of any C grade will be accepted for inclusion in the requirement. No grade below C will be accepted.

At the end of the first year of study, the student submits a plan of study for completion of all degree requirements, including identification and approval of a departmental faculty member who will serve as the student’s research advisor.

Candidates take their comprehensive examination at the end of all formal coursework, usually at the end of the second year. This examination consists of a written, formal NRSA-type proposal followed by an oral defense of the hypothesis to be tested as well as general information emphasized in core coursework.

Following completion of dissertation research, a candidate must complete the written dissertation and defend it orally before the departmental faculty. At least one original research paper must be submitted for publication in a reputable scientific journal prior to receiving the doctoral degree.

A candidate must be in residence for at least two consecutive full-time academic semesters (full time equals 12 to 18 credits per semester or 8 to 12 credits per semester for a teaching or research fellow). A candidate’s program must be completed within five (post-master) or seven (post-bachelor) years of matriculation. Complete details can be found in the Graduate Student Manual.


The following is the required curriculum for the Doctor of Philosophy Program in Human Physiology. Each course carries 4 credits unless otherwise indicated. The specific course requirements are intentionally left broad to allow students to concentrate on areas related to their career goals.

Core Courses Post–BA/BS Post–MA/MS
SPH BS 704 Biostatistics
(* or evidence of prior accomplishment)



SAR HS 750 Analysis of Physiological Literature



Plus three (3) of the following:
SAR HS 542 Exercise Physiology



SAR HS 560 Muscle Biology



SAR HS 581 Gross Human Anatomy



SAR HS 582 Neuroanatomy/Neurophysiology



SAR HS 575 Cardiopulmonary Pathophysiology



CAS BI 552 Molecular Biology I



CAS BI 553 Molecular Biology II



Core (credits)



Elective/Specialization (credits)


Research (credits)






Electives, selected in consultation with the academic advisor, may be chosen from the list of core requirements or selected from other courses in the department, as well as from courses in other departments in BU Sargent College and other colleges within BU.

A Selection of Elective/Specialization Courses

  • SAR HS 550 Neural Systems
  • SAR HS 710 Graduate Affiliation (var. cr.)
  • SAR HS 745 Advanced Regional Anatomy (var. cr.)
  • SAR HS 755 Readings in Neuroscience
  • SAR HS 776 Nutrition Epidemiology
  • SAR HP 565 Biomechanics
  • SAR HP 771 Foundations of Motor Control
  • SAR HP 782 Advanced Human Movement
  • SAR PT 520 Functional Anatomy
  • GRS CH 621 Biochemistry I
  • GRS CH 622 Biochemistry II
  • GRS BI 655 Developmental Neurobiology
  • GRS BI 755 Cellular and Systems Neuroscience
  • GRS BI 756 Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • CAS BB 522 Molecular Biology Laboratory
  • CAS BI 525 Biology of Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • CAS BI 545 Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior
  • CAS BI 556 Membrane Biochemistry and Cell Signaling
  • CAS BI 560 Systems Biology
  • CAS CN 500 Computational Methods in Cognitive and Neural Systems
  • GMS AN 702 Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
  • GMS AN 707 Neurobiology of Aging
  • GMS AN 709 Neural Development and Plasticity
  • GMS AN 716 Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
  • GMS AN 718 Methods in Neuroscience
  • GMS AN 777 Fundamentals of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • GMS AN 811 Cognitive Neuroscience
  • SPH EP 713 Introduction to Epidemiology