PhD in Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Pathology, the study of disease, integrates all aspects of biomedical science to further the understanding of disease processes and develop methods for diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease. The PhD in Pathology & Laboratory Medicine is for students who want to participate in breakthrough scientific research and contribute to the advancement of biomedical knowledge, learning how diseases work at a mechanistic level. Graduates will be prepared for postdoctoral fellowships, science writing, running a lab as a principal investigator, and shaping science policy at the government level.

Our department focuses particularly on cancer, immunologic, inflammatory, and neurologic disorders. We have a strong and diverse faculty composed of core and joint members who offer multiple research and training opportunities in experimental pathology.

Current foci of research by departmental faculty and students include:

  • The development of the brain
  • Disorders of brain development and normal aging
  • Effects of nutrition on the developing brain
  • Disorders of cell cycle and cell signaling in the pathogenesis and progression of cancer
  • Normal and abnormal immunological responses to infectious agents and environmental toxins and to other stimuli
  • The neuroscience of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • The pathogenesis of asthma
  • Development of immunotherapies for cancer and infectious diseases

Prospective applicants to the PhD program in Pathology must enter via the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS). This program emphasizes interdisciplinary training for the first year, after which time students will be free to transition into one of the doctoral programs offered by the Department of Pathology.

Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS)

The Department of Pathology participates in the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS), which offers training toward the PhD degree by integrating the foundations of interdisciplinary biomedical research with focused investigation and preparation for career advancement.

In the first year, PhD students will participate in the Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (FiBS) core curriculum as well as have the opportunity to select elective courses focused on area-specific interests. Additionally, trainees will engage in laboratory rotations, journal clubs, and research seminars. Trainees will work closely with a faculty advisor in the development of an individual plan that will be tailored to serve specific research and professional goals. After selection of a laboratory, students will join the program/department with which the mentor is affiliated and continue advanced studies towards candidacy.

For more on how to apply, please visit our website.

Program Overview

The doctoral program is broadly based, offers research training in both basic and clinical investigations of disease, and encourages students to integrate the two areas where appropriate in their doctoral research. The core curriculum provides course, seminar, and laboratory opportunities for students to learn the pathogenesis, morphology, and cell and molecular biology of human diseases and laboratory techniques used to study them.

Laboratories of faculty in the department and other faculty in the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences provide opportunities for doctoral dissertation research in many aspects of the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.

Students are expected to fulfill all course requirements, choose a dissertation laboratory, and begin preparatory dissertation research within four semesters. They then take the qualifying examination and, if successful, present a dissertation research proposal to their faculty committee and proceed with their research. Students in the alternative tracks follow a modified curriculum in which certain departmental requirements are substituted by requirements of the respective interdepartmental program.

Our faculty members are committed to facilitating all pathology graduate students’ efficient progress through our graduate programs, in a goal-oriented manner. The student group is enthusiastic and interactive. And our graduates pursue careers in academia, biotechnology settings, government laboratories and, if also medically trained, in clinical specialties.


In addition to the pathology curriculum, students may choose from three additional specialized tracks:

  • Pathology—Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Pathology—Immunology
  • Pathology—Neuroscience

Specialized coursework offered through the department includes:

  • Basic and Experimental Pathology
  • Protein Modification and Molecular Basis of Human Diseases
  • The Business of Science

Involvement with the MD/PhD Program

  • Pathology regularly participates in evening sessions with the MD/PhD students where research opportunities within pathology are discussed.
  • Dr. Remick serves on the MD/PhD admissions committee to review applicants and rank interviewed applicants.
  • Several faculty members in pathology serve as interviewers for the MD/PhD applicants, providing a critical component since the group struggles to find sufficient MD interviewers. Additionally, Dr. Steffen serves as the liaison between the School of Engineering and the Medical School, as he holds a faculty appointment in both schools.
  • Recent MD/PhD graduates who have defended and gone back to graduated medical school are Bryan Belikoff (Remick Lab/Defended Spring 2010), Besam Khidhir (Haber/Harvard Lab/Defended Spring 2010), Chad Mayer (Kurosawa Lab/Defended Spring 2014), David Stepien (Remick Lab/Defended Spring 2013), Louis Vaickus (Remick Lab/Defended Spring 2010), Nick Woolf (Rahimi Lab/Graduated Spring 2015), Terry Hsieh (Remick Lab/Defended Spring 2016), and Melody Lun (Off-Site-Childrens Hospital/Lehtinen Lab/Defended Spring 2016).

Program Structure

MD/PhD and PhD General Requirements

A course of study and laboratory experience extending over one to two years is followed by a qualifying examination, which is taken within one semester after completion of required coursework. The proposal for dissertation research is then developed and presented to the dissertation committee; the proposed research extends over another one to two years and is performed under the guidance of the major advisor with the help and advice of the committee.

The Director of Graduate Studies serves as a curriculum advisor to all students in the first two years of the program and approves the course registration forms. After the required courses are completed, the student’s research advisor provides direction in the choice of additional courses.

Laboratory rotations are performed in the first year of study to:

  • Acquaint students with research opportunities in the program
  • Teach a variety of approaches to research and teach specific research methods
  • Permit choice of a laboratory for dissertation research. The dissertation research advisor should be chosen and preliminary work in the area of research begun early in the second year of study

There is an emphasis on integration of basic experimental and clinical aspects of pathology in the program. Students are encouraged to attend research and clinical seminars and discussions at the Medical School.

Qualifying Exams

BUSM Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Pathology PhD graduate students are eligible to take this compulsory examination after successfully completing the required coursework. This will typically take place at the end of second year for PhD students and at the end of third year for the MD/PhD students.

There is one exam period each year: May–June.

The qualifying examination has two parts:

Exam evaluation: Pass/Fail/Conditional Pass. In the event of a conditional pass, the examining committee will define the appropriate corrective steps and a time frame for completing these steps.

After passing the qualifying examination, the graduate student will proceed with selection of his or her thesis committee.

Current members of the committee are: Dr. J. K. Blusztajn, Dr. B. Slack (committee chair), Dr. I. Delalle, Dr. D. Remick, and Dr. N. Rahimi. Alternate member: Dr. J. Sharon.

Admission & Financial Assistance

Criteria for Admission

Students must have received a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university. Additional criteria considered by the admissions committee include:

  • A good academic record/GPA
  • GRE test results and TOEFL for international students
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of references
  • Interview evaluation (if invited)
  • Interest level in pathology research
  • All aspects of the applicant, including research experience and publications, are considered in the decision process

Financial Support

All PhD and MD/PhD students who are admitted to the program automatically receive a stipend, tuition, activity fees, and health insurance. For the 2018–2019 academic year, the stipend is $34,000.

Students are also eligible to compete for support from outside agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. While in graduate school, students are also eligible to compete with other students in the Division for research and travel awards from the department and the Boston University School of Medicine.

Additional Opportunities

Research opportunities that provide students with the techniques and knowledge necessary to confront scientific problems

Teaching opportunities through BUSM, BU CityLab Academy, BU Metropolitan College, and BUSM Office of Student Affairs tutoring program

Departmental seminars provide students with the opportunity to hear and interact with pathologists and basic scientists from a variety of disciplines

Journal Club allows students to lead discussions about current literature, fundamental papers, or new ideas in their fields of study

Core Facilities

  • Animal Research Resource Center
  • Biomedical Imaging Center
  • Cellular Imaging Core
  • Experimental Pathology Laboratory Service Core Facility
  • Flow Cytometry Core Facility
  • High Throughput Screening Core
  • Microarray Resource Core Facility
  • Molecular Genetics Core Facility
  • Proteomics Core Facility