PhD in Human Physiology

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program in Human Physiology prepares the next generation of leading scientists that will shape research and education in universities, hospitals or clinics, and the biotech or pharmaceutical industry.

Our PhD program engages graduate students in cutting-edge research on novel and important biomedical questions across multiple disciplines, including experimental and computational neuroscience, neuropathology, muscle-cardiovascular-renal pathophysiology, cytoskeletal biology and signaling, and cancer biology.

Our outstanding faculty—leaders in their respective fields—provide unsurpassed mentorship and training, creating individualized study programs to best fulfill each student’s unique educational needs and professional development goals. Students in our program also benefit from a highly collaborative environment within our program, other departments within Boston University, and multidisciplinary interactions across Boston-area universities, hospitals, international research groups, and institutes.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of theory and existing research in physiology and/or neuroscience.
  • Synthesize existing knowledge, identify and access appropriate resources, and critically analyze and evaluate others’ findings to identify and design research questions in physiology and/or neuroscience.
  • Communicate research results in a manner appropriate to the audience.

Graduates will:

  • Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline.
  • Demonstrate career success.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should refer to the program website for the most up-to-date admission requirements and application deadlines.

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 available on our website.


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
SAR HS 750 Critical Analysis of Physiological Information Sources



SPH BS 704 Biostatistics
(* or evidence of prior accomplishment)



Plus three (3) of the following:
CAS BI 552 Molecular Biology I



CAS BI 553 Molecular Biology II



SAR HS 542 Exercise Physiology



SAR HS 575 Cardiovascular Pathophysiology



SAR HS 581 Gross Human Anatomy



SAR HS 582 Neuroanatomy/Neurophysiology



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 and schools within BU.

A Selection of Elective/Specialization Courses

  • 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
  • GRS BI 655 Developmental Neurobiology
  • GRS BI 755 Cellular and Systems Neuroscience
  • GRS BI 756 Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • GRS CH 621 Biochemistry I
  • GRS CH 622 Biochemistry II
  • SAR HP 565 Biomechanics
  • SAR HP 771 Foundations of Motor Control
  • SAR HP 782 Advanced Human Movement
  • SAR HS 550 Neural Systems
  • SAR HS 5** Pulmonary Pathophysiology
  • SAR HS 5** Vascular Physiology
  • 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 PT 520 Functional Anatomy
  • SPH PH 717 Quantitative Methods for Public Health