Ph.D. Program

These guidelines represent the policies of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology regarding the doctoral (Ph.D.) program. The doctoral program is administered by the departmental Student Affairs and Curriculum Committee (Student Affairs Committee) consisting of the Graduate Program Director, three additional faculty members elected by the faculty, and the 3rd- and 4th-year class representatives selected by the graduate students. This Committee is responsible for reviewing the progress of the students, administering the qualifying exams and recommending changes in the program for approval by the faculty. In addition, the Department Chairman, the Student Affairs Committee, the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, and all members of the faculty are available to assist students in their progress towards successful completion of the Ph.D. degree and in obtaining outstanding research positions following graduation. Additional information from the Graduate School Catalog, the Graduate School, and the School of Medicine Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies should also be reviewed.

Students are expected to read and be familiar with the policies and requirements outlined herein which form part of the overall University academic policies. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the Graduate School Catalog, the policies on academic standing, the "Compact Between Biomedical Graduate Students and Their Research Advisors", and the requirements for obtaining graduate degrees at the University of Louisville. Students enrolled in the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate programs at the University of Louisville are also required to affirm that they have read, understand, and will abide by the Code of Student Conduct set forth in the Graduate School Catalog.

Laboratory Research and Selection of Advisor

Students in the Ph.D. program receive training in both the classroom and laboratory. It is important that students begin work in the laboratory as soon as possible. During the summer of the first year, incoming students attend an orientation program to introduce them to the facilities and the research activities of the faculty. During orientation week, students will meet more formally with those faculty members of the department with whom the student may wish to work. Thereafter, each student will participate in one or more laboratory rotations in order to familiarize themselves with a variety of possible research projects and faculty mentors. Students will receive a letter grade for their research efforts and performance every semester prior to becoming a degree candidate.

As soon as possible, but no later than the end of the spring term, students must select a research advisor (mentor) and laboratory for their dissertation research. Early selection of research projects and their advisor will permit students to spend a maximum amount of time pursuing their research goals. The selections of the graduate advisors must be approved by the Student Affairs Committee. Students are expected to begin working diligently in the laboratory of their research advisor as soon as the selection is made. Although students normally remain in the laboratories of their advisor for the duration of their Ph.D. training, if it is decided by either an individual student or his or her advisor that a change of research advisors is desirable, then the student has the option of selecting a new research advisor with the approval of the Student Affairs Committee.

Selection of Dissertation Research Committee

Once an advisor has been selected and the research project is underway, the advisor in consultation with the student will submit to the Student Affairs Committee the names of five faculty members willing to serve on the student's Dissertation Research Committee. On this Committee at least one member must have a primary appointment in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and at least one member must not have a primary appointment in the Department. Since this Committee must approve the student's research proposal, the committee should be appointed as soon as possible. Committees must be approved by the Student Affairs Committee, the Chair of the Department and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Seminars and Research Conferences

All students are expected to attend departmental seminars, research conferences and journal clubs and are required to make research presentations or present seminars at appropriate times during their training (following rotations, 2nd semester of first year, proposal defense, etc.). All students are expected to participate actively in the questions and discussion following seminars. Before candidacy, students will receive grades based both on their individual presentations as well as their participation in the other departmental seminars.


Download the program plan and schedule [PDF]

Qualifying Exams for Ph.D. degree

Ph.D. students will take a series of written qualifying exams, developed by faculty, during the first two years, and an oral qualifying exam administered by the faculty and the student's Dissertation Research Committee following the Ph.D. proposal defense. The oral qualifying exam will test the student’s ability to pose a scientific question, state a hypothesis, test the hypothesis through appropriate strategies, anticipate possible outcomes, forecast reasonable interpretations of the outcomes and suggest alternative outcomes. Each exam will be designed to develop and assess the ability of students to apply their knowledge to various research situations.

Evaluation of Student's Progress toward the Ph.D. Degree

At the end of every semester, the progress of each student will be evaluated by the Student Affairs Committee. Students are required to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0, satisfactory research performance, active participation in department activities and seminars, and acceptable performance on the Qualifying Exams. Students whose GPA is below 3.0 will be placed on academic probation for the following term. Students who continue on academic probation for two or more terms may be subject to dismissal or be placed in a terminal master’s program. Students must also maintain a satisfactory level of research performance in order to retain their research assistantship.

Master's Thesis, Ph.D. Proposal Defense, Oral Qualifying Exam

After successful completion of all required coursework and attainment of at least a 3.0 GPA, students will be admitted to master's candidacy. During master's candidacy, students will generate a master's thesis, and students in the doctoral program will also complete a Ph.D. research proposal in the form of an NIH grant application. The thesis and NIH grant application must be provided to the student's Dissertation Research Committee at least two weeks before the scheduled seminar. A copy of the NIH grant application will also be placed in the departmental office for review by the faculty. After the faculty and Committee members have had at least two weeks to read the student's grant application, the proposal will be presented and defended by the student at a departmental seminar. This seminar will serve to defend the student’s M.S. thesis and Ph.D. proposal, and will immediately be followed by the oral qualifying exam administered by the faculty.

Doctoral Candidacy

A student will become a Doctoral Candidate following the successful completion of all required course work, successful performance on the written and oral qualifying exams, as well as the successful defense of the master's thesis and Ph.D. research proposal, and acceptable performance in the laboratory as evaluated by the student’s research mentor. The M.S. degree and doctoral candidacy should be achieved no later than the summer following the second year.

To maintain doctoral candidacy status, the student is required to demonstrate his/her ability to plan, conduct, analyze, and present original research, to the student's Dissertation Research Committee during each year of their candidacy. The Committee must provide annual written certification of satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. Failure to make satisfactory progress towards the Ph.D. degree, documented by unsatisfactory reports from the student's Dissertation Research Committee, is grounds for dismissal from the program.


The writing and defense of a Doctoral Dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D. degree. The Dissertation Research Committee members must have had at least two weeks to read a student's dissertation before a defense can be scheduled. The dissertation must present data of sufficient quality and quantity so as to convince the Committee that the student possesses the ability to pursue independent and original research. The student must defend the research protocol, results, and conclusions at an oral Dissertation Defense. To satisfactorily pass the dissertation defense, a student may not receive more than one abstention or dissenting vote from a member of the Dissertation Research Committee.

Checklist for Application

  • Application forms
  • Application fee
  • Transcripts
  • Statement of experience and professional goals.
  • Letters of Recommendation [3]
  • International students only
    • Test Score - Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL]
    • Verbatim notarized English translations of all academic records and credentials. 
    • A certified and officially translated transcript (by ECE or WES).
    • International Financial Supplement Form (If on a Visa that requires an I-20 or IAP-66)

Application Forms

  • All candidates for admission to graduate programs at the University of Louisville must complete the graduate student application form. This may be completed online or may be submitted via mail to:

Graduate Admissions
105 Houchens Building
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
United States of America

  • Applications are received at any time for starting dates of approximately August 1.
  • All credentials and/or communications should be submitted to the Office of Admissions should contain the student's full name and Social Security Number or UofL-issued Student ID. Lack of Social Security Number may cause processing to be delayed.
  • For best consideration, the preferred application deadline is January 1 for admission in August.  
  • Admission on a conditional basis is a possibility in rare, special cases, even though application materials are incomplete. Please contact the department for additional information.

Application Fee

A $60.00 US currency non-refundable application fee is required with the application form. An application will not be forwarded to the department until this fee is paid. Check or money order should be made payable to the "University of Louisville."


Applicants for admission to a degree program must submit an official transcript from each college attended. All University of Louisville transcripts will automatically be submitted with completion of an application. All applications are considered on an individual basis. Successful applicants will have an undergraduate GPA of 3.00 or higher and will have successfully completed sufficient coursework in basic biology, chemistry and mathematics.

Statement of Experience and Professional Goals

At the time of application, a 2-3 page typed statement should be sent to introduce the student to the faculty of the Department, describing past educational, laboratory and relevant life experiences, as well as outlining professional goals after the degree program. This statement should be sent directly to the Graduate Admissions Office (address listed above) or email (

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's academic work are required. See recommendation form (PDF).

English Proficiency

All applicants for whom English is a second languagemust also submit official TOEFL scores of 213 or higher on the computer-based test or 550 or higher on the paper-based test for verification of English proficiency. Students holding a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited institution in the United States are exempt from this requirement. Information concerning the TOEFL exam can be obtained from: University Testing Center, or Test of English as a Foreign Language PO Box 6151 Princeton, NJ 08541 USA or

International Student Applicants

International student applicants should visit

In addition to satisfying the appropriate credential requirements, applicants may be required to provide the following documents.

  • Applicants who attended college outside the US must submit verbatim notarized English translations of all academic records and credentials.
  • A certified and officially translated transcript (by ECE or WES).
  • If on a Visa that requires an I-20 or IAP-66, the applicant is required to complete an international student financial supplement form and submit appropriate financial documentation.
  • An international student cost estimate is available.

Residency Policy

Residency status for students is determined in the Office of Admissions. The status is determined according to the policy on classification of students for fee assessment purposes at state-supported institutions of higher education. Except as provided in the guidelines, it is presumed that a resident has remained in the state in a non-student status for the twelve months immediately preceding the last date for enrollment in the institution.

The domicile of an unemancipated person, as defined in the guidelines, is that of his/her parent. The domicile of a married person is determined by the provisions of the guidelines independent of the residence of the spouse. Copies of the guidelines and appropriate forms for requesting change of residence classification may be obtained from the Office of Student Services.

Indiana Tuition Reciprocity: The University of Louisville is participating in an Indiana Tuition Reciprocity Program for residents of Clark, Crawford, Floyd, Harrison or Scott Counties who have been admitted directly into an approved graduate program. Eligible participants are required to notify the Admissions Office prior to their first enrollment and the Registrar's Office after their first enrollment of any changes in enrollment status. [e.g. if they no longer live in one of the eligible counties, or are no longer in an eligible program.] The University reserves the right to further investigate and require documentation of eligibility for tuition reciprocity. 

For Military Personnel: If an applicant, spouse or parent (if dependent) is currently stationed in Kentucky on military active duty for one or more years, please attach a copy of the military orders, a lease or mortgage showing Kentucky address and a military dependent identification card if appropriate. If the applicant is a Kentucky resident but has been in the military and have been recently discharged, please send a copy of the military discharge papers (DD-214).

International Students on Immigrant/ Permanent Resident Status: If currently on an immigrant/ permanent resident status, it will be necessary to submit a copy of an immigration/ permanent resident card, both sides, for review of possible residency classification for tuition purposes. 

The University of Louisville reserves the right to change programs of study, academic requirements, fees, schedules of courses, the announced academic calendar and deadlines without prior notice.


Dr. Leah Siskind is the Graduate Program Director and Associate Vice Chair for Graduate Education

Dr. Geoffery Clark is Director for Graduate Student Admissions and Recruitment

For further info, contact: 

Financial Aid

All students accepted into the Pharmacology and Toxicology Ph.D. program will be considered for financial aid. Many students matriculate into the program through the School of Medicine's Integrated Programs in the Biomedical Sciences (IPIBS) gateway which provides stipend support. The Department also houses a NIEHS Predoctoral Training Program in Environmental Health Sciences which provides stipend support for selected students.

Since all Ph.D. students and candidates are considered to be full-time students, they generally are not permitted to seek outside employment while enrolled in the doctoral program. In cases where financial aid is limited and additional support is essential, students needing outside employment may apply in writing to the Graduate Committee for departmental approval. The Student Affairs Committee must also approve any change in employment, as well as approving continued outside employment on an annual basis.

All applicants to the Ph.D. program of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology are automatically considered for financial aid upon admission. Typically, such aid consists of a stipend, tuition remission and a health insurance benefit. The Department provides no funds for such support of Masters students. See Predoctoral Fellowship for stipend information.