2006 - 2007 Site Archive



Graduate Bulletin

Physiology, Ph.D.


Admission Requirements and Deadlines
Application Deadline:

Fall: January 15

Applications are evaluated as they are received through the application deadline. It is advantageous to apply early.

Letters of Reference:

Number Required: 3

From Whom: Letters of recommendation should be obtained from college/university faculty members familiar with the applicant's academic competence and employers or supervisors who can attest to the applicant's maturity and ability to perform graduate coursework.

Coursework Required for Admission Consideration:

Coursework in Biology and Chemistry are required.

Master's Degree in Discipline/Related Discipline:


Bachelor's Degree in Discipline/Related Discipline:

A baccalaureate degree in Biochemistry, Biology, Biophysics, Chemistry, Engineering, Physics, or Zoology is required for admission to the Ph.D. program in Physiology.

Statement of Goals:

The Statement of Goals should be approximately 500-1,000 words in length and should include the following elements: your interest in Temple's program; your research goals; your future career goals; and your academic and research achievements.

Standardized Test Scores:

The GRE is required.  Scores greater than 600 are typical of applicants on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE.

Minimum TOEFL score or range of scores needed to be accepted: 550 paper-based, 213 computer-based, or 79 internet-based.


The top 50% of applicants are invited to interview with the Admissions Committee. The department schedules individual interviews. Alternate arrangements can be made for extenuating circumstances that preclude an on-site interview.


A resume is required.

Advanced Standing:

Students who enter the Ph.D. program may be considered for advanced standing based on relevant coursework. The Admissions Committee recommends the awarding of advanced standing on a case-by-case basis as applications are reviewed. The maximum number of advanced standing credits awarded is 36.

Test Waivers:

Test waivers are considered on an individual basis, but are typically granted when transferring from another graduate program or professional school.

Program Requirements
General Program Requirements:

Number of Didactic Credits Required Beyond the Master's: 38

Required Courses:

In Fall 2006, the Department of Physiology began to participate in the "Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences" at the Temple University School of Medicine.  The program requires Ph.D. and M.S. students to take a defined set of courses over the first two years:

    • 2 courses from the "Foundations of Biosciences Series" of the Interdisciplinary Program, comprising either a basic or advanced Biochemistry course, and a course in Molecular and Cell Biology.
    • 2 courses from the "Integrated Biosciences Series" from the following list:


      Cancer Biology

      Cell Structure and Function

      Host-Pathogen Interactions

      Molecular Approaches to Research

      Principles of Development

      Principles of Genetics

      Principles of Organ Pathology

      Principles of Pharmacology

      Principles of Physiology

      Proteins and Enzymes

Generally, students of Physiology take Biostatistics and "Principles of Physiology" as well as two 1-s.h. courses comprising Scientific Communication, Scientific Integrity, and Bioethics.

In addition, all students take the following required courses:

Anatomy/Cell Biology 503: Histology

Medical Biochemistry, including the Molecular Biology and Endocrinology modules

Physiology 500, 501, 507, 509, 520, 522, 531, 537, and 545

Statistics (at the School of Medicine)

Dissertation research (6 s.h.)

Internship: No internship is required.

Language Examination: No language examination is required.

Culminating Events:

Written Preliminary Examination:

The written preliminary examination tests the retention and integration of physiological facts and concepts obtained through the student's didactic coursework.  It is taken the Spring semester of the second year, after the required formal coursework is completed.

The written exam tests the material covered in Physiology courses. (Material from courses taken outside the department is not tested.) The exam is divided into four separate components. Four hours are allowed to complete each of the four components. Two of the components consist of multiple choice questions covering the formal coursework. The other two components ask essay questions that may include calculations and problem solving wherein the student is expected to explicitly describe the underlying logic of the answer.

The Graduate Faculty of the Department of Physiology write the questions.  In grading the exam, the evaluators look for an understanding of core concepts, adequate knowledge of facts, and the application of physiological principles and problem-solving skills. Students must achieve a score of 80% on the written preliminary exam to pass.

The exam is administered once a year in April. It runs two days, from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is proctored by a faculty member.

Oral Preliminary Examination:

After the written exam is passed, an oral preliminary examination is scheduled. The oral prelim is designed to test the student's knowledge of the pertinent scientific literature in the area of the student's doctoral research. It can only be taken after the written preliminary examination is passed.

The oral preliminary examination is designed for each student in the Ph.D. program by her/his Dissertation Advising Committee (DAC). The DAC is selected by the student in conjunction with her/his primary advisor no later than 3 months following the written examination. The point of the oral preliminary examination is to ensure that the student has a solid knowledge of the published research literature in her/his research area of Physiology and an understanding of the pertinent concepts. At the time of the examination, it is expected that the student will have already selected a research area and have begun experiments, but that the final project would not have been completely delineated. Within one year of a DAC being formed, the committee meets with the student to set up the examination. The student meets with each member of the DAC and requests a topic for the oral exam. The assigned topics include issues, questions, or controversies in Physiology that directly bear on the area of the student's research. Each DAC member identifies specific published research articles that serve as a starting point for the student's library research. It is the student's responsibility to read the assigned and related papers, seeking as much help from the DAC members as necessary to thoroughly understand them.

A public oral examination is scheduled by the student in conjunction with the DAC within 1 year of passing the written preliminary exam. At the examination the student makes a short (30-40 minute) presentation on the assigned topics and then responds to questions from the DAC and audience. When the student has completed presentation of all topics and answered all questions, s/he and the audience leave the DAC to confer privately on whether the student has passed all portions of the examination. The student must demonstrate knowledge of facts and concepts and the ability to comprehend the research literature. If the student did not perform satisfactorily on a topic in the exam, the DAC may schedule a reexamination as necessary, until the DAC is satisfied.

Dissertation Proposal:

The dissertation proposal should be 10 typed pages or less. It should provide sufficient background, specific hypotheses, objectives, an outline of experimental methods, and the anticipated analytical and statistical approaches. The proposal will serve as a guideline and may be subject to modifications at the consensus of the DAC.


The dissertation presents original scientific research carried out by the student. The work should demonstrate knowledge of research methods and mastery of the student's primary area of interest. The dissertation should be a significant piece of research in Physiology, suitable, in the opinion of the student's DAC, for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Submission of some or all of the research to a peer-reviewed journal is required, although acceptance of the work for publication in the journal is not. It is expected that the results of the student's scientific research for the dissertation will have been presented at one or more national or international scientific meetings prior to the defense. Students are required to present publicly to the academic community in the form of an oral seminar and dissertation defense, and to answer all audience questions. The DAC determines acceptability of the dissertation, oral presentation, and its defense.

The DAC oversees the student's doctoral research and is comprised of at least three Graduate Faculty members. Committee compositions must be approved by the department's graduate committee. Two members, including the Chair, must be from the Physiology Department. A member from outside the department is recommended. The Chair of the DAC is responsible for overseeing and guiding the student's progress, coordinating the responses of the Committee members, and informing the student of her/his academic progress. S/he must have her/his primary academic appointment in Physiology.

The Dissertation Examining Committee evaluates the student's dissertation and oral defense. This committee is comprised of the DAC members and at least one additional Graduate Faculty member from outside the Physiology Department. The Outside Examiner should be identified no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student will defend the dissertation.


If a student needs to change a member of a committee, the new member must be approved by the department's graduate committee and registered with the Graduate Secretary and the Graduate School.

Members of the Dissertation Examining Committee decide if the quantity and quality of research, and the significance of the conclusions drawn from it, are adequate for a dissertation and defense. The Committee votes to pass or fail the dissertation and the defense at the conclusion of the public presentation. In evaluating whether the dissertation and its defense are acceptable, the committee takes into account the following factors: the clarity of the student's presentation and speaking skills; the student's professionalism; the student's grasp of the significance of her/his work; the breadth and depth of the student's knowledge of her/his field and the relationship of her/his work to other work in the field; the adequacy of the student's answers to questions; and the student's maintenance of a respectful, professional tone in response to questions while defending the dissertation.

Students who are preparing to defend their dissertation should confirm a time and date with their DAC and register with the Graduate Secretary at least 15 days before the defense is to be scheduled. The Graduate Secretary will arrange the time, date, and room within two working days, and forward the appropriate forms to the student. After the Graduate Secretary has arranged the time, date, and room for the defense, the student must send to the Graduate School a completed "Announcement of Dissertation Defense" form at least 10 working days before the defense. The Department will post flyers announcing the defense.

Program Contact Information:


Department Information:

Dept. of Physiology
School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA 19140


Department Contacts:


Steven P. Driska, Ph.D.


Program Coordinator:

Steven P. Driska, Ph.D.


Graduate Chairperson:

Satya Kunapuli, Ph.D.




Steven R. Houser, Ph.D.



About the Program

Graduate students may pursue their research interests in Physiology using a wide variety of techniques from the molecular to the systemic level. The Physiology Department has faculty members conducting research and publishing in the areas of cardiac, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, platelet, pulmonary, and smooth muscle physiology. A graduate program with an emphasis on Exercise Physiology is provided in collaboration with the research faculty of the Kinesiology Department.

Time Limit for Degree Completion: 7 years

Campus Location:

Health Sciences

Full-Time/Part-Time Status:

Students are required to complete the degree program through classes offered before 4:30 p.m.

Department Information:

Dept. of Physiology
School of Medicine
Philadelphia, PA 19140


Interdisciplinary Study:

Members of the department affiliated with the Sol Sherry Thrombosis Research Center provide opportunities for students to undertake interdisciplinary research in thrombosis. Likewise, members of the department affiliated with the Cardiovascular Research Center allow students to perform interdisciplinary research in a broad range of cardiovascular basic and clinical areas.


Not applicable.

Study Abroad:



Not applicable.


Not applicable.

Areas of Specialization:

Research specialties of the faculty include airway and gastrointestinal smooth muscle physiology; cardiac electrophysiology; cardiovascular physiology; heart failure; neonatal development of the pulmonary system; platelet physiology and G-protein coupled receptors; and pulmonary physiology, including the use of perfluorochemicals for liquid breathing and cryoablation.

Job Placement:

Graduates of the Ph.D. program typically obtain postdoctoral fellowships for further training before ultimately finding employment in academia, research institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, or the government. The Ph.D. program provides excellent preparation for any of these career options.


Not applicable.

Non-Degree Student Policy:

The department allows non-matriculated students to take selected graduate courses, such as "Principles of Physiology." If the student matriculates in a degree program, some of these credits may be transferred to meet program requirements, consistent with Graduate School guidelines and regulations.

Financing Opportunities

The department offers 12-month assistantships, which provide a stipend and tuition remission, to students in the Ph.D. program. The assistantships are intended to support the student while s/he is completing the educational requirements of the Ph.D. program. A separate application is not required.

Updated 2.9.07