Graduate Programs

M.D./Ph.D. Curriculum

For additional information visit the School of Medicine M.D./Ph.D. program.

Years One and Two of Medical School

Medical students enter the graduate phase after completing the first two years of the medical curriculum. Students must be in the upper two-thirds of their class and have achieved grades above the mean of the class Neuroscience. During the summer after their first medical year, students work in prospective laboratories. By the end of the second medical year, the student must apply to the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and select an advisor who is a member of its faculty.

Summer following Second Year

During the summer following the second year, students begin full time work in the research laboratory of their chosen thesis advisor. Students register for Directed Research (ANAT 697, 6 credits).

Third Year

Fall semester:

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (NEUS 609)
  • Research Presentations (ANAT 630)
  • Scientific Integrity (MICR 510)
  • Seminar (ANAT 690)
  • Directed Research (ANAT 697)
  • Elective

Spring semester:

  • Techniques in Neuroscience and and Cell Biology (ANAT 615)
  • Scientific Writing and Grantsmanship (ANAT 620)
  • Research Presentations (ANAT 630)
  • Directed Research (ANAT 697)
  • Seminar (ANAT 690)

Students are must achieve a grade of B or better in all courses, otherwise they will be required to re-take that course.

Summer following Third Year

During the summer following the third year, the student will take the written and oral comprehensive exams. Students also register for Directed Research (ANAT 697, 6 credits) and work in the research laboratory of their chosen thesis advisor.

  • Written Comprehensive:
    The written exam consists of two parts. Part one is an open book written exam which is designed to: 1) assess the student's ability to integrate course material and 2) demonstrate critical thinking and evaluation of the literature in the basic health sciences related to the student’s area of research. For part two, the student will prepare an NIH-style grant proposal based on their research plan.
  • Oral Comprehensive:
    After successful completion of both parts of the Written Comprehensive Exam, the student’s graduate advisor committee will administer the Oral Comprehensive Examination which includes an oral defense of the student’s grant proposal as well as the topics covered in part one of the Written Comprehensive. The Oral Comprehensive Exam covers (1) course work (anatomy and other basic health sciences) related to the student’s proposed research, (2) the literature cited in or related to the proposal, and (3) the hypotheses, research techniques and procedures presented in the proposal. Successful completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam advances the student to candidacy for the Doctoral degree.

Fourth year and beyond

There is no expectation of the time required to complete the doctoral degree. Each semester, students register for Directed Research (ANAT 697, 13 credits), Research Presentations (ANAT 630, 1 credit) and Seminar (ANAT 690, 1 credit) each semester. During the summer, students register for Directed Research (ANAT 697, 6 credits).

At the appropriate time in their research, the student will prepare a dissertation and schedule a Final Oral Defense of the thesis. The Final Oral Examination (defense of the dissertation) will be limited to the subject of the candidate's dissertation and related basic science.

While no additional electives are required, student may elect to enroll in additional courses after consultation with their advisor.


Fall semester electives:

  • Developmental Neurobiology (ANAT 617)
  • Synaptic Organization of the Brain (ANAT 691)
  • Statistical Methods (BIOS 543)
  • Techniques in Molecular Biology and Genetics (MICR 607)
  • Signal Detection in Sensory Systems (PHIS 615)

Spring semester electives:

  • Cell Physiology (PHIS 604)
  • Ion Channels in Membranes (PHIS 620)
  • Principles of Pharmacology and Toxicology (PHTX 536)
  • Neurochemical Pharmacology (PHTX 632)
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
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