Overview of the Graduate Program in Physiology

Department of Physiology PhD Program

This dynamic program is designed to meet students interests and provide a broad range of research training experiences and graduate courses leading to professional carriers in:

  • Academic institutions at the undergraduate and medical college level
  • State or federal agencies
  • Private industries
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology companies
  • Clinical and hospital research laboratories
  • Science editing/publishing

Track areas

  • Bioenergetics and metabolic diseases (Dr. Neufer, Dr. Spangenburg)
  • Cardiovascular physiology (Dr. de Castro Brás, Dr. Hannan, Dr. Katwa, Dr. Lust, Dr. McClung, Dr. Tulis, Dr. Virag)
  • Cardiac Proteomics (Dr. de Castro Brás)
  • Nanoparticles and nanotoxicology (Dr. Murashov, Dr. Walters)
  • Neurophysiology and neuroscience (Dr. Clemens, Dr. Ding, Dr. Murashov, Dr. Hannan)
  • Physiological genomics and epigenetics (Dr. Murashov, Dr. Neufer, Dr. Walters)
  • Pulmonary physiology (Dr. Van Scott, Dr. Walters)
  • Skeletal muscle biology (Dr. Spangenburg)
  • Stem cells (Dr. Murashov, Dr. Virag)


  • An appropriate academic background, including a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) during the last two years (junior/senior) of a bachelor's degree at an accredited college or university.
  • Score on the general GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Aptitude Test.
  • Proficiency in the English language. With some exceptions, international candidates are required to take the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and submit the results of the test with application for admission.
  • Previous undergraduate education should include a minimum of one year each of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and mathematics.

In addition to the Graduate School application, the following are required:

Prerequisites: A bachelor degree in one of the sciences. Each applicant also must have completed the following undergraduate course work: two semesters of biology with labs; four semesters of chemistry including organic chemistry and laboratories; mathematics with calculus; and physics. Genetics and/or molecular biology is recommended.

Number of faculty: 26 (full time)

Number of students: 19

Program description

This program is proud of its high faculty-to-student ratio, which ensures that each student receives an appropriately tailored educational experience. Our graduates continue to obtain highly competitive post-doctoral positions and progress into successful scientific careers. The program emphasizes research, but also includes opportunities for teaching experience. The research expertise of the faculty includes many areas of physiology ranging from the whole animal to the molecular level. Current areas of research include cellular physiology, cardiovascular, skeletal muscle, and pulmonary physiology, metabolism, neuroscience and neurophysiology, stem cell biology, circadian rhythms and the molecular basis of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Tuition and Financial Aid 

Tuition remission and stipends are available on a competitive basis for Ph.D. students. Most doctoral students receive tuition remission and stipends. The standard School of Medicine Graduate stipend is $25,000/year. Health insurance is provided as part of the financial support package. 

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Greenville compares very favorably to other university cities.

Application Procedure 

An application, transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and GRE scores should be submitted through the university Graduate school website. For full consideration for financial aid, earlier application is strongly encouraged. Application packages are available from the Graduate School.

Program of Study

Since physiology is the gateway to biomedical research, a course foundation in fundamental principles of physiology is required to assure that each student can appreciate the whole organism ramifications of their research and be able to interact with the world of medicine as a knowledgeable colleague. 

Typically, students' coursework will form a broad focus area which may be traditional or may be specifically tailored by the student and dissertation adviser. Common focus areas in the Department include cardiovascular and pulmonary physiology, smooth muscle, neuroscience and neurobiology, cell biology, bioenergetics and circadian rhythms. In any focus area, a concentration on translation to medicine, involving interaction between the thesis laboratory and clinician/researchers, is encouraged.

Recent graduates of this program are postdoctoral fellows in some of our country's most prestigious universities (Harvard, Duke, Columbia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), hold faculty positions, or are in research positions in pharmaceutical companies. The full list can be consulted at the program's pages in the Departmental website. For additional information regarding the Physiology Ph.D. Program, contact Graduate Studies Committee.

Graduate Studies Committee

Espen E. Spangenburg, Ph.D.
Stefan Clemens, Ph.D. (Director)
Jitka Virag, Ph.D.