Cellular and Molecular Physiology (Ph.D.)

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View PDF version of the Cellular and Molecular Physiology catalog description

Degree Offered: Ph.D.
Director: Dr. Peter R. Smith
Phone: (205) 934-4170
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Associate Director: Dr. Shawn Galin
Phone: (205) 934-6687
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site: www.physiology.uab.edu

Primary Faculty

Marcas M. Bamman, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Plasticity of Skeletal Muscle in Aging and Altered Loading States

Susan L. Bellis, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Structure and Function of Integrin Adhesion Receptors

Dale J. Benos, Professor and Chair (Physiology and Biophysics); Molecular Physiology of Ion Channels

Mark O. Bevensee, Assistant Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Cellular and Molecular Physiology of Acid Base Transport and pH Regulation

Kathleen H. Berecek, Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Hypertension and Cardiovascular Remodeling

J. Edwin Blalock, Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Neuroimmunoendocrinology

James K. Bubien, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); The Ionic Permeabilites of Human Lymphocytes.

Catherine M. Fuller, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); The Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Function of Epithelial Na+ and Cl- Channels

F. Shawn Galin, Assistant Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Neuroimmunology

Patricia Jackson, Assistant Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); The Connection of Molecular Structure to the Biological and Physiological Aspects of Systems

Kevin L. Kirk, Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Regulation of the Cystic Fibrosis Gene Product;

Lori L. McMahon, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Neuronal Inhibition and Synaptic Plasticity in Hippocampus

Carmel McNicholas-Bevensee, Instructor (Physiology and Biophysics); Structure-Function and Regulation of Ion Channels of the Renal and Cardiovascular System

Roger M. Rick, Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Electron Microprobe Analysis of Transepithelial Ion Transport

James A. Schafer, Professor Emeritus (Physiology and Biophysics); Regulation of Epithelial Transport Processes

Lisa M. Schwiebert, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics) Mechanisms of Lung Immunity

Peter R. Smith, Associate Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); The Role of the Membrane Cytoskeleton in Regulating the Cell Surface Expression of Epithelial Transport Proteins

Qin Wang, Assistant Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); GPCR Cellular Trafficking and Signaling and In Vivo Functions

Wei Wang, Assistant Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Structure and Function of Ion Channels

Douglas A. Weigent, Professor (Physiology and Biophysics); Immunoendocrinology

Program Information

Program Objective

The objective of the Cellular and Molecular Physiology graduate program is to develop in doctoral candidates a fundamental knowledge of mammalian physiology, the ability to conduct research, a capacity to assess work in the field critically, and the ability to teach physiology.

Admission Requirements

Applicants interested in the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program apply for admission through the Integrated Biomedical Sciences (IBS) Program (www.ibs.uab.edu). Applications to the IBS program are reviewed by the IBS graduate admissions committee. Under special circumstances, applicants will be considered for direct admission into the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program. Applications will be judged by the graduate committee of the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program, in consultation with other appropriate faculty. Acceptance recommendations will be based on Graduate School admission criteria and, when possible, a personal interview with members of the graduate committee.

Selection of Faculty Advisor and Area of Research

By the end of the first year, the student is expected to have selected an area of research and a permanent advisor from the Physiology and Biophysics' faculty roster. During the second year, the student should assemble his/her thesis committee. The committee will consist of a minimum of five faculty members to include three physiology faculty and two external faculty (at least one external member should be neither a primary nor secondary Physiology and Biophysics' faculty appointment); the department chair and graduate program director are ex-officio members of all graduate thesis committees. The student’s committee is required to meet formally with the student every 9-12 months and submit a written report summarizing the deliberations of that meeting to the Director of Graduate Students with a copy to the student. After 4 years in the program, the Committee will meet every 6 months until the Ph.D. dissertation work is completed.

Financial Assistance

Doctoral students will receive financial aid in the form of a fellowship. Current stipends are $23,000 per year plus tuition, fees and insurance.

Ph.D. Program Requirements


All students are required to take IBS 700, 701, 702, and a biostatistics course. Each student is also required to take three reading courses (PHY 790, 791, 792), PHY 796 (Seminars in Physiology) and PHY 751 (Student Seminars). PHY 796 and PHY 751 must be taken by all students throughout their graduate studies. All 1st year students must successfully complete GRD 717 “Principles of Scientific Integrity” or PHY 792 (Ethics in Scientific Publication) to fulfill the ethics requirements. PHY 792 is offered during the Summer Semester . Exceptions and substitutions must be approved by the program director and/or department chair. The graduate school regularly offers one-day workshops and short courses in scientific writing, communication skills, and scientific ethics that our graduate students are encouraged to attend. Full-time students are required to register for 15 hours per semester for fall and spring; 10 hours for summer semester.


At the completion of a course, students are normally assigned a Letter Grade. Students must maintain a “B” average. If a student receives one “C” grade or lower, the student will be placed on academic probation. In general, it takes two semesters to clear probation. If a student receives two “C” grades or lower in required courses, the student is subject to dismissal from the program pending an appeal to the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Graduate Committee.

Departmental Seminars

As required for PHY 796, all graduate students must attend and participate in the department seminar series every semester that they are enrolled. Following each seminar, the graduate students meet with the seminar speaker over lunches for which they have previously registered with the program manager. Attendance is mandatory. As the seminar program is published well in advance, students should ensure that they are available for this 2-hour period. The faculty consider the seminar series as one of the more important and essential enrichment activities for the graduate students.


Although rare, disagreements can arise that may affect a student’s progress toward the completion of the degree. The parties involved in such a dispute should make a good faith effort to discuss and resolve the disagreement. Guidelines regarding the handling of grievances as well as arbitration for the graduate program in Cellular and Molecular Physiology are available on our web site at http://www.uab.edu/gbs/home/. If, for any reason, you have concerns or a grievance about the program, please contact Dr. Peter Smith, Dr. Shawn Galin, or Dr. Dale Benos directly.

Admission to Candidacy

Following completion of required courses, each student must take a qualifying exam, subject to review by the student’s thesis committee. This qualifying exam should be completed during the student’s third year. Specifically, this exam will entail a written thesis proposal and an oral defense of this proposal. Throughout the organization of the thesis proposal-qualifying exam, the amount of direction the student receives is at the discretion of the mentor and the thesis committee members. The thesis proposal should be 10-pages in length and written in an NRSA-style format (i.e. Abstract, Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Preliminary Data, and Research Design). A draft of the proposal should then be handed out to each committee member, the student may then schedule the oral defense of the proposal before the department; it is anticipated that approval of the written proposal by the committee members will occur within a month of having received the proposal. Following the oral defense of the thesis proposal, the committee may recommend corrections to the written proposal within a month of the defense. Upon successful completion of both the written proposal and oral defense, the student may apply for candidacy. It is recommended that no more than 2 months lapse between initial submission of the written proposal to the committee and application for candidacy; if more than two months elapses, the student may have to re-defend the proposal.

Upon entering candidacy, each student must enroll in PHY 799 (Doctoral Level Dissertation Research). Completion of 30 credit hours (i.e., 2 semesters @ 15 hours each) of PHY 799 is required prior to the thesis defense.

Ph.D. Program Completion

Once the mentor, student, and thesis committee agree that the student has completed his/her thesis work, the student may begin to prepare for the thesis defense. In preparation for and completion of the defense, the following steps must be taken:

The student must 'apply for the degree'. This entails completing the necessary paperwork (See Kathy McConnell, MCLM 701, 934-3951), which requires signatures from the student’s mentor and the graduate program director.

After the student has applied for the degree, he/she will receive the following items from the UAB Graduate School: thesis formatting instructions, typed signature forms (see Thomas Harris-LHL G03), microfiche form, and graduate student survey. For any questions regarding formatting, the student should contact Thomas Harris at the Graduate School (LHL G03, 975-8852). Upon receipt of the typed signature forms, the student should bring these forms to the graduate program director’s office for safekeeping until the defense. The student should complete the microfiche form and survey at his/her convenience.

Once the thesis is complete, copies of the thesis must be distributed to each thesis committee member, as well as to Dr. Benos, the graduate program director and the program manager. All copies must be distributed AT LEAST TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO THE ORAL DEFENSE.

To schedule the oral defense of the thesis, the student must contact Kathy McConnell (934-3951). She will need the title of the thesis, the date and time agreed upon by the mentor and thesis committee, and the location of the defense. It is the responsibility of the student to reserve a site for the defense and a location to meet with the committee after the defense.

Upon successful defense of the thesis, the student must turn in a final, corrected draft to the UAB Graduate School with 10 business days following the oral defense. Since the Graduate School may require formatting changes to the thesis after the final draft has been submitted, it is strongly suggested that the student remain at UAB at least two additional weeks to complete these changes.

Before the student leaves the Cellular and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program, the student must leave a forwarding address with the graduate program director’s office.

Additional Information

Deadline for Entry Term(s):


Deadline for All Application Materials to be in the Graduate School Office:


Number of Evaluation Forms Required:


Entrance Tests

GRE (TOEFL and TWE also required for international applicants whose native language is not English.)

Contact Information

For detailed information contact Peter Smith, Graduate Program Director, UAB Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, McCallum Building, Room 701, 1530 3rd Ave South, Birmingham, AL 35294-0005.

Telephone 205-934-4170

Fax 205-996-2280

E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Web www.physiology.uab.edu

Required Courses


IBS 700

IBS I–Biochemistry & Cell Physiology 8 hrs

IBS 701

IBS II–Pathophys & Pharmac of Disease 8 hrs

IBS 702

IBS III–Functional Genomics 8 hrs

Cellular and Molecular Physiology (PHY)

PHY 698

Master's Nonthesis Research 1-13 hrs

PHY 699

Master's Thesis Research 1-15 hrs

PHY 702

Physiology of Optometry Students (spring) 6 hrs

PHY 703

Physiology of Dental Students (spring) 6 hrs

PHY 790-794

Selected Topics in Physiology 3 hrs

PHY 796

Seminars in Physiology 2 hrs

PHY 751

Student Seminars in Physiology (summer) 2 hrs

PHY 798

Nondissertation Research 1-13 hrs

PHY 799

Doctoral Level Dissertation Research 1-15 hrs (Prerequisite: Admission to Candidacy)

Course Descriptions

Unless otherwise noted all courses are for 3 semester hours of credit. Course numbers preceded with an asterisk indicate courses that can be repeated for credit, with stated stipulations.

Cellular and Molecular Physiology (PHY)

698. Master's Nonthesis Research. 1-10 hours per term.

699. Master's Thesis Research. Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy. 1-10 hours per term.

702. Physiology for Optometry Students. General principles of organ system physiology. 6 hours.

703. Physiology for Dental Students. General principles of organ system physiology. 6 hours.

751. Summer Seminars. Mandatory participation. 1 hour per summer semester.

790-794. Selected Topics in Physiology. Literature search, seminars, discussion of research in various areas of physiology. 1-4 hours each.

796. Seminars in Physiology. Departmental Seminars.

798. Doctoral Nondissertation Research. 1-15 hours per term.

799. Doctoral Dissertation Research. Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy. 1-15 hours per term.

NIBIB Supported T-32 Predoctoral Training Grant

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has awarded an interdisciplinary predoctoral training grant to UAB that is entitled “Nanotechnology in Biosensors and Bioengineering”. It is a five year program that started on September 1, 2007. Benefits to participating graduate students include: graduate stipends of $25,000 per year, full tuition and health insurance, and a travel award of $1,000 per year. The purpose of this grant is to implement a training program at the interfaces of physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering that will reduce the time from discovery of a new tool in nanotechnology to its application in medical devices, tissue engineering, and biosensors for earliest detection of molecular signatures of disease.

For more information regarding this training program, visit http://www.uab.edu/gbs/home/.