Welcome to the Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology program at Wake Forest University
The Integrative Physiology & Pharmacology (IPP) Program at Wake Forest University comprises more than 80 participating faculty members across 18 departments and programs who share a common perspective of pharmacology as an integrative discipline within the organism. The Program currently consists of 20 current graduate students and several postdoctoral fellows who are learning to integrate molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and clinical information to investigate the response to experimental therapeutics in model disease systems and patients. This will result in new avenues to advance experimental and clinical approaches to treat human disease. The track offers a broad range of training opportunities in state-of-the-art research in several fields including cardiovascular, neuro-, GI, pulmonary, reproductive, immuno- and smooth muscle physiology and pharmacology. These opportunities, along with a collaborative environment, translate into a wide range of personal and professional opportunities for young scientists.
A Ph.D. in Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology is advantageous for employment environments in which familiarity with multiple organ systems is important: the pharmaceutical industry; academic teaching institutions, including undergraduate education as well as professional schools (medical, dental and veterinary, pharmacy, and allied health professions (nursing, physical and occupational therapy, physician’s assistant programs)); and government regulatory agencies (e.g., EPA, FDA, CDC).
Our program is designed to train students in a variety of modern methodologies and to prepare them to use whatever conceptual and technological approaches are most appropriate for pursuing promising new areas of research. This takes place within a collegial environment in which each investigator has multiple ongoing collaborations and a given project typically involves the complementary expertise of multiple participants.
During their first year, all students complete a core course that provides a broad foundation in key concepts of pharmacology and physiology as well as a course designed to give them training in fundamental concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology. In addition, they participate in a course on ethics and professionalism along with all other first year students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students also attend a journal club in their research area of choice in which current and historically important papers are presented and discussed. This course includes attendance at biweekly seminars sponsored by the component departments and programs that make up the IPP faculty. Participation in seminars and journal clubs continue throughout the student’s time in the program. Finally, each student in the IPP program presents a seminar once per year that described his or her research. Naturally, these seminars increase in sophistication as the student progresses. At each juncture, the student is provided with constructive feedback to improve presentation skills.
In addition to these academic activities, students complete two or three sequential research rotations with faculty of their choosing during the first year. These rotations give students experience in diverse areas of research and facilitate selection of a laboratory in which to perform dissertation research. Rotations typically involve short projects, but it is not uncommon for the work performed during laboratory rotations to contribute to future publications.
During their second year, students take a statistics course and select elective courses from several topic areas.
At the end of the second year, students who maintained a B average in required courses and have an overall cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better are eligible to take a qualifying examination in order to progress to Ph.D. candidacy. The exam consists of a two parts: a written exam and a thesis proposal defense. The first component consists of a 2-day written exam that requires students to answer written questions designed to assess how well the student has integrated the knowledge gained from coursework in the first two years. On the following day, the student receives a published manuscript selected by the student’s advisor, and within one week must return a written critique of that article. Once students have successfully passed this portion of the exam, the second component, the proposal defense, may occur. This component consists of composing a written proposal for the dissertation work to be performed, which is presented to a dissertation committee, selected by the student and advisor. This written document is prepared in the format of an actual predoctoral grant application. Relatively soon thereafter, the student undergoes oral defense of the proposal, in which the dissertation committee evaluates the project itself and the student’s understanding of the project’s rationale and experimental design and hypotheses regarding outcomes of the research. A successful defense is accompanied by constructive feedback from the committee in which the research plan is typically fine-tuned with the aid of the dissertation committee.
Students who pass the qualifying exam officially advance to Ph.D. candidacy and devote most of their subsequent time to conducting the research described in their proposal.
Drawing from 18 different departments, the IPP Track has over 80 faculty members. More than 60 of them have funded research programs and laboratories and are available as research advisers to students in the IPP Track. In addition, there are over 40 faculty in clinical departments who may participate in teaching and serve as consultants and collaborators with research scientists.
The major areas of research of faculty and students in the IPP Track include:
Addiction and Substance Abuse, Neuropharmacology, Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Regenerative Medicine. However, each laboratory typically has a distinct specialization. Learn more about each faculty member’s research interests in their individual web pages.