PhD in Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics

The PhD program in Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics (CXPT) is a novel interdisciplinary program of study that educates students with the perspective and skill set to identify important connections between fundamental biomedical research and human disease. Recognizing that “bench” researchers need to be familiar with the basic principles of clinical research and “clinical” researchers need to be familiar with the basic scientific concepts relevant to the disease under study and the laboratory techniques in that discipline, the program provides cross-training between clinical and basic sciences—focusing on the investigation of disease processes, drug development and the efficacy and toxicity of therapeutic regimens.

Course requirements and research opportunities for graduate students enrolled in the program provide both experimental (basic) and disease-focused experiences that complement the graduate’s respective research focus. The program’s emphasis is on translational, rather than basic science research.

Admission

Candidates with an advanced health-professional degree (i.e., PharmD, MD, DDS) or bachelor’s or advanced degree in a relevant background (i.e., biomedical sciences) are invited to apply. A student currently enrolled in the PharmD program at USC may pursue a PharmD/PhD dual degree.

Admission Criteria

The Admission Committee will consider applications based on the following factors:

1. Overall Grade Point Average (GPA)
A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required. Special attention is given to the grades achieved in science courses relevant to the program (e.g., chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology and physiology).

2. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Score
GRE scores of 153 Quantitative and 144 Verbal (new exam) or a combined Verbal and Quantitative GRE score of 1000 (old exam) are required. However, priority for financial support is given to applicants with GRE scores of at least 308 (new exam) or 1200 (old exam).

3. Letters of Recommendation
Three letters from faculty knowledgeable of the student’s ability and capability are required. These letters should provide a thorough assessment of the student’s experience in laboratory research, ability to communicate in verbal and written English, motivation, creativity and other qualities in the student’s academic performance.

4. TOEFL Scores for International Applicants
A minimum TOEFL (computer based) score of 213 is required. A score of 250 is highly competitive for admission and financial support. An IELTS score of 7 is competitive; and an IBT minimum score of 100, with at least 20 in each section, is required.

5. Research and Professional Experience
The student’s research and professional experience as cited in application, résumé (if provided), a personal statement summarizing career objectives and research interests, published manuscripts and letters of reference will be evaluated to assess background preparation for success in the PhD program.

Application Deadline

Applications may be submitted anytime between September 1 and February 15—the deadline for consideration for admission for the following fall semester. Applicants will be reviewed as their applications are received, beginning in the fall. Early acceptance will be offered to outstanding applicants.

Consideration for certain USC Scholarships and Fellowships begins in December. Applications must be received by December 1 to receive full consideration for these opportunities.

Admission decisions will continue to be made until the class is filled, usually by mid to late spring. Applications are only considered for admission beginning in the fall term, except under exceptional circumstances.

Graduate Program Online Application

Financial Aid

Students accepted into the USC School of Pharmacy PhD program are typically provided financial aid including full tuition remission and a stipend to cover living expenses (currently $25,309 for 12 months).

Fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis to qualified PhD candidates. Half-time fellows and teaching assistants receive full tuition remission up to 12 units per semester including summer, while quarter-time positions receive up to 8 units of tuition remission per semester including summer.

Health Care Coverage

As a PhD candidate, you will receive health care coverage information as part of your financial-aid package once you are accepted to a graduate program. If you hold a teaching or research assistantship, your health insurance and your USC health center fee will be paid.

Travel

The USC Graduate program will award funds toward travel expenses for those students who are invited to present a paper or poster. There is a limit of one to two trips per student per year, depending on availability of funds. In addition, the USC School of Pharmacy Graduate Program may fund a majority of a student’s travel expenses to an international conference, depending on availability of funds.

Contact

For more information, please contact the School of Pharmacy Graduate Affairs Office at (323) 442-1474 or pharmgrd@usc.edu.

Requirements for Degree Completion

Units Required

The PhD program requires the completion of a minimum of 60 units. At least 26 of the 60 units are to be formal graduate course work at the 500 level or above, exclusive of interdisciplinary seminars and directed research. Additional course work relevant to the research interests of the student may be required by the student’s advisors or the student’s guidance committee, with an emphasis on cross-training and taking into account the amount and level of previous scientific preparation and the nature of the research dissertation that will be the major endpoint of the program. Specifically, course work requirements differ between students who have an advanced professional degree (Track I) and those who do not (Track II) (see Sample Student Programs). The remaining 34 of the 60 units required for the PhD degree may be fulfilled with other courses including ethics, interdisciplinary seminar, directed research and dissertation. A maximum of 12 units may be transferred from graduate studies elsewhere.

Screening Procedure

The performance of each student will be evaluated no later than the end of the second semester of enrollment in the graduate program. This screening procedure is conducted by the student’s guidance committee or, if a student has not yet selected a guidance committee, by the department graduate affairs committee. The committee reviews the student’s progress to date in various areas including course work, research interests and laboratory performance on his or her research project or laboratory rotations. If a performance deficiency is determined, specific goals will be established that the student must fulfill to continue in the program. Passing this screening procedure is prerequisite to continuation in the PhD program.

Qualifying Examination

Students will be required to pass a comprehensive written and oral examination on the chosen disease-focused area of research emphasis. The examination will encompass basic scientific concepts relevant to the disease under study and the laboratory techniques in that discipline, fundamental principles of clinical research and design, biostatistics and therapeutics in the chosen disease-focused area of research. The examination is administered by the guidance committee and consists of two parts: a written examination administered to all students at the end of their second year of study (fourth semester) and a detailed, written proposal and its oral presentation and defense by the student to the guidance committee, to be completed by the fifth semester of study. The examination process is conducted by the student’s advisory committee with oversight by the graduate affairs committee. All course and qualifying examination requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy must be completed as indicated in the USC Catalogue. After passing these examinations, the student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Dissertation

A dissertation based on original investigation in a relevant scientific area is required for the PhD. The dissertation research must represent a significant contribution to science and should demonstrate the candidate’s scholarly advancement and competence to undertake independent research. An oral defense of the dissertation will be held after the candidate submits the final draft of the dissertation to the dissertation committee. (See Theses and Dissertations per USC Graduate School requirements listed in the USC Catalogue.)

Student Teaching

Teaching experience is considered an integral part of the training of graduate students. As part of the general requirements for the PhD degree, each student is required to participate in the teaching program of the School of Pharmacy.

Sample Student Courses of Study

The CXPT PhD program is an interdisciplinary program of study that provides cross-training between clinical and basic sciences. Graduate students enrolled in the program will have course requirements and research opportunities that provide both experimental (basic) and disease-focused experiences that complement the graduate’s respective research focus.

Track 1. Advanced professional degree student (i.e. PharmD, MD, DDS)

Year 1, Fall Semester

  • RSCI 530 Translational Medicine (2 units)
  • PMEP 509 Research Design (4 units)
  • PM 510L Principles of Biostatistics (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 1, Spring Semester

  • MPTX 517 Structure and Management of Clinical Trials (4 units)
  • INTD 531 Cell Biology (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 1, Summer Semester

  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (4 units)
  • Disease-focused Experience (Elective)

Year 2, Fall Semester

  • PSCI 661L Advanced Pharmaceutical Analysis (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 2, Spring Semester

  • INTD 561 Molecular Genetics (Elective) (4 units)
  • PSCI 665 Drug Delivery (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (4 units)

Year 2, Summer Semester

  • Disease-Focused Experience (Elective)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (8 units)

Year 3, Fall and Spring Semesters

  • Optional Advanced Elective
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (4 units)
  • CXPT 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units)

Year 4, Fall and Spring Semesters

  • Optional Advanced Elective
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (4 units)
  • CXPT 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units)

Track II. Bachelor’s Degree Students

Year 1, Fall Semester

  • RSCI 530 Translational Medicine (2 units)
  • PMEP 509 Research Design (4 units)
  • PM 510L Principles of Biostatistics (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 1, Spring Semester

  • MPTX 517 Structure and Management of Clinical Trials (4 units)
  • INTD 531 Cell Biology (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 1, Summer Semester

  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (4 units)

Year 2, Fall Semester

  • INTD 572 (or INTD 550) Systems Physiology and Disease I (or Pathology) (4 units)
  • Disease-Focused experience
  • PHRD 557 Therapeutics Principles (5 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 2, Spring Semester

  • INTD 573 (or INTD 551) Systems Physiology and Disease II (or Pathology II) (4 units)
  • Disease-Focused experience
  • PHRD 560, 562, 601, 603, 605, or 606 Therapeutics Module (organ system or disease relevant to the research thesis) (2-6 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (2 units)

Year 2, Summer Semester

  • CXPT 790 Directed Research (4 units)

Year 3, Fall Semester

  • INTD 561 Molecular Genetics (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (4 units)
  • CXPT 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units)

Year 3, Spring Semester

  • PSCI 665 Drug Delivery (Elective) (4 units)
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (4 units)
  • CXPT 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units)

Year 4 and 5, Fall & Spring Semesters

  • Optional advanced elective
  • Seminar (1 unit)
  • CXPT 791 Doctoral Research (4 units)
  • CXPT 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units)

Course Offerings

USC Course Catalogue

For Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI) and Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology (MPTX) courses, see School of Pharmacy.

For Interdepartmental (INTD) and Physiology and Biophysics (PHBI) courses, see Keck School of Medicine.

Schedule of Classes

For course availability for the current year see the Schedule of Classes.