Graduate Programs in MD/PhD

MD/PhD students officially begin their PhD coursework upon completion of their step 1 exams. Students interested in a particular graduate program should meet with that program's director early in their first year to begin preliminary planning of rotations and coursework.

Behavioral Neuroscience

Behavioral neuroscience explores the interplay between what happens inside the brain and what the brain does, how genetic and environmental factors influence the physiological, anatomical, and epigenetic processes inside the brain that manifest in organismal behavior. Students joining our PhD graduate program gain outstanding training and mentorship across these boundaries of biology and behavior through studies of a variety of vertebrate species, including humans, rodents, and non-human primates. Our faculty offers expertise in the neurobiology of substance abuse, cognitive and affective neuroscience, behavioral genetics, animal communication, learning and memory, social neuroscience, and impulsivity. We integrate our diverse interests through the highly collaborative structure and collegiality of our program. Descriptions of faculty interests and their contact information can be found on the Behavioral Neuroscience web site. The faculty are happy to discuss their research interests and possible projects.

Our department encourages MD-PhD students who are interested in behavioral neuroscience to meet with the Graduate Program Director early in Year 1 to begin planning their dual-degree program. MD/PhD students in Behavioral Neuroscience complete core courses and electives tailored to meet their qualifications and interests. Medical school courses are substituted for the departmental basic science core requirement. MD-PhD students in Behavioral Neuroscience must achieve the same programmatic milestones as PhD students, but we anticipate that their timetable will be accelerated. The program's research paper requirement may be completed in Year 3 or 4 (i.e., in the first or second year of full-time graduate study), and the qualifying exam completed early in Year 4 or 5 (i.e., in the second or third year of full-time graduate study). After passing the qualifying exam, students advance to candidacy and focus on their dissertation research, then defend the dissertation and receive the PhD before returning to medical school. We expect dissertation completion during Year 5 or Year 6.

Details of the required and elective course offerings associated with Behavioral Neuroscience can be found at our website for a one-on-one discussion of the program requirements for MD-PhD students.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Biochemistry underpins many of the basic biomedical sciences, from molecular genetics to immunology and pharmacology. Biochemists identify the molecular players in cellular function and their mechanisms of action. Students in the  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate program come to learn, in atomic detail, about the molecular interactions common to basic life processes, and the techniques that illuminate the molecular underpinnings of normal physiology and the diseased state. Our faculty are experts in the methods of molecular genetics, protein biochemistry, enzymology, x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry and electron microscopy. Application areas range widely from the genetic causes of cancer, to protein synthesis and modification, to cell communication, signal transduction and the metabolic pathways of parasites, viral cell entry, and to the fundamentals of bio-molecular structure and dynamics.

The goal of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology graduate program is to produce the next generation of highly trained, independent thinking scientists. We are very excited about our Ph.D. program and confident that the Department of Biochemistry &Molecular Biology can offer you the education and graduate research experience that you will need to achieve your career goals. We invite you to explore our website and learn about our department.

MD-PhD students interested in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program are encouraged to meet with the BMB Program Director early during their first year to plan the research component of their dual degree program as per the requirements of BMB graduate program. Please contact Ujwal Shinde, graduate program director, with any questions about the program.

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering Program (BME) at OHSU coordinates programs and requirements for students in the MD-PhD program who decide to pursue their PhD in biomedical engineering. The BME program admits approximately six students per year, and includes one or two MD-PhD students. MD-PhD students generally take the medical school curriculum the first two years and do research rotations during summer months. Entering MD-PhD students interested in biomedical engineering are encouraged to meet with the BME director early in Year 1 to begin immediate planning for the research component of their dual-degree program, and to ensure that summer research rotations meet BME criteria for graduate research. Based on prior coursework, the BME director may elect to waive part or all of the core courses in the BME curriculum that are taken in the 1st graduate year (Year 3 for MD-PhD students). Students with backgrounds in biomedical engineering can take their qualifying exam at the end of Year 3. MD-PhD students are integrated into the full activities of the BME program including the BME seminar series course. Details of these courses and activities can be found at the BME website.

For more information, contact the BME Program Coordinator, Nermina Radaslic or the BME Program Director,

Biomedical Informatics

The Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program within the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology offers a PhD in two tracks: Clinical Informatics and Bioinformatics & Computational Biology. The PhD program consists of the following core curriculum: Core Knowledge of Biomedical, Informatics, Doctoral Symposium, Biostatistics, Mentored Teaching, Advance Research Methods, Research/Dissertation, Cognate Area of Study.

Coursework makes up an important part of the PhD curriculum. In addition to work on the dissertation, students obtain an in-depth understanding of the field through high-level coursework in biomedical informatics, advanced research methods and design, and a specialized cognate area. The cognate area allows tailoring of the educational experience to one's research interests. Past cognate areas have include Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Science Engineering, Public Health, Nursing, System Science, Anthropology, Education, and Health Information Management.  MD-PhD students interested in biomedical informatics should meet with the Graduate Program Director early in Year 1 to begin planning their dual-degree program.

Details of the program requirements and required and elective courses can be found on our website at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/departments/clinical-departments/dmice/educational-programs/dmice-programs/phd.cfm

For more information about our PhD program and to discuss program requirements, please contact our admissions coordinator Lauren Ludwig at ludwigl@ohsu.edu

Cancer Biology Program

The mission of the CANB Program is to teach and train PhD students for careers in basic and applied cancer research. The Program is designed around the philosophy that the best new strategies for diagnosis, treatment and control of cancer will come from identifying and understanding the molecular defects present in cancer cells. Students in the CANB Program actively participate in all facets of current basic, translational, and clinical cancer research at OHSU. The alignment of the CANB mission with the goals of the Knight Cancer Institute serves to focus the structure and the decision-making of the Program. A noteworthy feature of the Program is that students are exposed to the Knight Cancer Institutes clinical faculty, who actively teach and facilitate student's attendance in the Tumor Board Meetings during the required 2nd year course, Advanced Topics in Cancer Biology (CANB/CELL 616). In addition, students in CANB participate in the Cancer Biology Research Forum, a weekly meeting within the Knight Cancer Institute, which exposes the students to many different types of research in cancer prevention and control, hormonal and reproductive malignancies, hematologic malignancies, experimental therapeutics, complementary medicine, as well as basic, translational and clinical cancer biology.

Cell & Developmental Biology (CDB)

Organized by the Department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology, the CDB Graduate Program offers research and training in cell biology, developmental biology, and cancer cell biology. Using a wide variety of model systems, the CDB faculty explore processes that are crucial for the development and function of all tissues and organisms.  Areas of interest include the mechanisms that control cell proliferation and migration;biosynthesis, assembly and function of cellular components;intracellular trafficking and signal transduction;neurogenesis and differentiation;and the temporal and spatial regulation of gene expression.  Faculty also seek to understand how the misregulation of these normal functions can lead to the onset, progression, and dissemination of cancer, with the goal of identifying new opportunities for therapeutic treatments. 

The Cell and Developmental Biology Graduate Program welcomes MD-PhD students, who are encouraged to contact the Philip Copenhaver, Graduate Program Director,  to discuss their research interests, and to design a curriculum that is customized to their backgrounds and needs. Students are also encouraged to attend the series of informal presentations given by the faculty in fall term to introduce their research programs.

Details about our program can be found here.  For more information, or to receive a list of faculty currently available as PhD mentors,  please contact the CDB Program, director, Philip Copenhaver webpage or  email

Molecular and Medical Genetics

The Molecular and Medical Genetics (MMG) Graduate Program offers broad yet intensive research training in molecular, cellular, developmental and human/medical genetics as well as modern genomics. The areas of our research include molecular genetics, cancer genetics, cancer genomics, epigenetics/epigenomics, developmental genetics, medical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular diagnostics, quantitative trait genetics, biochemical genetics, and gene therapy technologies. Using a variety of genetic, molecular, cellular and biochemical approaches as well as animal models, we are devoted to understanding the genetic basis of human diseases, including, but not limited to, cancers, inborn errors of metabolism, inherited neuronal degenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. The program is also strengthened by our clinical geneticists, physicians certified in multiple clinical specialties, who consult with patients and families to diagnosis and treat genetic based diseases. Another distinctive feature of this program is the weekly Grand Rounds presentations given by the faculty, staff and residents to examine the clinical and molecular aspects of human genetic disorders. Students also have the unique opportunity to gain exposure to various aspects of clinical genetic activities, including the cytogenetics lab and the Genetics Clinic.

MD/PhD students interested in the MMG program are encouraged to contact the MMG program directors, Mushui Dai at daim@ohsu.edu or Amanda McCullough at mcculloa@ohsu.edu.

Molecular Microbiology & Immunology

The Molecular Microbiology and Immunology graduate program covers a wide variety of areas with an overall emphasis on host-pathogen interactions. Understanding these interactions is a key element to our quest to improve human health. Solving some of our most important public health problems today require expertise in this area: AIDS, drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Zika, Malaria, Dengue, MRSA, and the list continues. Worldwide more people die from infectious disease than heart disease or cancer. That being said, cancer immunology is a relatively new area and MMI faculty are leading the charge to exciting discoveries and better therapeutics. Students in MMI participate with faculty doing cutting edge research in the MMI Department as well as will affiliate faculty at the Vaccine &Gene Therapy Institute, the Oregon National Primate Research Center, the Providence Chiles Cancer Research Center and the Portland VA Medical Center.

MMI serves as an academic hub for the study of the basic and translational approaches to infectious diseases and immunology.  MMI faculty are dedicated to the education and training of medical students, graduate students, and research fellows over a range of disciplines. The MMI program has been the academic home for several successful MD/PhD students. Details on the MMI graduate program and its requirements can be found: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/departments/basic-science-departments/molecular-microbiology-and-immunology/graduate-program/index.cfm

MD/PhD. students are encouraged to participate fully in the intellectual community of MMI including participation in Career Development seminars and the annual MMI Retreat. Students interested in the MMI program should contact the MMI Program Director, Dr. Georgiana Purdy. purdyg@ohsu.edu

Dominic Siler, MD-PhD student, teams with Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) students Carolina Glogowski and Chia-Hsueh Lee to learn brain slice recording during NGP bootcamp
Dominic Siler, MD-PhD student, teams with Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) students Carolina Glogowski and Chia-Hsueh Lee to learn brain slice recording during NGP bootcamp

The Neuroscience Graduate Program

The Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at the Vollum Institute/OHSU coordinates programs and requirements for students in the MD-PhD program who decide to pursue their PhD in neuroscience. The NGP program admits 6-10 PhD students per year, and in most years the class also includes one or two MD-PhD students. Entering MD-PhD students interested in neuroscience are strongly encouraged to meet with the NGP director early in Year 1 to begin immediate planning for the research component of their dual-degree program and to learn how they can participate in NGP activities as soon as they arrive at OHSU. MD-PhD students generally enroll in the medical school curriculum from August of the first year to February of the 2nd year.  They then do 3 laboratory research rotations (each of at least 2 months - an NGP requirement) between February and August of their 2nd year at OHSU. This is followed by the core NGP curriculum, which is taught in a single 12-week block in the fall term. Thus by December of their 3rd year, MD-PhD students are full time in their thesis lab. Elective courses to meet NGP thesis requirements are chosen to match their particular research interests. MD-PhD students are encouraged to integrate early into the full activities of the NGP including the Vollum Thursday seminar series, Friday noon work-in-progress seminar series, workshops in professional research career development, and the fall NGP retreat, usually held at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Detailed information on program requirements can be found at the NGP website. We also offer a "boot camp" in neuroscience methods for incoming PhD and MD-PhD students just prior to the start of the fall term.

For more information, applicants or current MD-PhD students can contact the NGP Administrator, or the NGP Director,

Physiology & Pharmacology

Scientists in the Physiology and Pharmacology graduate program share a common fascination with how things work;molecules, cells, tissues, and organs;and how small molecules (drugs) can be used to modify function and treat disease. Physiology and Pharmacology are disciplines fundamental to Medicine and our collective research interests are motivated by the desire to make a difference in the treatment of human diseases such as hypertension, cystic fibrosis, heart failure, cancer, endocrine and neurological disorders. Within our Program, a Research Training Hub in Structural and Chemical Biology emphasizes the design of novel small molecules that represent the first step in drug discovery. This breadth of investigation –from molecules to whole animals –is represented by the diverse research programs of the participating faculty. In our program, chemists interface with biologists who use physiological, biochemical, and biophysical techniques to study: Autonomic neurobiology, Ion channel biophysics, Neuroendocrinology, Molecular pharmacology, Signal transduction, Chemical biology, and Cancer.

, early during their first year to plan the research component of their dual degree program.

Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

The program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (PMCB) at OHSU is an umbrella program that serves as a portal to PhD training with focus areas in Biochemistry, Cancer Biology, Cell Biology, Chemical Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics/Genomics, Immunology, Microbiology, Physiology/Pharmacology, Quantitative Biology and Biomedical Engineering, and Vision Science. All students who enter the PMCB graduate program select a home department as their academic base during their graduate training. Students may choose their thesis mentor from any of the PMCB faculty members (>150).MD-PhD students who are interested in doing their PhD work in one of the disciplines within PMCB are encouraged to meet with the Director of PMCB early in Year 1 to begin planning for the research component of their dual-degree program, and to ensure that the summer research rotations meet PMCB criteria. MD-PhD students in the PMCB program are expected to complete 3 laboratory rotations, although they may request to opt out of rotations if they find a match with a mentor early in the process. In addition to beginning work in their thesis lab, the usual MD-PhD student begins graduate coursework in Year 3. Students with excellent backgrounds in the basic sciences can request the option of "testing out" of required PMCB core courses that are typically taken in the first two years of the PhD program. A Comprehensive Examination occurs at the end of Year 3 after completion of the first year of core courses. A written qualifying exam is done at the end of Year 2, which advances the student to candidacy for the PhD degree.MD-PhD students with outstanding academic records can request permission to take the qualifying exam earlier if the student's thesis mentor, scientific oversight committee, and directors of PMCB and MD/PhD support the accelerated timeline. Year 3 MD-PhD students are integrated into the full activities of the PMCB program including the PMCB seminar series, workshops in professional research career development, and the fall PMCB retreat. Details of these courses and activities can be found at the PMCB website For more information contact the PMCB Administrator, ), or the PMCB Director, .