PhD Program Requirements

All students admitted through the Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS) Program will take a set of foundation core courses in addition to courses specific to each track. Students must complete all core courses (foundation and track-specific) before advancing to candidacy.

Program Learning Objectives

The Program Learning Objectives for the Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS) Program are available here.

Unit/Course Requirements

A minimum of 60 units of graduate course credits is required for the Ph.D., including course work, and research and dissertation units. At least 24 units of formal course work are required at the 500 level or above (see Course Offerings below), exclusive of directed research. No more than 8 units of 794 Doctoral Dissertation may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree. Students must complete the first year PHTS foundation curriculum as well as course requirements for their specific Ph.D. program track. Additional course work relevant to the research interests of the student may be required by the student’s guidance committee or by the student’s faculty adviser. A minimum of 12 of the 24 units is to be taken in courses in the student’s chosen track. Of the total 60 units, 36 units may be fulfilled with other courses, directed research and dissertation.

Student Teaching

Teaching experience is considered an integral part of the training of graduate students. Thus, each Ph.D. student is given the opportunity to participate in the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) teaching program of the school. Most students will be supported as teaching assistants during their first two years in the PhD program.

Graduate Seminar

All first-year PhD candidate students are required to attend departmental and other scheduled School-wide seminars. Students who have passed their qualifying exam are required to present at least one departmental seminar per year.

Qualifying Examination

Students will be required to pass a qualifying exam by the end of the 1st semester of their third academic year in the program. Before permission is granted to sit for the qualifying examination, all students must complete the 24 required units as stated above, with no grades lower than “C” and with an overall GPA of 3.0 or better. Final evaluation of the examination is determined by a consensus of the guidance committee. If a student fails, it is at the discretion of the committee to allow the student to repeat the examination within 60 days. The program has the option to dismiss the student from the program with or without the option of a terminal masters degree after the first or second failure.

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

All PhD students regardless of their chosen tracks/PhD programs are required to complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and a Curriculum Vitae annually at the end of each year of matriculation. IDPs are intended to serve as a tool to facilitate communication between trainees and their advisors. The student will meet with his/her advisor and IDP committee to systematically identify training needs and competencies, establish goals and take stock of year‐by‐year progress during the PhD years; and to plan and prepare for their post‐PhD future while they are in graduate school. The IDP committee is comprised of the student’s primary advisor (or Program Chair if the student does not yet have an advisor at the end of the first year) along with two other members from the student’s qualifying or dissertation committee (see below), with the option of substituting one of the committee members with a professional from the student’s career of interest.


Each student must satisfactorily complete a thesis/dissertation, based on an original investigation, under the direct supervision of a faculty member. Presentation and oral defense of an acceptable dissertation is required for PhD candidates.

All students in the Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS) program are strongly urged to take a foundation core of classes and seminars (total 24 units). These courses are designed to introduce students to various areas of pharmacology, pharmaceutical sciences, mechanisms of disease, drug development and disease, a broad range of pharmaceutical sciences research methods, and to build a solid foundation in scientific writing, biostatistics, literature evaluation, and ethical conduct in research. The core courses for all students, regardless of track, include:

  • MPTX 502 – Pharmacology (4 units, Fall)
  • PSCI 556 – Principal Research Approaches and Scientific Writing (4 units, Fall)
  • INTD 500 – Ethics and Accountability in Biomedical Research (or equivalent course that satisfies NIH RCR requirements) (1 unit, Summer)
  • PM 510L* – Principles of Biostatistics (or equivalent course) (4 units, Spring)
  • Additional Core Curriculum – At least one of the following three courses, from the MPTX, PSCI and CXPT tracks should be selected:
    • MPTX 500 – Cell Signaling/Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology I (4 units, Spring or Fall),
    • PSCI 665 – Drug Transport and Delivery (4 units, Spring)
    • CXPT 609 – Preclinical Experimental Therapeutic Drug Development) (4 units, Spring or Fall)

Graduate students are expected to possess knowledge in various areas of pharmacology, pharmaceutical sciences, mechanisms of disease, drug development and efficacy. To reach the required 24 units of course work, the student can take more than one of the track courses, and any of the approved courses listed below, as well as other individualized program selected offerings approved by PHTS and the student’s adviser.

  • CXPT 610 Experimental and Clinical Drug Metabolism and Transport
  • CXPT/PHRD 664 Clinical Problem Solving
  • MPTX 510 Topics in Pharmacology: The Other Side of Drugs
  • MPTX 517 Clinical Trial Design (* cross-list with CXPT)
  • MPTX 520 Toxicology and the Media
  • PSCI 501 Drugs: Principles of ADME and Bioavailability
  • PSCI 502 Drugs: Principles of Therapeutic Mechanisms
  • PSCI 515 Drugs: Genetics and Pharmacogenetics
  • PSCI 557 Methods in Chemical Biology
  • PSCI 599 Computational Drug Design
  • PSCI 599 Medical Marijuana and Other Legal Plant Medicines
  • PSCI 655 Immunopharmaceutics
  • PSCI 662 Advanced Pharmacokinetics/Pharmacodynamics
  • PSCI 667 Intracellular Drug Delivery and Targeting
  • RSCI 533 Safety Evaluation during Drug Development
  • RSCI 603 Managing Complex Projects

The following are graduate courses offered for the Health Sciences Campus as “campus-wide” general courses. Any of these courses can be taken with approval of the student’s adviser and applied towards the 24 units of required coursework.

  • INTD 500 Ethics and Accountability in Biomedical Research
  • INTD 504 Molecular Biology of Cancer
  • INTD 531 Cell Biology
  • INTD 549 Protein Chemistry – Structure and Function
  • INTD 561 Molecular Biology
  • INTD 572 Systems Physiology and Disease
  • PATH 575 Frontiers of Pathology

Course Catalogue

For Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI) and Molecular Pharmacology & Toxicology (MPTX) and Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics (CXPT) courses, see the School of Pharmacy courses of instruction.

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

USC Course Catalogue

Schedule of Classes

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