The goals of the predoctoral Training Program in Pharmacological Sciences at the University of Virginia are to provide a broad education in modern pharmacology that includes fundamental aspects of human physiology, pharmacokinetics, biostatistics and whole animal pharmacology;to provide rigorous training in scientific inquiry;and to imbue each trainee with a professional, scholarly attitude. Our program emphasizes critical thinking and technical skills as well as oral and written presentations of experimental findings and ideas. A training grant Steering Committee administers the training program and oversees student progress through performance in course work, qualifying examinations, presentations in the Pharmacology journal club and written reports from semi-annual committee meetings. There are currently 20 trainees;we recruit 5-6 new trainees each year. Students (40-45 each year, nearly all TGE) enter graduate school through an umbrella program. During the first year, students enroll in a core knowledge course and perform three research rotations. They choose their dissertation mentor and PhD program mid-way in their second semester. On joining the laboratories of the 43 Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant preceptors, they can be nominated for appointment to the training grant for their second and third years in graduate school. Although the majority of trainees appointed are Pharmacology PhD students, in the past 10 years the TG has supported students in the Biochemistry &Molecular Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Pathology and Physiology PhD programs. Training program-specific activities include courses in human physiology, general pharmacology, analysis of drug targets, biostatics and the responsible conduct of research as well as participation in the weekly Pharmacology journal club. Non-Pharmacology PhD students are required to matriculate in one pharmacology course, biostatics and the Pharmacology journal club while appointed to the training grant and are strongly encouraged to continue this participation for the duration of graduate school. All faculty preceptors are tenure- track faculty with robust research programs. A plurality of preceptors have primary appointments in Pharmacology;the other preceptors represent nine additional academic units;seven preceptors are active clinicians. Forty trainees have been awarded the PhD in past 10 years and 17 more remain in training. Twenty trainees were awarded individual predoctoral fellowships and our trainees have published, on average, three original research papers (one as first author) while in training. The time-to-degree of our trainees is 5.4 years. With this application for renewal of the training grant, we request continued support for five years (-39 to -44) for nine trainees yearly.

Public Health Relevance

The Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant at the University of Virginia supports training of a new generation of graduate students interested in Pharmacology. Modern Pharmacology, which focuses on the development and understanding of medicines, is highly interdisciplinary. This training program brings together 43 faculty members from ten departments in the School of Medicine and College of Arts &Sciences to provide a comprehensive and unified program of graduate study. While most of the trainees earn a PhD in Pharmacology, a substantial number are in other disciplines and the training they receive in Pharmacology via our program enriches their education. The overall mission of the Pharmacology training program is to train students to become outstanding scientists and thereby contribute to a diverse research workforce.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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Okita, Richard T
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University of Virginia
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