The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (PSTP) at UCSD is one of the oldest and largest Pharmacological Sciences training programs in the nation. There is considerable demand for PhD graduates with training in all aspects of Pharmacological Sciences: the pharmaceutical and biotech industry needs scientists with strong quantitative skills and training in basic and systems pharmacology; courses in pharmacology need to be taught to medical, pharmacy and other health science professionals; and there is a need for individuals who understand drug action in government, regulatory affairs, public policy and secondary education. The specific objectives of the PSTP are to provide (1) training in the fundamental discipline of molecular pharmacology; (2) a strong foundation in quantitative approaches to biomedical science; (3) interdisciplinary training in areas that intersect pharmacology; (4) communications skills for disseminating information to scientists and the general public; (5) training in the ethical conduct of research, applying rigor and reproducibility; (6) career development for jobs in academia, industry, government, and teaching; (7) training to a diverse population of students; and (8) mentorship and leadership skills. The Biomedical Sciences (BMS) graduate program, which NRC ranked 3rd amongst umbrella programs in biomedical sciences, is the feeder program for PSTP students. BMS receives more than 400 applications and accepts on average 32 per year, 97% training grant eligible. Entrants have an average GPA of 3.6 and 25 months of prior research experience. We are routinely able to recruit ~30% of the entering students to PSTP faculty laboratories. This is facilitated by association of the PSTP with the Department of Pharmacology, which was ranked 3rd globally by US News and World Reports in 2017. The PSTP faculty are extensively involved in graduate training through service in BMS and engagement in student teaching and advising. Nearly all have extensive experience as mentors, and their research funding averages $900K/yr. 90% of PSTP trainees complete their PhD training, and do so in ~5.5 years. The PSTP curriculum includes requirements for coursework in basic principles of pharmacology, drug and disease mechanisms and pharmacokinetics, as well as quantitative skills, statistics, and research ethics, including rigor and reproducibility. Students also gain experience in writing and communication through yearly presentations to the Pharmacology Department as well as judged poster presentations. Career development is facilitated by a course introducing various career options; additionally direct industry experience is available through paid student internships. We sponsor interactions of students with PSTP alumni, most of whom are in research intensive (61%) or research related (24%) careers, by inviting them for seminars, retreats, and informal gatherings. The PSTP program is highly successful in recruitment of diversity students, with a significantly higher proportion (18.9%) than the campus graduate programs at large, and these students graduate with the same low rate of attrition as other PSTP trainees.
The PSTP and the Molecular Pharmacology track in the BMS program seek to provide students with a state- of-the art education in the discipline of Pharmacology and a strong identification with Pharmacological Sciences. Didactic and experiential efforts combine to prepare graduates for a broad range of career opportunities in academia, industry, public policy and science education, where both the breadth of training in biomedical sciences and specific training in pharmacology will be valued.
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