Graduate Program Overview

The graduate program is designed to prepare the student for a research and/or teaching career with concentrations in one or more of the following: cell biology, developmental biology, neuroscience. The program emphasizes research and the skills and knowledge required to perform and communicate the results of research. Modern biomedical researchers/educators must be versed in a number of disciplines, and so the course of study in the department is broadly based; you are encouraged and in some cases required to enroll in courses offered by other departments. The research opportunities in the department are widely varied and will accommodate many interests.

All Ph.D. students in the basic sciences at the KU School of Medicine are admitted into the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences (IGPBS). After the initial year of course work, students choose a research mentor and then join the department of the mentor. Applications may be made online at: Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences (IGPBS).

Margaret Petroff, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Studies and
Associate Professor
Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, KS 66160
913-588-2781 (office)
913-588-2710 (fax)

Graduate Studies Committee Members:
Julie Christianson, PhD
Dianne Durham, PhD
William Kinsey, PhD
Margaret Petroff, PhD
Brenda Rongish, PhD
Doug Wright, PhD

The opportunities and requirements of the departmental graduate program are organized as a series of goals for you to attain. During your graduate career, your education and training will help you to fulfill the following expectations:

  1. To become knowledgeable in the overall areas of study included in the IGPBS (Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in the Biomedical Sciences) core curriculum: cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and integrated systems level biology.
  2. To obtain in-depth and up-to-date expertise in a specialized area of knowledge that is appropriate for the field of your thesis research project: cell biology, developmental biology, neuroscience.
  3. To make original and high quality contributions to the scientific literature in your chosen research field.
  4. To become familiar with the scientific literature through general and specialized journals in biological research, and to develop the ability to critically evaluate the original research in your own and related fields.
  5. To become skilled in organizing and communicating information in oral presentations, and to respond to critical questioning.
  6. To develop clarity, conciseness, and precision in writing, to aid in grant writing and publication of your original research results.
  7. To learn how to ask incisive scientific questions and gain experience in the design, performance and interpretation of laboratory experiments and observations.
  8. To gain familiarity with the preparation and writing of grant applications.
  9. To prepare for the teaching as well as the research aspects of an academic career.


  1. Most of the things that you need to know are in one of several documents:
    The University Academic Catalog: general information, admission rules and procedures, description of degrees, University requirements for degrees, comprehensive oral exams, candidacy, dissertations, and final oral exams. Also tuition and fee schedules, financial assistance, and student services. The major portion is a list of courses for every school and department. Our department courses are the first listed for the School of Medicine (A is for Anatomy and Cell Biology).
  2. The Handbook for Graduate Students - Medical Center: given to you on enrollment; this book has information about the Medical Center programs, the departments, the faculties, and additional information on the subjects listed above.
  3. This departmental handbook.


  1. After the first year of the IGPBS, during which time students have ample opportunity for exposure to research programs, students must choose a mentor in whose lab they will do their dissertation research. Choosing a member of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology for your research automatically makes the student a member of the department. The primary advisor for students after this choice is their research mentor.
  2. The student will also receive close guidance from the Graduate Studies Committee until the completion of the comprehensive examination (see below). The Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee is the department's representative on the IGPBS board that administered your admission to the IGPBS.
  3. In addition to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Advisory Committee, the departmental Chairman is available to advise you (best make an appointment), and you may ask advice from other faculty as well.
  4. After your second year of study, in collaboration with your Research Mentor and the Graduate Studies Committee, you will choose a Comprehensive Examination committee that will help prepare you to pass your Candidacy requirements, and may later serve as your Dissertation Research Committee. The Comprehensive Examination is an Office of Graduate Studies requirement designed to assure that the student has attained the basic knowledge base and ability to plan and execute a dissertation research project before progression to the position of Candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The requirements and organization for the Comprehensive Examination are in Appendix A of this document.
  5. In the event that the student and/or mentor believe that the working relationship between them has significant problem(s), the Graduate Studies Committee should be notified immediately. The committee will gather information about the problem and will advise the student and his/her mentor in an attempt to resolve the problem. If the problem cannot be resolved, an option is to modify the choice of mentor. Any such change must be made in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee.


The following is a list of required courses each student in the department must take. An exception can be made if other equivalent courses previously taken are approved by the Graduate Studies Committee to fulfill part or all of these requirements. In addition, the student may wish to take other elective courses, as deemed appropriate by the mentor and research committee.

(Please see the University Academic Catalog for more details on courses)

Required Courses:

  1. Core Curriculum of the IGPBS.During their first year, graduate students will take all the modules and course work of the IGPBS core curriculum including Research Ethics. An exception may be made for MD/PhD and/or medical students who have completed comparable and recent coursework.
  2. A minimum of 4 credit hours must be selected from advanced courses in the areas of department research emphasis. Examples of advanced courses include:
    • Genetics and Neurobiology of Mental Disorders (ANAT 840, 2 credit hours)
    • Graduate Histology (ANAT 845, 2 credit hours)
    • Advanced Neuroscience (ANAT 846, 5 credit hours)
    • Developmental Neurobiology (ANAT 847, 2 credit hours)
    • Molecular Mechanisms of Neurological Disorders (ANAT 848, 3 credit hours)
    • Advanced Developmental Biology (ANAT 868, 2 credit hours)
    • Fundamentals of Biostatistics I (BIOS 714, 3 credit hours)
    • Fundamentals of Biostatistics II (BIOS 717, 3 credit hours)
    • Reproductive Physiology (PHSL 834, 5 credit hours)
    • Immunology (MICR 808, 3 credit hours)
  3. Analysis of Scientific Papers (ANAT 900; 1 credit hour): each semester until the one in which the student expects to defend.Training in reading and critical analysis of current scientific literature.
  4. Research Rotations. A minimum of two research rotations, usually satisfied in the first year in the IGPBS.
  5. Departmental Seminar (ANAT 885; 1 credit hour; S, U, I pass/fail). Research-oriented presentations in a seminar format by students, faculty, and guests. Attendance is mandatory. Please refer to the detailed course criteria.
  6. Seminar presentations. Two presentations in the regular departmental seminar series or an equivalent seminar approved by the Graduate Education Director, to be given in two separate semesters; but not including the one in which the student defends.
  7. Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship Requirement. All students in doctoral programs must meet the research skills and responsible scholarship requirement of the university. Anatomy Ph.D. students meet these requirements during their IGPBS year of study by taking GSMC 857 Biographics, GSMC 852/GSMC 855; Introduction to Biomedical Research I and II, respectively and GSMC 856 Introduction to Research Ethics.
  8. Doctoral Research. During the research phase of training, students register for ANAT 990 (1-6 credit hours; participation/fail/incomplete). Original and independent laboratory investigation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
  9. As the research phase nears completion (*or after 18h of post comprehensive coursework has been completed), students register for ANAT 999, Doctoral Dissertation (1-6 credit hours; and a letter grade is assigned the semester in which they defend; ABCDF or incomplete). Preparation of the dissertation based upon original research and in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree.
    *Once 18h of post comprehensive coursework has been completed the student can enroll in 1h of ANAT 999.
  10. Lab safety and animal use instruction. As part of the IGPBS, students will become certified to use radioisotopes and will be instructed in general lab safety issues by the KUMC Safety Office. Students who work with animals in their research will be required to take the animal care and handling course offered by Laboratory Animal Resources.

Elective Courses:

  • Electron Microscopy Techniques (ANAT 832, 3 credit hours)
  • Techniques in Anatomy and Cell Biology (ANAT 870, 1-3 credit hours)
  • Advanced Topics: (ANAT 880, 1-5 credit hours) A focused readings course which must be pre-approved by the Graduate Studies Committee
  • Courses in other departments also are possible options (see the University Academic Catalog).


University and Office of Graduate Studies rules apply. You must maintain B (3.00) or better grade point average in your course work. Students must take a minimum number of hours to remain in active status (see the University Academic Catalog).

Departmental policy is that only grades of participation (P) or Fail (F) will be given for the following courses: Master's Research (ANAT 890) and Doctoral Research (ANAT 990).


Details concerning the Comprehensive Examination are given in Appendix A (Guidelines and Checkoff for the Comprehensive Examination) and should be reviewed by the student and Mentor in preparation for the comprehensive examination. In summary, after taking most of your academic courses and having chosen a Research Mentor (usually by the end of your second year), you will choose a committee to oversee your comprehensive examination which when successfully completed leads to your candidacy for the Ph.D. This committee may also constitute all or part of your doctoral thesis committee. With your Mentor and Committee, you will propose, outline, and write a grant application in the NIH format. The preparation of this application will establish the mentor-apprentice relationship between you and your Research Mentor, and will provide you with the opportunity and obligation to apply concepts learned in your first years of graduate school to research oriented problem solving. It will provide your Research Mentor an opportunity to observe your ability and potential, and to teach those thinking and writing skills needed to accomplish research goals.


  1. After passage of your candidacy examination, the final years of your graduate career will be devoted primarily to research conducted under the guidance of your Research Mentor and Dissertation Research Committee. The committee is selected as detailed in Appendix B. As indicated under the Course Grades section, students will normally enroll in Doctoral Research hours (ANAT 990; pass/fail). Students may of course take additional elective courses at this time, but they must maintain a 3.00 overall GPA to remain in good standing in the graduate program. In the case that a student wishes to take an Advanced Topics Course (ANAT 880), the course outline and testing format must be approved by the Department Graduate Studies Committee.
  2. It is expected that the research phase of training will take two-three years, such that the total time in the program will be four-five years. If the total time since admission to the program exceeds five years, there is the possibility that the student may not continue to receive financial support.
  3. During this period, you will meet jointly with your research committee every six months or more often so that your progress can be discussed and possible changes in your approaches or direction suggested. A summary of your progress will be indicated on a form supplied by the Graduate Studies Committee. This completed form will be forwarded to that committee for review and will be placed in your permanent file.
  4. As your research progresses, you will present a Departmental Research Seminar highlighting your research project. This allows you to practice formal presentation skills and to demonstrate your progress to the department.
  5. When the completion of your research is near, you will begin to write your dissertation. Substantial portions of the dissertation should be publishable and are expected to be submitted for publication to reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals. Students normally enroll in Doctoral Dissertation (ANAT 999; pass/fail) at this time.
  6. Toward the end of your research or during the period of writing your dissertation, you will present a second Departmental Research Seminar highlighting your dissertation research project. This second presentation cannot be given within three months of your Dissertation Defense.
  7. When your dissertation is completed, it will be approved by your Research Mentor and the Dissertation Committee. A copy of the final version of the dissertation will be provided to the Director of Graduate Studies two weeks before scheduling of your Oral Defense. This copy will be displayed in the Departmental Library so that those attending your defense can preview your research accomplishments. The dissertation must be complete in unbound form before the dissertation defense is scheduled.
  8. Other than the above, University and Medical center regulations for the Dissertation and the Final Oral Examination will apply. A detailed outline of the department guidelines for the Doctoral Defense examination is given in Appendix B, "Guidelines and Checklist for Dissertation Defense" which should be reviewed by the student and Mentor.

G. M.D./Ph.D. Program

The above requirements apply to students in the M.D./Ph.D. program with the following modifications:

  1. Core courses vs. elective courses.
    The M.D./Ph.D. student will enroll in medical courses during his/her first two years. These students will receive graduate credit for the relevant courses they take. They will then take the following graduate courses:
    • ANAT 802 Laboratory rotations (2 rotations)
    • ANAT 900 Analysis of Scientific Papers (1 credit/semester) taken for a minimum of three semesters
  2. Students may of course take additional courses based on their particular interests and needs, such as graduate neuroscience. This will be decided by their graduate mentor and Graduate Studies Committee with the student's input.

Last modified: Mar 15, 2013