Incoming graduate students are strongly encouraged to begin research as soon as possible. Although a student may have an idea of their research interests and preference for a research advisor, many have not made such a decision. To facilitate selection of a major advisor, graduate students will spend their first Summer semester in Springfield taking PHRM 551: Methods in Pharmacology. The purpose of this course is both to expose the student to a variety of experimental techniques and philosophies, and to identify a laboratory and a major advisor with whom the student would like to begin their scientific career. To allow students to begin their research as soon as possible, the required course work is completed within the first year. The intent of the pharmacology core course work is to provide the graduate student with basic pharmacological principles and to highlight exciting new research area, ideas and techniques. Other requirements, including written and oral examinations and seminars are designed to broaden the student's exposure to the fundamental basis of science and to help develop the essential skills of oral and written communication.
The Thesis/Dissertation Research Project is the most critical undertaking of a student's graduate career. During the Fall semester the first year in Springfield, the student generally identifies a Thesis/Dissertation topic in consultation with the Research and Advisory Committee, a group consisting of the Major Advisor, three Pharmacology faculty and one member outside the Pharmacology Graduate Program. The purpose of this Committee is to provide guidance/advice that aids the student in the formulation and successful execution of the Thesis/Dissertation. Before significant research has begun, a Thesis/Dissertation proposal is required from the M.S./Ph.D. student. It is intended to be the foundation of the student's research efforts in the program and to be a practical training exercise in organization, creativity and scientific awareness that will be useful for any scientific proposal. This proposal is formally presented in a Pharmacology seminar. Immediately following the seminar, the proposal is defended orally before the student's Research and Advisory Committee. If not successfully defended, the proposal may be repeated once, at least 3 months after the first defense. A second failure will result in dismissal from the Pharmacology Graduate Program. It is expected that the Thesis/Dissertation Proposal, under the supervision of the Major Advisor, would result in a competent, original research project. The results of the Thesis/Dissertation must be defended in a Pharmacology seminar which must be announced at least one week in advance by sending out proper notices. Immediately following the seminar a final oral examination of the research project is conducted by the student's Research and Advisory Committee. This examination is open to the university community; however, only committee members may vote or make recommendation concerning the approval of the Thesis/Dissertation. If approved, a Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form is completed and signed by the Research and Advisory Committee, the Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and transmitted to the Graduate School. The Thesis/Dissertation research should be of sufficiently high quality to merit publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. If not approved, the oral defense may be repeated once, at least 3 months after the first defense. A second failure will result in dismissal from the Pharmacology Graduate Program.