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The goal of the PhD program in Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics is to develop a scientist who is engaged in team science through interdisciplinary education; competent in conducting research across clinical and basic science disciplines; and integrates basic investigations and clinical observations in applied research to better understand disease process, advance drug development and evaluate efficacy and toxicity of therapeutic regimens with the goal of improving the safe, effective and economical use of therapeutic modalities by patients.
The program applies an interdisciplinary approach that focuses the graduate studies directly toward translational, rather than basic science, aiming to educate students with the perspective and skill set to identify important connections between fundamental biomedical research and human disease. This program emphasizes cross-training between clinical and basic sciences focusing on the investigation of disease processes, drug development and the efficacy and toxicity of therapeutic regimens. Course requirements and research opportunities for graduate students enrolled in the program provide both experimental (basic) and disease-focused experiences that complement the graduate's research focus.
A minimum of 60 units is required. At least 26 of the 60 units are to be formal graduate course work at the 500- level or above, exclusive of seminars and directed research. Students must complete 14 units of course work before they are eligible for the screening procedure. Additional course work relevant to the research interests of the student may be required by the student's advisers or the student's qualifying exam committee, with an emphasis on cross-training and taking into account the amount and level of previous scientific preparation and the nature of the research dissertation that will be the major endpoint of the program. Specifically, recommended course work differs between students who have an advanced professional degree (Track I) and those who do not (Track II). A maximum of 12 units may be transferred from graduate studies elsewhere.
In the first year, all students (Tracks I and II) are recommended to take 14 units of course work in translational medicine (RSCI 530, 2 units), research design (CXPT 609, 4 units), biostatistics (PM 510, 4 units), and clinical trial design (MPTX 517, 4 units). In the second year, Track I students will take the remaining 12 units of course work as electives based on the background of the student and the proposed research focus of the student. Track II students who do not have an advanced professional degree are recommended to select from the following courses as part of their electives: systems physiology and disease (INTD 572 and INTD 573, 4 units each) or pathology (INTD 550, INTD 551, 4 units each). Other electives that can be chosen are INTD 531, INTD 561, PM 533, PM 538, PM 570, PSCI 661 and PSCI 665.
The remaining 34 of the 60 units required for the PhD degree may be fulfilled with other courses including ethics, interdisciplinary seminar, directed research and dissertation. Note that to become eligible to take the qualifying exam, Track II students must fulfill the prescribed clinical experiences that match the disease-related topic of the student's thesis work as approved by the student's advisers and advisory committee. Students with a bachelor's degree in a health care subject area (e.g., nursing, pharmacy, medicine) will be evaluated on a case basis and may be required to meet the therapeutic course work or clinical experience component described above, as determined by their background and previous experiences.
Foreign Language Requirement
There is no formal language requirement. However, an individual qualifying exam committee can require competency in a foreign language or a computer language if it is relevant for the student's area of research.
Qualifying Exam Committee
Upon admission, the student will be assigned to a member of the graduate faculty who will serve as his or her temporary adviser until a permanent adviser has been identified. The student's program of study will be under the direction of the qualifying exam committee composed of at least five members, one of whom must be from outside the department. Because of the centrality of research in the PhD program, the student is encouraged to get acquainted with the participating faculty mentors from the day they enter the program, and have selected a research direction, paired graduate advisers (clinical and basic scientists), and qualifying exam committee no later than the third semester of study. The graduate affairs committee will serve as the qualifying exam committee until one is selected.
The performance of each student will be evaluated no later than the end of the second semester of enrollment in the graduate program. This screening procedure is conducted by the student's qualifying exam committee or, if a student has not yet selected a qualifying exam committee, by the graduate affairs committee. The committee reviews the student's progress to date in various areas including course work, research interests, and laboratory performance on his or her research project or laboratory rotations. If a performance deficiency is determined, specific goals will be established that the student must fulfill to continue in the program. Passing this screening procedure is prerequisite to continuation in the PhD program.
Students will be required to pass a comprehensive written and oral examination on the chosen disease-focused area of research emphasis. The examination will encompass basic scientific concepts relevant to the disease under study and the laboratory techniques in that discipline, fundamental principles of clinical research and design, biostatistics, and therapeutics in the chosen disease-focused area of research. The examination is administered by the qualifying exam committee and consists of two parts: a written examination administered to all students at the end of their second year of study and a detailed written proposal and its oral presentation and defense by the student to the qualifying exam committee. The examination process is conducted by the student's advisory committee with oversight by the graduate affairs committee. All course and qualifying examination requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within two-and-a-half years after admission. After passing these examinations, the student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree.
A dissertation based on original investigation in a relevant scientific area is required for the PhD The dissertation research must represent a significant contribution to science and should demonstrate the candidate's scholarly advancement and competence to undertake independent research. An oral defense of the dissertation will be held after the candidate submits the final draft of the dissertation to the dissertation committee. (See Theses and Dissertations in the Graduate School section.)
Teaching experience is considered an integral part of the training of graduate students. As part of the general requirements for the PhD degree, each student is required to participate in the teaching program of the School of Pharmacy.
- Completed online application at USC Graduate Admissions Application
- Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from an accredited four-year college or university.
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE). (Subject test is optional).
- Statement of Purpose: A brief and focused essay about your career and research goals, and how you intend to achieve these goals. It should also describe your accomplishments thus far along your projected career path.
- Curriculum Vitae
- Three (3) letters of recommendation. Must be submitted online. Hard copies will not be accepted.
- Official transcripts from all institutions attended. Upload copies of official transcripts to the online application system. Mail official transcripts to the USC Office of Graduate Admissions. See instructions below.
- TOEFL/IELTS (Required for all international applicants)
Applicants must meet minimum requirements for admission to the University (overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0, and a combined GRE Verbal + Quantitative score). However, a GPA of 3.5 and a combined GRE V/Q score of at least 315 are preferred.
For International Students
When listing undergraduate/graduate GPAs (grade point averages) on the application, please use the system of your university. If you received a percentage grade, provide the average percentage. If you were graded on a scale other than 4.0 (with 4.0 equal to an “A”), please indicate the average grade AND indicate the scale (for example, 8.5/10). All international students are required to submit TOEFL/IELTS scores even if a master’s degree was received from an English speaking country. The minimum TOEFL score is 100 for the internet-based test (IBT) or an IELTS score of 7, with at least 6 on each band.
How to Apply
Applications must be submitted online through USC’s online graduate application system as follows:
1. Select the Program
Select the graduate program to which you are applying on the page entitled “Application Information” as follows:
- The semester (for the entering year),
- School of Pharmacy
- PHTS (for the program)
2. Upload Supporting Documents
Upload the following documents to the online admissions system: Statement of Purpose, Curriculum Vitae, Official Copies of transcripts from all institutions attended (unofficial copies unacceptable).
3. Mail Official Transcripts
For mailing instructions for official transcripts from all institutions attended – click on this link.
4. Pay the Application Fee
Pay the application fee of $90. The fee is paid online via credit card when you submit your application. The application fee is non-refundable.
All students accepted into the PHTS umbrella program, regardless of citizenship, are financially supported throughout their graduate education at USC. Institutional funds are provided for each PHTS student during the first 2 years of their studies. This includes a nationally competitive stipend, all tuition and departmental fees, and health insurance premiums.
At the end of the first year, PHTS students will select a faculty mentor and a track-specific program of PhD study (PSCI, MPTX or CXPT) and will be expected to begin his/her thesis research program in the laboratory of the faculty mentor. Beginning July 1st of year 3, the faculty mentor will be financially responsible for the student’s stipend and fees associated with a Graduate Assistant. During this time and until graduation, the student will be supported from research grants and/or scholarship funds within the chosen laboratory.
Students accepted into the USC School of Pharmacy PhD program are typically provided financial aid including full tuition remission and a stipend to cover living expenses (currently $35,256 for 12 months).
Fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis to qualified PhD candidates. Fellows and teaching assistants receive full tuition remission up to 12 units per semester including summer.
Health Care Coverage
As a PhD candidate, you will receive health care coverage information as part of your financial-aid package once you are accepted to a graduate program. If you hold a teaching or research assistantship, your health insurance and your USC health center fee will be paid.
The USC Graduate program will award funds toward travel expenses for those students who are invited to present a paper or poster. There is a limit of one to two trips per student per year, depending on availability of funds. In addition, the USC School of Pharmacy Graduate Program may fund part of a student’s travel expenses to an international conference, depending on availability of funds.
The School seeks to recruit the best domestic applicants by offering them internal Dean’s Fellowships (up to 5 are awarded each year). In addition, the top applicants admitted through the PHTS umbrella program are eligible for the University’s Joint Provost-School of Pharmacy Fellowships. These awards cover stipend, health and dental insurance, fees and tuition with teaching as an option, allowing greater effort towards research in early years.