VCU Bulletins

Pharmacology and Toxicology, Master of Science (M.S.)

Graduate program director
Hamid I. Akbarali, Ph.D.
Professor and vice chair, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
(804) 828-7918

Additional contact
Sheryol W. Cox
Coordinator, graduate programs in pharmacology and toxicology
(804) 828-8400

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Pharmacology and Toxicology, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Pharmacology and Toxicology, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a concentration in molecular biology and genetics
Pharmacology and Toxicology, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in molecular biology and genetics

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Pharmacology and Toxicology, Master of Science (M.S.)

of entry:


Apr 15


MCAT acceptable in lieu of GRE
Special requirements: See the departmental website for additional information on the application process.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, qualified applicants to the M.S. degree program typically must have:

  1. Baccalaureate degrees with a major in fields such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy and related sciences
  2. GRE scores of 1100 (verbal plus quantitative) and 3.5 (analytical) or equivalent scores on the new GRE exam
  3. Undergraduate GPA of 3.2
  4. Some laboratory research experience

Research-intensive, non-thesis curriculum for medical students

Individuals who are participants in Doctor of Medicine program at VCU may be eligible for enrollment in research-intensive, non-thesis study in the program. Please contact the graduate program director for additional information.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goal

The graduate program leading to the Master of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology prepares individuals for a variety of career objectives in biomedical science. These careers include but are not limited to as industrial scientists and scientists in government regulatory agencies. The M.S. program will be of interest to individuals planning on pursuing technical positions in pharmacology or toxicology research or testing; students interested in the health professions, such as medicine or dentistry, who desire additional research training; and those interested in government positions, such as those in regulatory agencies, that require training in pharmacology and toxicology.

The program incorporates formal instructional activity and research training mentored by members of the graduate faculty. The master’s program is distinguished from the Ph.D. degree offered by the department in that the M.S. student is not being prepared for a career as an independent investigator.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Communication skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of oral communication skills with respect to the content, organization, logical flow, presentation and appropriate use of language incorporating the use of visual aids, as measured by rubric. The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information including the use of figures, tables and citations as measured by rubric.
  2. Integrated knowledge of bioscience: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of the biosciences as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications as measured by rubric.
  3. Problem-solving skills: Degree candidates will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in bioscience research, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems as measured by rubric.
  4. Experimental design: Degree candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments as measured by rubric.

Degree requirements

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students in the master’s program must complete a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours.

The Master of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology is a research-oriented degree program comprising graduate course work and supervised research leading to a master’s thesis. Students must conduct a substantial original investigation under the supervision of their advisers and must prepare and defend a thesis reporting the results of this research. It is highly recommended that students identify mentors for dissertation research as soon as possible within the first semester to ensure timely progress in their research.

When the thesis has been completed, copies are submitted to the members of the student’s graduate advisory committee. The student’s GAC decides upon the acceptability of the candidate’s thesis. If the committee unanimously accepts the thesis for defense, the candidate appears before them for a final oral examination.

M.S. students are required to present a departmental seminar prior to the final oral thesis defense as a requirement for completion of the thesis.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Required courses
Substitutions may be approved by the graduate program director.
IBMS 600 Laboratory Safety 1
PHTX 536 Principles of Pharmacology and Toxicology 5
PHTX 690 Pharmacology Research Seminar (M.S. students are required to present a departmental seminar prior to the final oral thesis defense as a requirement for completion of the thesis.) 1
PHTX 691 Special Topics in Pharmacology 3
Advanced elective
Students must take one advanced elective course in their specialty areas in addition to completing the research-based dissertation. (See list below.)
Directed research 17
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology variable
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 30
Recommended advanced electives  
ANAT 610 Systems Neuroscience 4
BIOC/MICR 503 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 1-5
BIOC 530 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 1: Protein Structure and Function 2
BIOC 531 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 2: Basic Metabolism 1
BIOC 532 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 3: Central Dogma of Molecular Biology 1
BIOC 533 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Module 4: Lipids/Membranes and Bioenergetics 1
BIOC 601 Membranes and Lipids 3
BIOC 602 Physical Properties of Macromolecules 1-4
BIOC 605 Molecular Biology 3
CHEM 504 Advanced Organic Chemistry I 3
EGRB 603 Biomedical Signal Processing 3
EGRB 610 Microprocessor Interfacing for Biomedical Instrumentation 3
IBMS 635 Cellular Signaling 3
MEDC 541 Survey of Molecular Modeling Methods 1
MEDC 601 Advanced Medicinal Chemistry I 1
MEDC 630 Theoretical Methods in Drug Design 2
MICR/BIOC 504 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 5
MICR 505 Immunobiology 3
MICR/BNFO 653 Advanced Molecular Genetics: Bioinformatics 3
NEUS 609 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience 4
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research 1
PHIS 604 Cell Physiology: From Molecules to Organisms 3
PHIS 615 Signal Detection in Sensory Systems 3
PHTX/PHIS 620 Ion Channels in Membranes 3
PHTX 632 Neurochemical Pharmacology 3
PHTX 633 Behavioral Pharmacology 3
PHTX 644 Forensic Toxicology 3

Typical plan of study

Many students often end up taking more than the minimum number of hours required for a degree program. The total number of hours may vary depending upon the program, nature of research being conducted by a study, or in the enrollment or funding status of the student. Students should refer to their program websites and talk with their graduate program directors or advisers for information about typical plans of study and registration requirements.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on master’s programs is available in the Graduate Bulletin at



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