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Pharmacology, Addiction Science, and Toxicology

The Pharmacology, Addiction Science, and Toxicology (PhAST) track provides a broad and cutting-edge training in Pharmacology from molecular mechanisms of drug action and disease to experimental therapeutics and drug discovery. Our track is particularly focused on diseases associated with addiction, neurodegeneration and brain-driven behaviors. Commonly used approaches include computational modeling, analysis of genetically engineered animals, neurophysiology and behavioral pharmacology, high-resolution cell imaging and biochemical signaling, and methods from Systems Biology, Genomics and Bioinformatics. The research interests of our Faculty include neuropharmacology, neurotoxicology and neurodegeneration, substance use disorders including drug addiction, drug discovery, behavioral neuroscience, cerebrovascular diseases, brain regulation of cardiovascular function and blood pressure, ion channel control of cerebrovascular circulation, and cell receptors and signaling. The PhAST Track is uniquely positioned to integrate pharmacological, biochemical, electrophysiological, genomic and behavioral approaches to tackle widely prevalent problems in our society, including drug addiction, neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer and Parkinson), fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, stroke and cerebrovascular disease, and diabetic retinopathy. The general areas covered in our track are:

  • Discovery of molecular mediators of disease, drug targets and novel agents that may serve as pharmacotherapeutics
  • Receptor structure-activity relationship and subcellular distribution
  • Signal transduction and cell imaging
  • Cellular and circuitry neurophysiology and neuropharmacology
  • Systems and behavioral pharmacology and neurotoxicology
  • Genomics and bioinformatics
Department of Pharmacology, Addiction Science and ToxicologyFaculty Research Interests


Dr. Steve Tavalin
PhAST Track Co-Director
Biomedical Sciences Program
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Room 219 Translational Research Building
71 South Manassas
Memphis, TN 38163

Dr. Anna Bukiya
PhAST Track Co-Director
Biomedical Sciences Program
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
230K Translational Research Building
71 South Manassas
Memphis, TN 38163

Program Resources



Students in the Molecular and Systems Pharmacology Track are required to take the core courses listed below totaling 9 credit hours. Students choose at least 6 credit hours of additional elective courses that suit the individual student's needs. Any course required by other IBS tracks is acceptable as an elective. Other graduate level courses can be used to satisfy the elective requirement upon approval from the track director.

Students are also required to participate in a journal club beginning in their second year through completion of the program.

Required Curriculum

  • Receptors, Signaling and Drug Action (4 credit hours)
  • Biochemistry (3)
  • Biostatistics (2)


  • Cellular and Molecular Biology (4)
  • Cellular Neuroscience (3)
  • Functional Neuroanatomy (3)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience (3)
  • Developmental and Molecular Neurobiology (3)
  • Foundations of Pharmacology (V)
  • Special Topics in Pharmacology (V)
  • Modern Pharmacology Research Techniques (V)
  • Current Topics in Clinical Pharmacology (V)
  • Bioinformatics (3)
  • Cellular Signaling (3)
  • The Tools of Molecular Biomedical Research (3)
  • Pathobiology of Cancer (3)
  • Systems Physiology (3)

Laboratory Rotations

Students are required to do three lab rotations with IBS program faculty. These rotations can occur during any of the six prescribed rotational periods during the first year. After three rotations a student may begin work in their chosen mentor's lab or may elect to do more rotations. A mentor's lab must be identified by the end of the first year.

Admission-to-Candidacy Exam

Admission to candidacy occurs in two steps. A written qualifying exam is administered at the end of the second year that covers the core curriculum. A written thesis proposal then must be orally defended in front of the thesis committee by the end of the third year.

Sample curriculum

Year 1

Fall Semester

  • Receptors, Signaling and Drug Action
  • Biochemistry

Spring Semester

  • Biostatistics
  • Cellular Neuroscience

Year 2

Fall Semester

  • Foundations of Pharmacology
  • Special Topics in Pharmacology

Spring Semester

  • Modern Pharmacology Research Techniques
  • Integrity in the Conduct of Scientific Research
  • Journal club
  • Take admission-to-candidacy exam
  • Assemble faculty committee

Year 3

  • Dissertation Research
  • Journal club

Year 4 and Beyond

  • Students will defend their dissertation before their faculty committee in order to complete the requirements for the PhD degree.
How to Apply

You can apply via our online application. Most students apply before December, and those applying before December 1 will be given priority status. The final application deadline is March 1. Applications are reviewed as received, and our top domestic candidates are supported for travel to campus for interviews beginning in January.

It is important that you complete the application and send all required materials as soon as possible. You can apply online, and it is free and easy. Most of the options on the Application Checklist are self-explanatory, but under Planned Course of Study, choose the Biomedical Sciences-PhD option. Then, select up to three tracks of interest using the drop down menus associated with the concentration options. We will assume that the first concentration you select is your preferred research track.

General requirements are a bachelor's degree with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 from an accredited college or university, previous research experience, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. The GRE is optional. For students whose native language is not English, a score of at least 79 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS is required.

US Applicants

For US applicants, official transcripts and official test scores should be sent directly from the contributing source and not by the student. Three recommendation letters are required. Names and contact information of three referees will be entered on the application and the system will contact them with instruction on how to submit their recommendation.

Non-US Applicants

For non-US applicants, official test scores should be sent directly from the contributing source and not by the student. Official transcripts and three recommendation letters are required.

Transcripts from any non-US institution must be verified and certified to generate a grade point average (GPA) based on a 4.0 scale. Verification must be completed before matriculation. Service agencies include, but are not limited to, Educational Credit Evaluation (ECE) and World Education Services (WES). A document-by-document certification is not acceptable. These agencies charge a fee for their service.

Oct 31, 2023