Program Description

The Program leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy is designed to develop an integrative approach to research in clinical, cellular, and molecular problems in comparative medicine and biology. The Program emphasizes development of a firm scientific background in clinical and basic biomedical sciences and the conduct of in-depth original research. The Program of study is planned by the student and the major advisor in consultation with a guidance committee. It consists of:

  • Course work to develop an understanding of major concepts in comparative medicine and integrative biology, as well as to acquire comprehensive knowledge of a major field and related subjects
  • A comprehensive oral and written examination
  • Original research of an important problem in human and animal health or biology
  • A dissertation
  • A final oral examination


  • A minimum of 24 credits of VM 999 (research credits)
  • A minimum of 18 credits of non-research courses is required, with at least 12 of these credits at the 800 level or above
  • EPI 828: Seminar on Responsible Conduct of Research, which includes training in the ethical conduct of research
  • VM 820: Current Topics in Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology must be taken at least twice
  • At least one approved course in statistics (STT 421, STT 422, or PHM 830)
  • At least 1 course from each of the following three major areas: 1) molecular life sciences, 2) integrative biology, and 3) pathology
  • Electives including non-research and seminar courses will be determined by the guidance committee

The doctor of philosophy degree program in comparative medicine and integrative biology is conducted in two phases.

PHASE I—culminating with a comprehensive examination

Phase I of the PhD program consists of acquiring and documenting a high degree of competence in fundamental and basic biomedical sciences and developing and documenting research skills. Specific courses to be taken will be determined by the guidance committee, taking into account the background of the student and the potential doctoral project. Preliminary research studies will be performed that will constitute the basis of the dissertation proposal. Phase I culminates with a comprehensive examination, submission of research proposal, and presentation of a research seminar outlining the research proposal with presentation of preliminary data.

PHASE II - culminating with completion and defense of a dissertation

Phase II of the PhD program consists of conducting research, continuing to expand knowledge base by taking additional courses and seminars as necessary, and completing the research and defending the PhD dissertation. The written dissertation must be based upon original scholarly research. It must contribute new knowledge to the scientific community and result in or be deemed by the student's guidance committee to have data sufficient in quantity and quality for one or more research papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The defense will consist of a public lecture followed by an oral examination, in which the candidate will defend the dissertation and knowledge of related scientific areas.


Each student must adhere to the University and College regulations regarding his or her graduate program, as outlined in the University's academic programs catalog. A 3.00 cumulative grade-point average for all courses counted toward the PhD degree is required. In addition, three grades below a 3.0 in courses counted toward the PhD degree will remove the student from degree candidacy.

Time Limit

It is recommended that each student complete Phase I within the first two years and Phase II by the end of the fifth year. However, recognizing the different rates of progress possible, a student is allowed up to three years to complete Phase I and up to 8 years from the time of a student's first enrollment for degree credits at Michigan State University to complete all of the degree requirements.