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Molecular and Translational Physiology

Physiology explores functional relationships within cells, between cells and their environments to form tissues, between tissues to form organs, communications among organs to form body systems, and the mechanisms involved in coordinating and regulating the multiple systems needed to sustain viable organisms. Understanding the details of these processes allows us to seek insight into the dysregulation of these systems system so we can develop therapeutics for treating human diseases.

Faculty members in the Department of Physiology are involved in cutting-edge research on diverse topics including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurodegenerative diseases. Our faculty conduct investigations on specific topics such as signal transduction, cell adhesion, cell division and death, cell migration and tumor metastasis, animal models, cerebral circulation, gene therapy, ion channels, and wound healing.

We welcome you to explore our department and the exciting research being done by our faculty!

Department of PhysiologyFaculty Research Interests


Dr. Zheng Fan
MTP Track Director
Biomedical Sciences Program
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
329 Translational Research Building
Memphis, TN 38163

Program Resources


Students in the Molecular and Translational Physiology track are required complete the core course curriculum listed below (10 credit hours), and take elective courses equivalent to a minimum of 6 credit hours, including a selected unit from Advanced Physiology course. Elective courses are generally chosen in consultation with student's research advisor based on student's research interest. Students will also take a seminar course by attending the physiology seminar series and presenting two seminars in this platform during the course of their dissertation. Additionally, students are expected to participate in journal clubs and will have the opportunity to present their research work in national meetings.

Core Curriculum

  • Medical Physiology (5)
  • Essentials of Cell Biology (3)
  • Biostatistics (2)
  • Essentials of Molecular Biology (3)


  • Cellular Signaling (3)
  • Cell Biology Techniques (2)
  • Bioinformatics I (2)
  • Bioinformatics II (1)
  • Essentials of Animal Experimentation (2)
  • Advanced Physiology (2)
  • Ethics

Laboratory Rotations

Students will have three 6-week laboratory rotations starting in January of first year. Students may choose a mentor after their second rotation and begin their dissertation research. Direct entry students who have already chosen their mentor have this requirement waived.

Admission-to-Candidacy Exam

Toward the end of second year students will complete admission-to-candidacy, which involves writing a grant proposal in NIH F31 format and successfully defend the proposal to their advisory committee. This should be completed by May 15 of second year.

Curriculum Summary

Year 1

Fall Semester (9 credit hours)

  • Biochemistry (3)
  • Essentials of Cell Biology (3)
  • IBPS Seminars (1)
  • Physiology Seminar (1)
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Research (1-9)

Spring Semester (8 credit hours)

  • Medical Physiology (5)
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Research (1-9)
  • Integrity in the Conduct of Scientific Research (1)
  • Physiology Seminar (1)
  • Assemble faculty committee

Year 2

Fall Semester (12 credit hours)

  • Advanced Physiology (2) Offered once in two years. Therefore, this course is available during Fall Semester of 2nd or 3rd year. Although this is a part of the elective requirement, this course is a requirement for CBP track students. However, students can elect to take one of the 7 units to fulfill 2-credit hour course. The 7 units are: 1) Gastrointestinal Epithelium, 2) Respiratory physiology, 3) Vascular biology, 4) Heart, 5) Ion channels and Electrophysiology, 6) Developmental biology-Animal models, and 7) Lipids in cell signaling.
  • Biostatistics (2)
  • Physiology Seminar (1)
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Research (1-9)

Spring Semester (10 credit hours)

  • Essentials of Molecular Biology (3)
  • Doctoral Dissertation and Research (1-9)
  • Physiology Seminar (1)
  • Take admission-to-candidacy exam (place where appropriate)

Year 3

Fall Semester (10 credit hours)*

  • Doctoral Dissertation and Research (1-9)
  • Physiology Seminar (1)
  • An elective course (minimum 1 credit hour) related to the student's area of research must be taken after Year 2. 

*Repeats until degree requirements are met -- total degree hours = 62

Year 4 and Beyond

  • Students defend their dissertation before their faculty committee
  • Additional credit hours may be required to maintain full-time status. Continuous registration for dissertation research is required until the degree requirements are met.
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