Apr 18, 2024  
2022-2023 University Catalog 
2022-2023 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD)

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Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Philosophy

The PhD in Integrated Biomedical Sciences is designed to educate science professionals for leadership in research and academic positions, as well as to provide career path education relevant to their specialized fields. Since collaborative interdisciplinary teams of scientists perform most biomedical research, our doctoral program emphasizes an integrated interdisciplinary approach to biomedical research. Graduates of this program will perform high-quality, impactful biomedical research at colleges and universities, government agencies, hospitals and nonprofit agencies and in industry.


Students in the program will work with faculty and scientists to generate new knowledge in the fields of biomedicine using sophisticated research methods. As a part of the program, students are required to demonstrate their knowledge of core and concentration-specific courses and pass a comprehensive preliminary examination based on their research proposal. Students will design and conduct research that culminates in a dissertation, and they will disseminate their scientific findings through scholarly publications and presentations.

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Curriculum

First Year

The goal of the course work in the first year is to expose the student to the biomedical sciences to enable them to design and approach a research problem from molecular, biochemical, cellular and organ system perspectives. This broad based approach to disease is the core of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. Students will need to complete 22 credits of core course work.

Second Year


Laboratory rotations are part of the core curriculum. Students should register for a minimum of two credits of laboratory rotation I, II and nine credits of laboratory rotation III.

Students are expected to register for nine research credits each term as 54 credits of dissertation research are required for graduation. 

While registration appears similar in years two through five, the nature and character of the research changes and the student passes through a number of milestones towards completion of the PhD.

Research Specific Courses

For graduation, students will need four credits of research area specific coursework. Each student should select and take an introductory and advanced course.

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Dissertation Program Progression

Year 1 Classes and Research Experience

The goal of the coursework in the first year is to expose the student to the biomedical sciences to enable them to design and approach a research problem from molecular, biochemical, cellular and organ system perspectives. This broad based approach to disease is the core of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. 


Year 2 Research Experience, Qualifying Examination

The selection of research adviser will significantly influence the student’s selection of a research area of interest. The goals of the second year are to learn the relevant laboratory techniques and to develop a research proposal in conjunction with their research adviser. The research project will advance knowledge in a specific discipline and yield first-author scientific publications for the student. The student’s research proposal should include specific aims and be written in the format of a NIH F31 grant proposal (See researchtraining.nih.gov/programs/fellowships/F31).


The student must select a dissertation committee and defend the proposal in front of the committee by the end of the second year. The written proposal and its defense in front of the committee constitutes the qualifying examination. Passing the qualifying examination in front of the dissertation committee means the student is a candidate for the PhD.

The student’s assessment at this time relates to the following Student Learning Outcomes: The graduate will be able to acquire research skills, collect and analyze data, and interpret results in order to address an original research question.

In addition, this step begins the continuing assessment of the following outcomes: A graduating student will be capable of independent critical thinking and writing as well as proposing, performing and effectively presenting their research.

The student will be able to work collaboratively with other scientists, physicians and health care professionals to give and obtain feedback concerning the approach to research problems, data analysis and implications of research.

The work environment in basic and clinical science is evolving. Students should be aware of the many different types of opportunities available in the workplace and need to prepare themselves for the opportunities and challenges that they will encounter when they graduate. In addition to the research and the coursework, the student will create an individual development plan (IDP) each year to define their areas of interest, skills and values. 

Students will review their IDP yearly with their research mentor, program director or Graduate College designee to refine their career interests and define their gaps in knowledge or skills that can be pursued in the following year. By the time of graduation, students should have used the IDP, along with mentorship and experiential or other training opportunities to refine their career path.

Student progress is assessed at the end of years two through five. At the end of year two, student progress toward meeting expected outcomes will be evaluated by the student’s research adviser and program director. See section on Dissertation Proposal and Presentation.

Qualifying Examination

The goals of the second year are to learn the relevant laboratory techniques and to develop a research proposal in conjunction with the student’s research adviser. The research project will advance scientific knowledge in a specific discipline and yield first-author scientific publications. For the Qualifying Examination, the student’s research proposal should include a hypothesis and specific aims and be written in the format of an NIH F31 grant (researchtraining.nih.gov/programs/fellowships/F31). The student must select a dissertation committee and defend the written proposal as an oral defense in front of the committee by the end of the second year. All members of the committee or appropriate substitutes must be present at the Qualifying Examination and the dissertation defense either in person, on the phone or using electronic media.

If the student does not complete the Qualifying Examination by the end of the summer of their second year,  they will be reported to the Academic Standards Committee and placed on probation during the fall of their third year. If the student has not taken the examination by the end of the term of probation the student will be again reported to the Academic Standards Committee for potential dismissal. Since the adviser shares in the responsibility to ensure student academic progress, including completion of program milestones in a timely manner, advisers of students who do not take the qualifying examination by the end of fall term of their third year will not be allowed to take a new student into their laboratory for the subsequent two years.  

Following the defense of their Qualifying Examination, students will submit their written proposal as an Individual National Research Service Award (F31) [researchtraining.nih.gov/programs/fellowships/F31] or a comparable grant application.  While a student is conducting dissertation research the student will present their progress every six months to their committee in an identical format as the original proposal meeting until the committee has agreed that the student can write their dissertation.


The advisory committee meetings will consist of an oral presentation of research progress by the doctoral student to the committee.  This oral presentation will be followed by a discussion of progress and career development. A detailed written account of progress will be distributed by the student to their committee prior to this meeting. It is recommended that the Rush career development IDP (rushedu-auvic.formstack.com/forms/idp) be used for IDP tracking.


Year 3-5 Research Progress/Publications/Dissertation

For evaluation in years three through five, the student will submit a written report documenting their progress. The research adviser and program director will also submit their assessment of student progress for each year. A meeting with the student, research adviser and program director will take place at the end of each year to discuss the student’s progress.

The research adviser monitors the day-to-day progress of the student. The dissertation committee will meet at least every six months to monitor progress and to approve any changes to the proposed research project. They may meet more frequently, especially after the approval of the student’s research proposal. The student is expected to attend national meetings, make presentations, posters etc. and become a part of the scientific community. Likewise, the student should be submitting research articles. The Integrated Biomedical Science PhD program requires that the research project yield at least one first authored research article accepted for publication in a scientific peer-reviewed journal. The publication requirement is necessary for graduation but not sufficient. The dissertation committee will continue to assess student progress on the aims and determines when the student has completed his/her dissertation. (See Dissertation Proposal and Presentation below).

The student’s assessment continues on the outcomes listed above with emphasis on the growth of research and communication skills. Likewise, it is expected that the communication outcomes will also become more centered on written communication in the form of abstracts, peer-reviewed journal articles and the dissertation as the student begins to complete the following outcome:

  • The graduate is able to contribute to the scientific literature in an area of expertise via published abstracts, a dissertation and by the publication of a first-authored research article in a scientific refereed journal.

Dissertation Document, Presentation and Approval

The student is expected to write a dissertation (format approved by the Center for Academic Excellence) and present the work in a public forum attended by the dissertation committee, and University faculty and students. The dissertation committee will then meet with the student in a closed session to address any additional questions and to deliberate on approval of the dissertation. Typically, the meeting immediately follows the public defense.

The student may be asked to make revisions before final approval of the dissertation by the committee.  The student must notify the Registrar’s Office of impending completion of the degree by the submission of an Intent to Graduate Form at the beginning of the final term. Prior to completion, the student should consult with the Center for Academic Excellence to ensure that the dissertation is formatted correctly. 

Qualifying Examination

Qualifying Examination

Dissertation Proposal and Presentation- For the Qualifying Examination, the student will write a research proposal in the style of the NIH F31 fellowship, including a hypothesis, specific aims, and a detailed research strategy (see researchtraining.nih.gov/programs/fellowships/F31). The student must select a dissertation committee and present the proposal to the committee by the end of the second year. 

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELOs)

Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are part of the foundation upon which students develop knowledge and skills from direct or hands-on experiences outside of their own laboratory and didactic training. An ELO encompasses a vast array of activities including, but not limited to, internships, service learning, workshops, specialized courses, and other creative career and professional experiences that promote interdisciplinary learning and career preparedness.

ELOs provide students with the opportunity to understand and explore potential career paths with minimal risk. ELOs provide experiences that can be referenced (e.g., on resumes, curriculum vitas, etc.) and are valued in a high-stakes, competitive market.
ELOs provide students a practical way to apply and leverage their skills and knowledge and solve problems outside of their major research project. ELOs provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with non-specialists and potentially to engage intellectually and socially in an area outside of the biomedical sciences.

Once a student has successfully completed their candidacy exam, an ELO is an annual requirement until completion of the program. Program requirements can be found www.rushu.rush.edu/graduate-college/career-development-office/experiential-learning.

Minimal Credit Hours Required for the Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD) Degree

The PhD in Integrated Biomedical Sciences should be completed in five years and requires completion of 80 credits distributed as follows: core courses (22), concentration specific cognates (four) and dissertation research (54). Students must also pass the Qualifying Examination, complete an annual Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO), and publish a first-authored, scientific, peer-reviewed manuscript on their research project.

The core curriculum, which is common to all students, builds knowledge and skills in research theories and methodology, data analysis and statistics, laboratory applications and skills, and the molecular and cellular sciences basic to health and disease. These courses provide systematic exposure to the contemporary process of scientific discovery and will serve as the basis for the remainder of the curriculum. Advanced students entering with a Master of Science (MS) degree in a biomedical science or a Doctor of Medicine (MD or DO) degree may have satisfied the requirement for some of the core classes based on their prior records. Therefore, some core course requirements may be waived. The requirement of core course hours can be compensated by taking extra hours of laboratory rotations or pre-dissertation research. These students may be able to complete the degree in a shorter time period providing that they progress through the other program requirements. IBS MS students who enter the IBS PhD program will be on a separate plan of study which requires fewer cognate and elective credits based on the number required for the IBS MS program.

All students will be required to complete a minimum of 54 credits of Dissertation Research following admission into candidacy for the PhD. Dissertation credits in the Graduate College typically involve laboratory-based research required for completion of the dissertation, and include training in various types of skills including: analyzing published data; developing a research proposal; learning and applying advanced methodologies and statistical data analyses; developing skills to write and submit a pre-doctoral training grant application; practicing presentation skills to disseminate one’s own research findings in national conferences; writing a research publication; and developing and defending a dissertation project.

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Academic Policies

Research Adviser Selection

During the first year the student will select up to three laboratories for research rotations. These laboratory rotations will expose the students to a range of research environments. Rotations should be undertaken with mentors who hold a faculty appointment in the Graduate College. Students are expected have a project with a hypothesis and aims, to learn techniques and attend all lab meetings. Based on these rotations, the student will identify their laboratory of interest and submit the name of the adviser to the Academic Standards Committee. The committee, in consultation with the potential adviser(s) will approve the adviser-student matches. Students who are already committed to a particular laboratory (funded by the research adviser’s grants) are required to perform a minimum of two laboratory rotations. Exposure to other laboratories and research will give the student a greater breadth of knowledge. Students are expected to select a research adviser and an area of research interest by the end of their first summer term. All advisers must meet the criterion established by the Graduate College.

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Research Opportunities

The research areas of interest for the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program are translational cancer research; cardiovascular and respiratory biology; immunity, inflammation and infection; functions and disorders of the musculoskeletal system; and functions and disorders of the nervous system. These include qualified faculty from Rush University Medical Center who have an interest in research in these areas. They come from academic departments as well as clinical departments, which enables students to select a variety of individuals with basic and clinical expertise to serve on their advisory committees and guide them through their projects.

Advisory Committee

By the end of the summer term of the first year the student should have selected a research adviser and begun to collect preliminary data. The research adviser is required to hold a faculty appointment in the Graduate College. Once a research adviser has been selected, a dissertation committee must be selected by the end of the following term. This committee advises the student and serves as the Qualifying Examination committee and the dissertation committee. The Graduate College requires that the committee is comprised of five members. One member will be the student’s research adviser. A majority of the committee (at least three members) must be faculty at Rush University who are members of the Graduate College. The chair of this committee, who cannot be the student’s research adviser, will be chosen at the first committee meeting and will preside at all subsequent meetings and arrange for a timely completion of the dissertation work. The dissertation committee strives for consensus in all its actions. A majority vote of the committee’s membership, however, is sufficient for all activities except the final approval of the dissertation.

In addition to the five committee members, the program director will serve as an ex officio member of the committee. The ex officio member can participate in the meetings but cannot vote. The purpose of having an ex officio member is to monitor the quality of the examination experience. The ex officio member will ensure that the Graduate College rules are followed.  The first committee meeting should take place within six months of its selection and approval.

Data Defense and Dissertation

In the candidate’s final year, a dissertation data defense will be presented to their dissertation committee demonstrating that satisfactory progress has been made on the project to justify development of a plan to complete all experiments and to start writing their dissertation. If determined, the dissertation committee will submit the request to Defend form. The data defense should be considered the final committee meeting.

Upon completion of the data defense and writing of the dissertation, the student will provide the dissertation to their committee at least two weeks prior to their public defense. The public defense will be comprised of a public one-hour lecture attended by the dissertation committee and faculty and students of the University. The dissertation committee then meets in closed session to examine the candidate and approve the dissertation.

Typically, the meeting immediately follows the public lecture. The committee strives for a consensus, but the dissertation can be approved over the objections of a single committee member. However, if two or more committee members disapprove of either the written dissertation or its oral defense, then the dissertation is not approved. The awarding of the PhD degree requires the demonstration of a capability for independent research and a contribution to scientific knowledge. Similar to the qualifying examination, all members of the committee or appropriate substitutes must be present at the dissertation defense either in person, on the phone, or using electronic media.

Since a scientific peer-reviewed first-authored research article is required for the degree, the dissertation is not considered complete until the publication of at least one peer-reviewed first authored publication. If publication is pending, the Committee may approve the dissertation, but the Graduate College will not sign the Degree Approval form until the paper is accepted or published as verified by appearance in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Tuition Scholarship and Stipend

Acceptance into the doctoral program is limited by the availability of stipends. Accepted doctoral students receive a competitive University supported stipend and tuition scholarship, are supported by a faculty member, or have stipends from external sources. University funded stipends are awarded to US residents. The stipend and tuition scholarship are renewed each year providing the student is making satisfactory progress towards the degree. Outside employment is not acceptable without prior Graduate College approval as it interferes with the time and effort necessary to complete the program. 

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