Program Goals

The goal of the Graduate Program of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics is to prepare students for careers in physiology through providing:

  • A basic knowledge of physiology and biophysics that will serve as the foundation for the student's academic, scholarly, and research endeavors.
  • The necessary practical, methodological, and technical expertise to perform original experimental work in an area of physiological research.
  • Professional skills required for successful academic or research-based careers, including skills in publishing, grant writing, presentation, and teaching.
  • Knowledge and respect for principles of biomedical research ethics. 


Students enter the graduate program through one of two mechanisms: the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), or Direct Admission. Potential students are encouraged to directly contact individual faculty at anytime to discus research possibilities or the appropriateness of these mechanisms to individual circumstances.

MSTP Program: Students interested in a joint M.D and Ph.D. degree from The University of Iowa typically start in the MSTP program. Admission is extremely competitive, please refer to the MSTP Program for specific application requirements and deadlines.

Direct Recruitment: With existing support of an identified faculty mentor, students may also apply for admission directly to the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Because this program has no mechanism for performing research rotations, it is only appropriate for students who have identified an exact faculty member in the department willing and able to serve as their thesis advisor. Candidates for this mechanism will typically have existing research experience with the faculty member who will be supporting them (for example, through undergraduate research, summer research, work as a Research Associate, research collaborations, etc.).

To be considered, applicants must have a faculty member in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics write a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies summarizing strengths for candidacy. The letter must also state the willingness of the faculty to serve as the thesis advisor and acknowledgment of full financial responsibility for the student during the entirety of their graduate training. Applicants will subsequently be asked to submit official transcripts and names of three references.

Applicants must hold, or will hold, a baccalaureate degree from accredited colleges or universities. Applicants will be judged by the Admissions Committee according to the merits of the letter by the faculty mentor, grade point average (should be at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale), scores from the Graduate Record Examination Individuals, and evidence of language proficiency.

Registration Procedures

Students preregister for Fall terms in April and the Spring term in November. Students only register for the summer semester if they are completing their comprehensive exam or thesis defense. Each student meets with the director of graduate studies to determine his/her schedule for the upcoming term and to complete a departmental registration form which must be signed by the student and advisor. Once completed, it is the student’s responsibility to officially register using ISIS on the web at or at the Registration Center, 30 Calvin Hall.

Once the registration process has been completed, any changes (drops/adds) in courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and completed before the official University deadline using the Change of Registration form.

Training Program

Graduate Appointment

All full time doctoral students receive stipend support and tuition is paid for the entire period while enrolled in the doctoral degree program contingent on the student maintaining satisfactory progress and on the availability of funds. The University of Iowa contributes funds for the purchase of health insurance for graduate students. All students are encouraged to submit Fellowship applications to appropriate external funding agencies to help support these costs. If either a pre- or post-comprehensive student chooses to leave the University with his/her advisor, all subsequent stipend, tuition and related expenses are no longer the responsibility of the department. 

Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

The Director of Graduate Studies is appointed by the chair and DEO of the department. In addition to coordinating student registration and curriculum planning, the director of graduate studies acts as the official advisor for students until the student has passed the comprehensive examination. At that time the student's research advisor and thesis committee assume responsibility for advising and research training.

Contribution and Participation

All graduate students are expected to be active contributors to the scientific environment of the department. All graduate students are required to regularly attend and participate in departmental workshops, seminars, thesis defense presentations, and symposia during the entirety of their graduate training.