Department of Physiology and Biophysics

Mudd Memorial Research Building 626
1333 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles 90089‑9142
(323) 442-1040
FAX: (323) 442-2283

Student Adviser: H. Kaslow
(323) 442-1244


Berislav V. Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and Director of the Center for Neurodegeneration and Regeneration at the USC Zilkha Neurogenic Institute

Director, USC Research Center for Liver Diseases, Chief, Division of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, USC Associates/Thomas H. Brem Chair in Medicine, and Veronica P. Budnick, M.D., Chair in Liver Disease: Neil Kaplowitz, M.D.

Professors: Michael Arbib (Computer Science/Engineering); Thomas Buchanan (Medicine/Obstetrics and Gynecology); Vito M. Campese; Timothy M. Chan (Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology); Casey Donovan (Exercise Science); Robert A. Farley* (Biochemistry); Caleb Finch (Gerontology and Neurobiology); Michael Goran (Preventive Medicine); Sarah Hamm-Alvarez (Pharmaceutical Sciences); Cage S. Johnson (Medicine/Hematology); Neil Kaplowitz (Medicine/GI Liver/Patient Care); Kwang Jin Kim (Medicine, Biomedical Engineering); Herbert J. Meiselman; Austin K. Mircheff; Dennis O’Leary (Otolaryngology); Janos Peti-Peterdi; Alan G. Watts

Associate Professors: Marilyn Ader; Robert H. Chow; Harvey R. Kaslow; Richard L. Lubman (Medicine/Pulmonary Patient Care); Alapakkam P. Sampath; Richard Watanabe; Jang-Hyun Youn; Alan S.L. Yu; Li Zhang

Assistant Professors: Steven Mittelman; Joyce Richey; Samuel Yiu

Adjunct Professor: Dwight W. Warren III

*Recipient of university-wide or school teaching award.

The Department of Physiology and Biophysics is located on the Health Sciences Campus, with laboratories and administrative offices in the Seeley Mudd Laboratory, the Doheny Eye Institute, the Parkview Medical Building and the Raulston Building. Faculty of the department are also located at the LAC+USC Medical Center and in research laboratories on the University Park Campus.

The graduate program in physiology and biophysics is designed to prepare students for a career in research and teaching in physiology and related fields. Faculty of the department guide students toward becoming effective members of today’s scientific community by providing an integrated knowledge of physiological systems at several levels of organization. The course of study required of each candidate is planned to meet his or her individual interests and needs.

Faculty guidance and specialized facilities are available for advanced research in the four broad areas of research represented in the department: endocrinology, reproduction and metabolism; neurophysiology; fluid and electrolyte physiology; and cellular and molecular physiology.

Graduate Programs


Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in one of the natural sciences. Undergraduate course work in mathematics (including one and a half years of calculus), physics (one year), organic chemistry (aliphatic and aromatic), and biological sciences (one year) is required. Prospective students should also have completed at least two courses from among the following areas: physical chemistry, advanced physics, electronics, histology, physiology, cell biology, computer science, or biochemistry. Equivalent work will be considered on an individual basis.

Students interested in applying must complete a departmental preapplication available from the director of graduate studies. Graduate Record Examinations scores, complete undergraduate transcripts and three letters of recommendation are required before the application can be considered.

The preapplication procedure should be completed before May 1 for admission to the following fall semester. All applicants must also apply formally to the university. Final acceptance is contingent upon completion of the official admission procedure.

Master of Science

Admission requirements are the same as for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Course Requirements The master’s degree in physiology and biophysics requires completion of 33 graduate level units with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. All students are required to take the following: INTD 500, INTD 572, INTD 573, PHBI 608ab and/or PHBI 550, PM 510L, and two of the following: INTD 531, INTD 571, NEUR 524, NEUR 531. Students enroll in additional graduate level classes with prior approval of their graduate student adviser. The Master of Science candidate has the option of either a thesis or non-thesis course of study; the thesis option is usually required if more than 6 research units make up a 33-unit course plan. The specific program followed by thesis-option students is tailored to suit individual needs and background in consultation with the academic director of the program and the student’s guidance committee. There is no foreign language requirement.

Minimum standards for satisfactory performance and continued enrollment in the M.S. program are an average of 3.0 in all non-research courses, an average of 3.0 in all courses and a grade of B or higher in INTD 572, INTD 573 and PHBI 608a.

Doctor of Philosophy

Course Requirements A total of 60 units of graduate study is required for the Ph.D. degree. All students are required to take INTD 500, INTD 572, INTD 573, PHBI 608ab and/or PHBI 550, PM 510L, and two of the following: INTD 531, INTD 571, NEUR 524, NEUR 531. The balance of the 60-unit requirement will be drawn from advanced physiology courses and seminars, courses from other departments, research and the dissertation. The specific program to be followed by each student is determined in consultation with the student’s adviser, guidance committee and the department faculty. There is no foreign language requirement.

Screening Procedure An overall GPA of 3.0 or better and a minimum grade of B (3.0) in all courses given by the department and also in INTD 531 are the minimum requirements for continuation in the Ph.D. program. After completion of the first two semesters of study, the eligibility of each student for continuation in the program will be reviewed by a departmental graduate screening committee. At the discretion of the graduate committee, successful completion of a screening examination may be required for progression to the third semester of graduate study.

Guidance Committee The guidance committee consists of at least five members, three of whom must be from within the department and at least one of whom must be drawn from the faculty of another department. The chair of the committee will be the student’s dissertation adviser.

Qualifying Examination The purpose of the qualifying examination is to give the student a formal opportunity to demonstrate to the faculty that he or she is qualified to conduct independent research. Passing this examination is formal recognition that the student has independently developed a research proposal that is significant and can be reasonably accomplished with available resources.

At least 60 days prior to its scheduled date, the student must petition the Graduate School for permission to take the qualifying examination; the examination must be completed by the end of the semester during which application is made. Students must complete this examination no later than the fifth semester of graduate work. If the student fails to take the examination by this time, the guidance committee will report a failure to pass the examination. The student then has one additional chance to take and pass the examination; this may not occur sooner than six months nor later than one year after the first examination. Applications to take the qualifying examination later than the fifth semester may be considered on an individual basis and must be approved by both the guidance committee chair and the department chair.

The qualifying examination consists of a written and an oral portion. For the written portion, the student must prepare a proposal for a research project. The proposal must be submitted to the members of the guidance committee not less than 10 days prior to the oral portion of the examination. For the oral defense, the student should prepare an oral presentation of the proposal of approximately 30 minutes duration and be prepared to answer questions regarding any topic related to the proposal.

Dissertation and Oral Defense Upon completion of the research project, and with the consent of the dissertation committee, the candidate prepares the written dissertation. After the dissertation has been read by the committee, the candidate must make an oral defense of the work.