Anatomy - Curriculum

Course Work

Within the Anatomy Graduate Program, emphasis is placed on becoming a scholar and effective scientific investigator. During the first two years in the program, a substantial portion of time is spent in formal course work. Students complete the core graduate curriculum, the requisite anatomy courses, as well as those courses supporting the student's move toward professionalism. In both years, students have the opportunity to present their research to faculty and students and to begin the process of developing collaborations and scientific interactions.

Research and Laboratory Rotations
In the first semester, Master's degree students begin selecting the laboratory in which they will complete their MS thesis projects. In general, the MS degree is awarded in May of the second year allowing approximately 15 months of research. Thesis projects for Master's students generally have faculty input in the design and implementation, and may be more descriptive in nature than a doctoral project. A written thesis and oral defense of the thesis before the student's committee is required for graduation.
Doctoral degree students have the opportunity to rotate in 3-4 Anatomy faculty laboratories over the first 2 semesters, with the intent of learning different methodologies, disciplines, and experiencing laboratory personnel dynamics. Following the candidacy examination, a doctoral student selects a laboratory with the permission of the principal investigator, and begins more intensive research. In consultation with their advisor, the student begins the process of forming a thesis committee. This committee must be approved by the Program Director prior to its formal appointment by the Graduate Program at University Park. Students are required to present evidence of their research progress annually, to meet with their committee at least once annually, and to share written observations on the progress of their work that are documented by the advisor, and program director. At the end of the second academic year, the written and oral comprehensive exams are administered.
Teaching is a significant and unique component of the Anatomy Graduate Program. Beginning in the second year, qualified graduate students may participate in the medical curriculum, the Human Gross Anatomy course for medical students. While the graduate council does not permit teaching to an equal rank, involvement in the medical curriculum is permitted. Students are involved in the course, particularly in the laboratory sessions and laboratory exams. Exceptional students may be asked to provide tutoring, review sessions, and lectures. These experiences are unique to this curriculum and provide an excellent opportunity for students to be engaged in higher education instruction. Students are able to undertake this opportunity each year, and are compensated by the Program providing the stipend for 2 months.
Academic Requirements
Doctoral students must maintain a 3.0 (B) average to remain in good academic standing, and to be eligible for both the candidacy and comprehensive examinations. In addition, both MS and doctoral students must complete all 15 credits of required anatomy courses with grades of B- or better. The candidacy exam is usually taken after 2 semesters of didactic coursework, and the comprehensive exams are administered after 4 semesters – a time usually coinciding with the completion of coursework. The thesis research is culminated with the oral defense presented in a public forum.
MD/PhD Program
The Anatomy Graduate Program participates in the Penn State University MD/PhD program, which provides the opportunity for students interested in careers in both academic medicine and research. The program usually requires 7-8 years and involves medical curriculum for the first 2 years, followed by additional basic science coursework and research (3-5 years), and finally, the clinical years. The joint degree program provides the student with knowledge of both clinical and basic science, as well as experience in design and conduct of biomedical research.
Prospective students interested in the joint degree program should apply through the MD program. Further information is available at the MD/PhD website.