Jun 17, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2023-2024 
    
USC Catalogue 2023-2024

Medical Physiology (MS)


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Program Director: H. Kaslow, PhD, hrkaslow@usc.edu 

Contact Information: Academic Program Administrator 
Email: physiology@usc.edu  
Phone: (323) 442-0230
FAX: (323) 442-9031 


Keck School of Medicine of USC  
Keith Administration Building 409 
1975 Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9031

Medical Physiology is the study of the functions and activities of life and living matter at all levels of organization within an organism potentially relevant to the practice of medicine. While medical physiology research is frequently at a molecular and cellular level, the tradition of the discipline challenges the researcher to consider all homeostatic and developmental functions of an organism. This tradition can guide research efforts seeking to identify causes of disease and critical physiological functions possessing therapeutic and health-promoting opportunities. 

Admission Criteria 

Acceptance normally requires that an applicant has or is expected to receive a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A = 4.0) in a course of study that includes courses in biological sciences. Applicants not meeting these criteria may be conditionally admitted only with the approval of the USC Graduate School. Submitting GRE or MCAT scores is not required. 

International applicants should consult information on the Graduate Admissions – International Students website. International students whose first language is not English must take the TOEFL or IELTS examination. Exemption from additional language requirements upon enrollment requires scores meeting University requirements: see the Graduate Admissions – English Proficiency website.

Course Requirements

The master’s degree in Medical Physiology requires the completion of at least 32 graduate-level units including MPHY 572 , MPHY 573  and at least 2 units in PHBI 550  or a seminar course approved by the program director. Students are required to take three elective courses relevant to their field of study. The default elective courses are PM 510L , INTD 531  and INTD 561 . Substituting other elective courses for the default elective courses must be approved by the director of the MPHY Graduate Program. Students enrolled in the thesis track must complete at least MPHY 594a  and MPHY 594b . The thesis track is required when students take less than 26 units of non-research units. Students pursuing a non-thesis option must complete 32 units of course work approved by the program director. 

Continued Enrollment

Thesis track: 

The thesis work of a student in the thesis track will be conducted under the guidance of a Master’s Student Thesis Committee, which shall consist of at least three members: 

1. The student’s thesis mentor who must be a full-time faculty member in the Keck School of Medicine and will serve as chair of the committee. 

2. A tenure-track faculty member of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience. 

3. At least one additional tenure-track faculty member. 

All Students:

Continued enrollment in the program requires maintaining an average GPA of at least 2.5 and a grade of at least B in MPHY 572  and MPHY 573 . Beginning no later than the second year of enrollment, students must enroll in PHBI 550  or equivalent, and achieve a grade of at least B or “Credit.” In order to graduate the final GPA must be at least 3.0. If a student fails to achieve these metrics the MPHY program director will either place the student on probationary enrollment with a defined remediation sufficient to remedy the deficiency or recommend that the student withdraw or be dismissed from the program. For thesis-track students, a recommendation to withdraw or be dismissed shall be considered by the Master’s Student Thesis Committee, which shall make the final decision. For non-thesis track students, the program director shall make the recommendation to the chair of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience who shall make the final decision.

Thesis Track Students:

At any time, the thesis mentor of a student in the thesis track may call a meeting of the student’s Thesis Committee to determine if the student is making sufficient research progress and is not disrupting functioning of the laboratory. If the Thesis Committee votes unanimously that the student is not making sufficient research progress or is disruptive it shall report its findings to the MPHY program director. The director will either place the student on probationary enrollment with a defined remediation sufficient to remedy the deficiency or recommend to the department chair that the student withdraw or be dismissed from the program. The department chair shall make the final decision.

Final Examination

Thesis Track Final Examination: Passing the examination requires: 1) submission of a thesis document describing the work of the thesis, and 2) an oral defense of the thesis; both of which must be considered satisfactory by the Thesis Committee. The thesis document shall be distributed to the student’s Master’s Thesis Committee and a copy provided to the Medical Physiology Graduate Program Office at least two weeks prior to the oral examination. If the document is not provided by that date, then the oral examination shall be rescheduled to accommodate this requirement. Final acceptance of the document and passage of the oral examination requires the unanimous recommendation of all members of the thesis committee. If the student does not pass the examination on the first attempt, at its discretion the MPHY program director may grant a second opportunity to pass the examination according to policies in the USC Catalogue. 

Non-Thesis Track Final Examination: A comprehensive examination replaces the thesis defense. The program director shall appoint a Master’s Student Examination Committee, which shall consist of at least: 

1. A chair of the committee who shall be a tenure-track member of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience. 

2. One additional tenure-track faculty member of the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience. 

3. One additional tenure-track faculty member. 

The examination shall be on a topic approved by the Examination Committee and consist of: 1) a document sufficiently discussing the topic, and 2) passing an oral examination on the substance of the topic. The document shall be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the oral examination. If the document is not provided by that date, then the oral examination shall be rescheduled to accommodate this requirement.  

During and following the presentation in the oral examination, faculty members may pose questions relevant to the presentation to determine if the student has mastered an appropriate breadth and depth of knowledge of medical physiology. Final acceptance of the document and passage of the oral examination requires the unanimous recommendation of all members of the committee. If the student does not pass the examination on the first attempt, at its discretion the MPHY program director may grant a second opportunity to pass the examination according to policies in the USC Catalogue.

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