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Frequently Asked Questions

What type of research training does the program support?
How do I choose a thesis laboratory?
Is funding available for VMD-PhD students?
How long does the program take to complete?
What are the areas of PhD study in the program?
Do graduates continue to do clinical work?
What are some of the career opportunities post-graduation?
How do I apply?
What are the criteria for admission?
What sort of research experience is needed for admission?
How competitive is the admissions process?
Are foreign applicants eligible for the program?
Can I apply to the VMD-PhD program after admission to Vet School?
Where do I find out about faculty research interests?
How is the curriculum organized in the VMD-PhD program?
Can I apply separately to PhD programs at Penn?

What type of research training does the program support?
Students are able to perform their research within any of the graduate groups at Penn. Most students work with faculty in one of the Biomedical Graduate Groups (see http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs).

How do I choose a thesis laboratory?
Students choose a thesis lab based on the research rotations they perform within their graduate group. Rotations usually occur during the summers of the first two to three years of the program. Advising is provided for finding a thesis laboratory, and considerable information on potential thesis laboratories is available at the graduate group web sites (see http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs).

Is funding available for VMD-PhD students?
We provide all VMD-PhD students with Veterinary School and Graduate School tuition and fees, student health insurance, and a graduate level stipend.

How long does the program take to complete?
The program usually takes 7-8 years to complete. The most variable time period is the PhD thesis research phase. We are committed to providing students with training that is completed in as short of a period as possible. However, our main concern is that our students maintain consistently high levels of scholarship during their time in the program.

What are the areas of PhD study in the program?
Most students perform their research in one of the Biomedical Graduate Groups:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
    • Cell Biology and Physiology
    • Cell Growth and Cancer
    • Developmental Biology
    • Gene Therapy and Vaccines
    • Genetics and Gene Regulation
    • Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Genomics and Computational Biology
  • Immunology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology
  • Biology
  • Bioengineering

For additional information on the type of research performed by the faculty in these groups, visit http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs.

Do graduates continue to do clinical work?
Many graduates continue to perform clinical medicine in conjunction with their research programs.

What are some of the career opportunities post-graduation?
Graduates of our program are qualified to work within many diverse venues, including: Academic Institutions, Biotechnology and the Pharmaceutical Industries, Government Health and Science Agencies, the fields of Public Health and Emerging Diseases, Regulatory Medicine, Contract or Clinical Research, the Military, and Clinical Practice. The VMD-PhD combined degree will certainly surprise you with its versatility.

How do I apply?
To apply to the VMD-PhD program, two applications are needed: the Combined Degree Program application, and the Vet School application. The Combined Degree application is due November 15 of each year for admission the following Fall. It can be submitted online at: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/programs/vmstp/.

The Vet School application is due October 1 of each year for admission the following Fall. For the Vet School application, visit: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/admissions/applications.html.

What are the criteria for admission?
The criteria that go into admissions considerations for the VMD-PhD program are:

  1. Undergraduate GPA: there are no cut-offs, but obviously the higher the better. Average GPA of recent matriculates is 3.7 (range 3.3 to 4.0)
  2. GRE scores: again, there are no cut-offs, but the higher the better. Average verbal and quantitative GREs of recent matriculates are 640 and 730, respectively (range 500-760 and 570-800).
  3. Research experience: it is imperative to have considerable research experience. Students usually have multiple, in-depth research experiences.
  4. Letters of recommendation: the most important letters are from those who have seen your research skills up close.
  5. Interviews: during interviews, applicants meet with Penn faculty to discuss their past experiences and future goals. Applicants also meet with current students in the program.
  6. Goodness of fit. Can the program deliver the training to achieve your goals?

What sort of research experience is needed for admission?
Most students have multiple hands-on laboratory research experiences.

How competitive is the admissions process?
The process is highly competitive. Roughly 10-15% of applicants are offered admission.

Are foreign applicants eligible for the program?
Yes.

Can I apply to the VMD-PhD program after admission to Vet School?
Yes, students can apply after enrollment at the School of Veterinary Medicine, or after enrollment in one of Penn's Biomedical Graduate Groups.

Where do I find out about faculty research interests?
You can find information about faculty research interests at: http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs.

How is the curriculum organized in the VMD-PhD program?
VMD and PhD studies are interwoven throughout the program. Students perform their veterinary training at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and their PhD training usually occurs in one of the 9 Biomedical Graduate Groups. Students typically begin with the core science veterinary curriculum in the first 2-2.5 years. This provides a solid foundation in medically relevant biomedical science. Over the next year, students generally complete their PhD coursework in the Graduate Group of their choice. Students have over 500 thesis laboratories to choose from within the University. During the first 2-3 years, students perform laboratory rotations with faculty in their graduate group to identify the laboratory and thesis mentor for their PhD thesis research. Students then perform full-time thesis research until their project is completed. This generally takes about 3 years. A clinical connections program is in place to enable students to maintain their clinical skills during thesis research years. The program concludes with veterinary clinical requirements and students receive VMD and PhD degrees concurrently.

Sample Curriculum:
Year 1: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, first laboratory rotation
Year 2: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, second laboratory rotation
Year 3: Complete Vet Core courses, Complete Graduate courses, Preliminary Examination, Third Laboratory Rotation
Year 4 and beyond: Thesis research, Clinical connections program, Retreats, Seminars
Final Year: Defend PhD thesis, Clinical Rotations, Graduation

Can I apply separately to PhD programs at Penn?
Yes, students can apply separately to the Penn graduate programs. However, admission separately to the Vet School and separately to a Penn Graduate Group does not constitute admission into the combined degree program.

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