Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (PSTP)

The Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (PSTP) is an interdisciplinary training program administered in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology that provides an integrated training experience in Pharmacology for students in the biomedical sciences. The Program recruits students from all biomedical science departments who are interested in broadening their training through instruction in Pharmacology and related disciplines. The program provides funds for stipend, tuition and fees for 2 years of graduate training and supports travel to national meetings during the period ofPSTP survival skills luncheon support. Pharmacology provides a strong foundation for future employment both in academia and in industry, and our graduates tell us that the instruction in this basic discipline proved to be one of the most useful components of the PhD training at Duke University.


Students in any of the participating basic science departments (Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, Neurobiology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology) can request admission to the training program from the time they apply to Duke through the end of the second year. The only requirements of the program are that the student conduct thesis work related to Pharmacology and take the required program courses. If the student’s mentor is not a member of the PSTP, the mentor should apply to join by submitting a CV and membership request. The requirement of the mentor is that his or her research is relevant to Pharmacology and that they commit to supporting the student for the non-PSTP funded years of graduate study.

The PSTP actively seeks applications from historically underrepresented minorities.

Minority Recruitment / Disability Services
The Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology is committed to increasing the diversity of the graduate student body. We actively seek applications from students who are members of underrepresented populations in the sciences. Financial aid is available for qualified minority applicants through a variety of funding mechanisms. For more information, please visit the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity’s website.

The Duke Graduate Program in Pharmacology is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities in compliance with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, as well as applicable state regulations and federal and state privacy laws. If you believe you may need and qualify for reasonable accommodations, please visit Duke’s Disability Management System (DMS) for detailed information and procedures. The knowledgeable staff at DMS serve Duke’s undergraduate, graduate and professional students, trainees, employees, and faculty, as well as the public, in support of Duke University and Duke University Health System efforts to ensure an accessible, hospitable working and learning environment for people with disabilities. Through DMS, Duke ensures consistent processes for requesting accommodations, evaluating needs, and determining appropriate response, and the DMS serves as a clearinghouse for disability-related information, procedures and services available at Duke, in Durham, and in North Carolina.

Requirements for the Ph.D. are those established by the graduate school. The majority of course work will be selected in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies of your department and your thesis committee. There are four required courses: (1) Essentials of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmacology 533 (2) Experimental Design and Biostatistics for Basic Biomedical Scientists, Pharmacology 733 (3) Innovations-Drug Development, Pharmacology 835 (4) Student Seminar, Pharmacology 780S. Pharmacology 533 provides an introduction to the basic of Pharmacology (pharmacokinetics, drug: receptor interactions, drug design). Student seminar provides students with opportunities to develop presentation skills by presenting their own research as well as an opportunity to review the work being presented by our outside seminar speakers.

Students are also required by to attend at least 18 hours of RCR training. This typically includes 12 hours of RCR orientation in August at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, NC, 2 hours of Graduate School or RCR forums, and a 4-hour refresher course in year 3. Current RCR requirements in Chemistry and BME do not meet NIH standards, and so students must receive additional training. Students outside of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology will be permitted to attend the August RCR training to meet this requirement.

Stu­dents are expected to have some background in cell biology, molecular biology and physiology. If they do not, students are encouraged to use electives to gain this proficiency. Grades in all Pharmacology courses must be B or better. Students who obtain a C in a non-Pharmacology course will receive a letter of notice from the Director of the Program.

Students in Pharmacology normally take the core courses during the first year, while students in other participating departments can take these courses during the second year, or take them out of sequence. Students only need to complete the Pharmacology courses by the time they finish their course work. The exact timing will be decided upon consultation with individual students.

Other Program Activities
Students are required to attend an annual evaluation meeting in the fall with two PSTP faculty members who will serve as your PSTP mentors throughout your graduate school career. At these meetings, they will review progress including coursework, lab selection, committee meetings and job selection at graduation. The purpose of this meeting is primarily advisory: the PSTP mentors can provide another source of advice beyond that provided by the home department.

The PSTP offers a monthly lunch and seminar program for trainees. This has both a social and professional function. Students have a chance to meet other students in the program on a regular basis. In addition, there will be speakers who discuss professional development issues, ranging from graduate school issues like lab selection and preliminary examinations as well as talks by Pharmacologists who are working in a variety of environments, including academic, government and industry.

The PSTP also provides funds for travel to scientific meetings during the two-year period of support. The program provides on average $600-$800 for each trip. Students can receive this support whether they are presenting data or not. Trainees should contact Dr. Kuhn with the details of the proposed travel.

Students are encouraged to participate actively in all functions sponsored by the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, including the weekly Signal Transduction Seminar. All PSTP trainees are invited to attend the annual retreat for the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. This is held in the fall in Wilmington. The PSTP will pay your expenses. This provides an opportunity to present your work, interact with other students and also enjoy a weekend at the beach.

Contact information
Jamie Baize-Smith, Administrative Coordinator

Dr. Cynthia Kuhn, Principal Investigator

Participating Faculty
Faculty participating in the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program have their primary appointments in a wide variety of departments within the biological sciences at Duke thus providing students with diverse research opportunities within the Pharmacology discipline. Below is an alphabetical list of the faculty of the PSTP.

Alvarez, James – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Arshavsky, Vadim – Ophthalmology
Blobe, Gerard – Medicine
Boyce, Michael – Biochemistry
Caron, Marc – Cell Biology
Chilkoti, Ashutosh – Biomedical Engineering
Counter, Christopher – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Derbyshire, Emily – Chemistry
Devi, Gayathri – Surgery
Fox, Donald – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Franz, Katherine – Chemistry
Goetz, Sarah – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Hargrove, Amanda – Chemistry
Haystead, Timothy – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Hirschey, Matthew – Medicine
Hong, Jiyong – Chemistry
Kastan, Michael – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Kontos, Christopher – Medicine
Kuhn, Cynthia – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Kwatra, Madan – Anesthesiology
Lefkowitz, Robert – Medicine
Levin, Ed – Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Lew, Daniel – Pharmacology & Cancer Biology
Locasale, Jason – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
MacAlpine, David – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Malcolmson, Steven – Chemistry
McCafferty, Dewey – Chemistry
McDonnell, Donald – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
McNamara, James – Neurobiology
Meyer, Joel – Environment Toxicology
Newgard, Christopher – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Patz, Ned – Radiology
Pendergast, Ann Marie – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Roizen, Jennifer – Chemistry
Schwartz-Bloom, Rochelle – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Slotkin, Theodore – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Thiele, Dennis – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Wang, Qiu – Chemistry
Wang, Xiao Fan – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
West, Anne – Neurobiology
Widenhoefer, Ross – Chemistry
Wood, Kris – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Yao, Tso-Pang – Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Yuan, Fan – Biomedical Engineering