Graduate: PhD Program in Pharmacology

The aims of Ph.D. Training in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Toronto:

It is proposed that the ideal Ph.D. student should be exceptionally talented in being able to combine apparently unrelated phenomena into concepts that can be tested. He/she should possess functional professional expertise in Pharmacology and a deep understanding and knowledge of his/her particular area of interest. 

It is proposed that the following are some of the most important traits of the Ph.D. student: 

  1. enjoys learning; flexible in learning new areas; 
  2. self-motivated and self-teaching; 
  3. capability (including potential creativity, problem solving and interpretational ability) and the desire for independent scientific thought and action; 
  4. moral responsibility to science and society. 

Therefore, during the training of the Ph.D. student, much increased emphasis should be placed on the "art of identifying the important questions that can be answered." (Otto Warburg; as told by H. Krebs). Also, emphasis should be placed on the development of critical analysis. Ph.D. students should have the opportunity to develop their communicative abilities within the various formats of presentations.


The objective of the Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology is to have students possess a comprehensive understanding of the general field of pharmacology, in addition to specific expertise in their particular area of interest. They build on their knowledge of pharmacology so that they are able to think critically about specific areas in pharmacology. They should be able to formulate and design, as well as carry out and interpret investigations. Their findings should be publishable. They should show capacity for continuing significant contributions in pharmacology and for conducting independent research.


Self-Directed Study: All students, regardless of their academic background are required to undertake self-directed study, culminating in the demonstration of proficiency in pharmacological principles during the course of the graduate program. Evaluations take place throughout the Ph.D. program at a variety of stages (including during PCL1002Y) – See Self-Study Guide: Self Study Guide 2015.pdf (1.55 MB)

With the exception of the ongoing (PCL1003Y) Seminars in Pharmacology course, ALL course and breadth module requirements must be completed within the first three (3) years of registration in the Ph.D. program.


1. Graduate Pharmacology (PCL1002Y). Must be completed in the first year of registration.

2. Seminars in Pharmacology (PCL1003Y). See Course description on the departmental course website.

3. Full Minor course. A full (Y) graduate course equivalent (outside the student's main area of research) must be taken as a minor subject; as well as any other graduate course(s) required by a Collaborative Program, or as recommended by the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee. Students should submit a "PhD Minor Form" to the Graduate Coordinator for approval before attempting to fulfil this requirement.

Other Requirements:

4. 1st-Year Seminar: All PhD students who enter  the program (with the exception of those MSc transfers who screened at their first year seminar) are required to give a seminar after one year in the program. A one-year progress report is required at this time.  See "Supervisory Committee" below. Three GEC members attend the Seminars given by all first-year Ph.D. students. The Seminar (and the Supervisory Committee Report) is used by the GEC to determine whether the Ph.D. student is progressing satisfactorily enough to be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. See PhD Seminars.pdf (85.46 KB)

Students admitted in January will present their Seminar in the following February of the year of commencement of their program.

5.  Ph.D. Mid-point Seminar & Exit Seminar: All PhD students must present Mid-point and Exit Seminars. At the Ph.D. mid-point seminars (held in May/June around the 3rd year of enrolment), students give a summary of work in progress or of particular projects or sets of experiments that have been completed. At the PhD Exit Seminar (usually given between 2-3 months prior to the Final Oral Examination) students give an overview of all of the results of their research. See the PCL1003Y course description for more details. See PhD Seminars.pdf (85.46 KB)

6. Four (4) Breadth Modules/Tutorials (5 for students enrolled prior to January 2012) outside area of specialization - at least one of which must be a Laboratory Module. A half course outside the student's major research area may be substituted for one of the five breadth modules. Students should submit a "PhD Planned Module Sessions" form to the Graduate Coordinator for approval before attempting to fulfil this requirement. Tutorial/Module offerings are listed on the department website. Also, see PhD Module Guidelines.pdf (144.23 KB)

Note: For PhD students enrolling in Pharmacology for the first time in September 2012, the requirement is to four (4) breadth modules/tutorials.

7.  Senate Oral Examination: Before being awarded the degree, all PhD candidates in Pharmacology must successfully complete a Final Oral Examination (also known as the Senate Oral Examination). 

Full details of the thesis defense can be found in the Program Completion section of the department website.


The progress of ALL students in the Ph.D. program is monitored by an approved Supervisory Committee. More information on the Supervisory Committee and Ph.D. Progress and Thesis Monitoring.

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