Combined MD/PhD

The combined M.D./Ph.D. degree program is designed for those students interested in simultaneously pursuing both the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. There are two ways to obtain combined degrees. Both programs are designed to allow students to earn the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in seven years. For this track, the medical school coursework from Year 1 and Year 2 are applied to the Ph.D. degree. 

Pathway options for pursing the combined degree

The official combined degree program in the IU School of Medicine is called the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Application to the MSTP combined degree program can be checked directly in the appropriate box on the medical school application. This is a highly competitive fellowship program.  Students take basic medical science courses in medical school for the first two years, complete their graduate studies and dissertation in the next three years (approximately), and return to complete medical school clinical rotations for the final two years.

The second option, for those Medical students who are not accepted into the MSTP program, is to complete a separate graduate application for obtaining the combined MD/PhD degree in addition to a regular medical school application. Applicants for entry into the doctoral program should submit an application through the “eAPP” portal and send an email notification to the Graduate Program Director ( Successful applicants will have an identical curriculum as MSTP combined degree students, taking the basic medical science courses in the first two years of medical school, then taking a leave from medical school to complete the PhD course work and dissertation, and then returning to take the clinical rotations in medical school.

The difference between the two programs is the source of stipend funding. Admission to the MSTP program provides the student a stipend for the four years of medical school and three years of graduate research while the second option provides no financial support for the years in medical school and the department selected for graduate study provides a stipend and tuition payment for the years of graduate research. For US citizens selecting the second option (non-MSTP), you may apply for the PhD program using the “eAPP” on-line application system. In addition to completing the electronic application, your supplemental information including transcripts and letters of recommendation (if the referee prefers not to complete an online recommendation) should be mailed or emailed to the Graduate Program Director at the address shown at the end of this webpage. If you have taken the GRE, those exam scores should also be sent to the Graduate Program Director. MCAT scores can be substituted for the GRE.

Doctoral Degree Requirements for the combined degree

Following completion of the first two years of the basic medical sciences program, the combined degree student will enter the doctoral degree program with 25 course credits. To complete the requirements for the combined degree, students are required to complete the following 5 credits of coursework and 60 credits of research (F701 Research in Physiology).

Required Courses for the Ph.D. Degree

F702 Seminar 1 cr
G505 Responsible Conduct in Research 1 cr
G855 Experimental Design and Research Biostatistics 1 cr
G655 Research Communication Seminar 1 cr
  Elective 1 cr

Additional Combined Degree Requirements

Laboratory Rotations

Combined degree students are encouraged to integrate laboratory rotations into the first two years of Medical School. Rotations are usually performed during the summer between the first and second year of Medical School. At the completion of the two-three rotations the student will select a Major Advisor. This selection requires the mutual consent of the student and advisor and implies acceptance into the research program of the advisor.

Teaching Experience

The goal of this portion of the graduate training experience is to provide a variety of opportunities for training and preparation for teaching. This requirement is generally fulfilled during the first or second year of graduate study and is defined by the combined degree student in consultation with the Major Advisor and Research Advisory Committee using the options defined in the Completion of Teaching Experience form. Examples of options that are available include participation in the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program and/or actual teaching experience in selected graduate level courses (e.g. G818, F503 Human Physiology, N217 Human Physiology, K103 Biology Laboratory). Once an option is decided upon, the Major Advisor will prepare a written summary defining how the student will fulfill the teaching requirement using the Completion of Teaching Experience form.

Semi-Annual meeting with the Advisory or Research Committee

Each student is required to meet with their Advisory or Research Committee at least 2 times per year for the duration of their graduate program. At the start of the meeting, the student will provide the committee with a written progress report (e.g. a copy of the presentation) and give a brief (~30 minute) oral presentation of his/her research progress. The presentation should include the original aims and a summary of the progress made toward the completion of those aims. If there have been changes in the aims or direction of research, why those changes were made must be indicated. If any manuscripts have been published, an abstract of the paper must be included with the progress report. Conclude the presentation with the plan for the coming year and a timetable for the completion of your research. The Major Advisor is required to provide a very brief written summary of the semi-annual meetings using the Advisory / Research Committee Meeting Report form. This report is given to the Graduate Program Director and a copy is placed in the student's file.

Advisory Committee

Until the combined degree student selects a Major Advisor, the Graduate Committee will serve as the Advisory Committee for the student. Once a student has selected a laboratory in which to pursue their thesis research, the Major Advisor will then serve as the head of the committee. The student and the Major Advisor together will select at least two associate advisors from the major department, and a representative from the student's Minor from faculty outside the department. The Advisory Committee for combined degree candidates (M.D. or D.D.S. - Ph.D.) must also include an appropriate representative from the Clinical Faculty. The Graduate School will review and approve the members of each student's Advisory Committee following submission of the Appointment of Advisory Committee form to the Graduate Program Director for routing to the Graduate School.

Advisory Committee responsibilities include counseling a student in coursework and research activities as well as identifying any academic or research deficiencies and suggesting corrective measures for potential deficiencies. The Advisory Committee also makes recommendations for transfer of academic credits earned at another institution to the Graduate School for approval and determines when the student has satisfactorily completed the Qualifying Examination.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination consists of two parts. Qualifying Exam Part I occurs when the student has completed the second year of coursework and has gained some research experience. The student and their Advisory Committee will select a recent publication that is related to the student's major research area and the student will prepare a written research proposal (See Qualifying Exam Part I: Mock Grant Guidelines and Summary Report) for review by the Advisory Committee. The form at the end of the guidelines file is to be completed by the Advisory Committee and given to the Graduate Program Director. Qualifying Exam Part II occurs at the end of the student's third year in the program and consists of the student's oral presentation and defense of a written grant proposal to the department. The written proposal must be submitted at least one week in advance to the members of the student's Advisory Committee. The student's own research forms the basis of this grant proposal and the proposal is written using an NIH RO1 grant format. More detailed information is provided in the Qualifying Exam Part II: Oral Thesis Proposal and Advancement to Candidacy Exam Guidelines. The form at the end of the Qualifying Exam Part II file is to be completed by the Advisory Committee and given to the Graduate Program Director. In addition the student must have completed the following forms at the end of the committee examination period; Completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Part II form, Nomination of Research Committee form, and Nomination to Candidacy form. All FOUR forms are to be given to the Graduate Program Director.

Depending on the Advisory Committee's evaluation of the student's performance on the Qualifying Examination, the student will either be (i) advanced to candidacy, (ii) recommended for a Master of Science Degree upon submission of a thesis representing the research completed, or (iii) dismissed from the program. At the discretion of the Advisory Committee, students will be allowed to retake all or part of the qualifying examination once within 2 months of the first examination.

Research Committee

Following the successful completion of the Qualifying Examination (completion of Part I: mock grant proposal and Part II: oral and written thesis proposal) the student and Major Advisor will select a research committee and submit the Nomination to Candidacy form to the Graduate Program Director for routing to the Graduate School. Note: This form must be accompanied by an abstract and by appropriate institutional approvals. The composition of the Research Committee is the same as the Advisory Committee (Major Advisor, two associate advisors from Physiology, and one advisor representing the Minor) and in most cases these two committees are identical. Approval of the Research Committee members is granted by the Graduate School following submission of the Nomination of Research Committee form to the Graduate Program Director for routing to the Graduate School.

Final Seminar and Thesis Defense

Upon completion of their research, students will prepare a written dissertation (thesis), which will be distributed to members of their Research Committee at least two weeks in advance of their oral defense seminar. In preparation for the public dissertation defense, the student upon approval of the Research Committee must notify the Graduate School of the intended date of the defense. This is accomplished by submitting the Thesis Defense Announcement form and a summary of the student's research at least 4 weeks prior to the public thesis examination. The dissertation defense is presented as part of the departmental seminar series. Immediately following the presentation, the Research Committee will conduct the thesis defense meeting. Defense meetings are open to all faculty members, but as a courtesy, non-committee members are expected to inform the chairman of the Research Committee of their intention to attend.

Thesis Format

The department strongly encourages students to submit a thesis that is based on the student's published papers, or papers submitted or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. These manuscripts are reformatted to conform to the Guide to the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations (pdf) which is also available as a Word document from this Graduate Office web page. In addition to conforming to these guidelines, the student must prepare an introduction to the field and a summary which highlights the main conclusions of the student's research and a discussion of potential future studies. The following general sections will be included in the thesis: Title page, Acceptance page with original signatures, Acknowledgements, Abstract, Table of Contents, Lists of tables, figures, appendices, and abbreviations.

Time to Graduation

All coursework required for the doctoral degree in the combined degree program is designed be completed within 3 years. Completion and graduation from the combined degree program is expected within 7 years.

Contact Information - Combined Degree Program Coordinator

Program Coordinator
Indiana University School of Medicine
MD/PhD Combined Degree Program
Medical Science Building, Room 207
635 Barnhill Drive
Indianapolis, In 46202-5120
Phone: 317-274-3441
Fax:     317-278-5211

Contact Information - Cellular & Integrative Physiology Graduate Program Director

Johnathan Tune, Ph.D.
Professor and Graduate Program Director
Cellular & Integrative Physiology
Medical Science Building, Room 2063
635 Barnhill Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5120
Email: jtune(at)

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Updated: 8/05/2011

635 Barnhill Drive, Medical Science Bldg. Room 385 | Indianapolis, IN 46202-5120 | 317-274-7772