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PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Graduation Requirement and Process

School of Pharmacy Graduate Degree Requirements

The following are specific rules approved by the graduate faculty of the School of Pharmacy for graduate studies leading to the doctor of philosophy degree in the pharmaceutical sciences. All other requirements for these degrees will follow the guidelines of the Graduate School, which can be found in the CU Anschutz Graduate School Graduate ​Student Handbook.

The student assumes the major responsibility of meeting the rules of the School of Pharmacy and the Graduate School. Failure to meet the following rules and guidelines may result in delay of graduation.

 Student Progress Reviews

Each student will meet at least every six months with their temporary/thesis committee (starting the week before classes begin in the first year) in order to keep the committee apprised of all aspects of the student’s progress. A progress report form listing the requirements will be maintained in the School of Pharmacy graduate program file for each student.

It is the responsibility of the student to arrange meetings with his/her committee, and ensure that the deadlines listed on the progress report form are fulfilled. After fulfilling each requirement, it is required that the student make certain that the progress report form is updated by the committee chair.


 Student Committees

Temporary Committees

The graduate program committee will appoint temporary committees for new students to serve for the first year. Each committee will consist of at least two full-time faculty of the School of Pharmacy. Each student will meet with their temporary committee the week before classes begin, and in March and September of the first year of the graduate program.

Thesis Committees

Students will choose the chair of their thesis committee subsequent to the successful completion of the preliminary examination and selection of a major advisor (at the end of the first year). The student’s major advisor cannot serve as chair of the thesis committee. The student together with the chair and major advisor will choose other members from the faculty of the school and at least one from outside the school who will serve on the thesis committee.

Thesis committees must consist of at least five faculty members, and will meet with the student every six months, starting in September at the beginning of the student’s second year. The graduate program director must approve the make-up of the thesis committee. The graduate program director will fill vacancies as they arise or make replacements when necessary, with consideration given to student/advisor recommendations.

Thesis committees shall evaluate the student’s progress to ensure that s/he has made satisfactory progress since the previous meeting. Upon calling the meeting to order, the Committee Chair will ask the student to leave the room to obtain feedback from the advisor regarding student progress. Upon completion, the student will be asked to return to the room and the thesis advisor will leave the room to obtain private feedback from the student regarding issues that might exist in terms of interactions with the advisor. It is also the responsibility of the committee chair to complete an on-line evaluation form summarizing the student’s progress. In case of a non-satisfactory performance, steps required to rectify the situation should be suggested in the report. ​


 Doctor of Philosophy

In order to graduate, a student must satisfactorily complete the requirements described in A through H below as well as adhering to all requirements of the CU Anschutz Graduate School as defined in the Graduate Student Handbook.

A. Coursework and General Requirements

A program of study with required core courses will be designed by the chair of the temporary/thesis committee to accommodate the student’s long-range goals, possible undergraduate deficiencies, immediate research interests and the requirements of the Graduate School. A minimum of 30 semester hours of courses numbered 5000 or above is required for the degree. In addition to the coursework and requirements described below, students are expected to attend all seminars associated with the graduate program in pharmaceutical sciences. Also, each year the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences hosts a research retreat. Attendance at the retreat is mandatory, unless the program director permits the absence for overriding personal reasons. A presentation (oral or poster) by each student at the retreat is required.

B. Research Rotations

All PhD students must satisfactorily complete one research rotation in each of the fall and spring semesters of their first year. It is expected that the student will meet with his/her temporary committee the week before classes start in the fall semester to determine an appropriate research rotation for the ensuing fall semester. A research rotation is one semester in length, and the student must be housed in the lab in which the rotation is conducted. The student will present his/her research findings from each rotation in seminars (20 mins) to the graduate faculty (date arranged in advance by the director of the pharmaceutical sciences graduate program). In cases where a student opts for a third research rotation in the summer, a third rotation seminar is not required.

C. Seminars

In addition to rotation seminars and semiannual presentations to the thesis committee, all students enrolled in the program must present a thesis seminar to the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences that describes the findings from his/her thesis research. The thesis seminar is normally performed at the end of their PhD program.

D. Preliminary Examination

Each student will be required to undergo a preliminary examination during the summer of their first year in the program. This examination will consist of two half-day written examinations during the summer session. Selected faculty will contribute questions to the exam primarily focusing on the first year’s coursework. Students will be given the general topic areas for the exam questions at least one month prior to the examination date.

The director of the graduate program will be responsible for coordinating and administrating the examination. The preliminary examination is intended to test the student’s assimilation and understanding of material presented in coursework, and assess his/her ability to complete a doctoral–level course of study. It is expected that students will satisfactorily answer each question, but students are permitted to remediate one question if his/her answer is judged to be inadequate by the faculty member providing the question. In these instances, the individual faculty member will decide what constitutes appropriate remediation, and completion of remediation will be reported to the graduate program chair. Students that unsatisfactorily answer two or more preliminary examination questions will be dismissed from the graduate program.

E. Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination will be administered by the chair of the student’s thesis committee. This committee must include the major advisor and at least four other members of the graduate faculty. At least one of the five members must be from outside the School. The comprehensive examination will serve as the formal test for admission to candidacy for the PhD degree and can only be taken after completion of 30 semester hours of graduate credit. The comprehensive examination will be completed by September 31 of the third year, after formal coursework is completed.

The examination shall consist of a written examination as well as an oral examination. The suggested format of the examination is for each faculty member to administer a separate written examination that can be completed within one day. The student should meet with members of the thesis committee individually to discuss the topic areas for the comprehensive examination. After the written portion of the comprehensive exam, students should meet with each member of the thesis committee to discuss the student’s performance on the written questions. It is expected that any weaknesses will be addressed in the oral portion of the exam that is to be taken within two weeks after completion of the written portion. Possible outcomes of the comprehensive examination are in accord with the CU Anschutz Graduate School rules and are Pass, Pass with Conditions, and Fail. A failed student may not continue in the program.

F. Thesis Proposal

In order to facilitate the partnership between the student and his/her Thesis Committee, students are required to submit a written thesis proposal that will subsequently be presented orally to the thesis committee. The written proposal is typically approximately 10 pages in length (single-spaced, not including references), and submitted to the thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation. The precise format of the written proposal is left to the committee, but it should be a brief, well written document describing the overall research plan for the student’s thesis and include relevant preliminary data. It is expected that the student’s major advisor will have previewed and edited the written proposal prior to its distribution to the rest of the thesis committee. The oral presentation of the thesis proposal to the thesis committee must be completed by March 31 of the student’s third year in the program.

After presentation and approval of the thesis proposal, the student will update the members of his/her thesis committee on the progress toward completion of the thesis research at the semiannual meetings in March and September of each year. It is expected that members of the thesis committee will provide feedback and discuss potential problems at these semiannual meetings.

G. Thesis Research

All PhD candidates will be required to satisfactorily complete a research thesis. This work should be of sufficient scope and quality to result in a significant contribution to the literature. Students must successfully complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of thesis work. See the rules of the Graduate School describing time restrictions for submitting the finished thesis. A copy of the thesis must be submitted to the student’s thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the thesis defense. It is expected that the student’s major advisor will preview and edit the thesis prior to distribution to the rest of the thesis committee.

H. Thesis Defense

After submission of the thesis to the thesis committee, a seminar describing the thesis research will be presented by the student to the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Immediately following the oral presentation and questions from the attendees, the student will be examined separately by his/her thesis committee. Any changes to the thesis must be approved by the Thesis Committee prior to submission of the final thesis to the Graduate School. Although it is fully expected that problems with the thesis research will be addressed prior to the thesis defense, the thesis committee can require further research to be conducted before final approval of the thesis.

Summary schedule of degree requirements:

  • First Year: Research rotations (2), rotation seminars (2), coursework, preliminary exam, selection of major advisor.
  • Second Year: Commence thesis research, selection of thesis committee, coursework.
  • Third Year: Comprehensive examination, thesis proposal.
  • Prior to Completion: Submit written thesis to thesis committee, thesis defense.


 Stipend, Insurance, Tuition and Fees

Although a priority of the School of Pharmacy is to provide financial su​pport to its graduate students, stipend, tuition and fees for graduate studies in the School of Pharmacy are the sole responsibility of the student. Payment of stipend, tuition and any fees by the School of Pharmacy or by grants, contracts or gifts to the School of Pharmacy Faculty is contingent upon satisfactory academic progress (as defined by the CU Anschutz Graduate School, Graduate Student Handbook) and completion of required core courses, seminars, research rotations and examinations.

The School of Pharmacy also reserves the right to review and adjust its funding policies at any time. Stipends are awarded on a 12-month basis. All students are expected to work toward program requirements for 12 months of the year. ​​


 Probationary Status and Suspension

Continuation in the pharmaceutical sciences graduate program is dependent upon satisfactory academic progress as defined by:

  • Timely and satisfactory completion of pharmaceutical sciences graduate program requirements (A-H above).
  • Adherence to all policies, rules and regulation of the CU Anschutz Graduate School (see CU Anschutz Graduate School, Graduate Student Handbook).

Students who do not remain in good graduate standing (3.0 GPA or above) or maintain satisfactory academic progress are placed on academic probation. Probation and suspension policies are described in the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School Graduate Student Handbook.

Payment of stipend, tuition, insurance and fees for a student while on academic probation is at the discretion of the graduate program committee.


 Disclaimer for Student Handbook

This handbook, which includes parts of the Graduate School Rules, does not constitute a contract with the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School, either expressed or implied.

The Graduate School reserves the right at any time to change, delete, or add to any of the provisions at its sole discretion. Furthermore, the provisions of this document are designed by the Graduate School to serve as firm guidelines rather than absolute rules, and exceptions may be made on the basis of extenuating circumstances.​​