PhD Program: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Man in goggles using a test tube

Molecular & Integrative Physiology

Pursuing answers to fundamental questions in physiology and human diseases


Program Overview

Are you writing an essay for your graduate school application that discusses how a disease alters normal body function? If so, you should consider physiology. Do you like the process of integrating several lines of evidence to answer a scientific question? If so, you should consider physiology. Are you interested in exploring a wide array of careers in which you can apply your scientific knowledge? If so, then you should definitely consider physiology at Michigan.

Physiology is not just a course you might have taken; it is the field of scientific investigation that is closest to medicine. Physiologists specialize in integrative aspects of biology. That doesn’t mean we aren’t involved in identifying critical components of cellular and molecular function—we are. But we consider it essential to push our science even further, to figure out how these components fit together into tissues, organs and organisms to explain function in both health and disease.

Michigan’s Department of Physiology was one of the first, established in 1882. In 2002, we changed our name to Molecular and Integrative Physiology (MIP) to more completely reflect the true breadth of our science. Our program has almost 50 PhD students and over 65 faculty research labs to choose from.

Apply through our PIBS application

Program Details

What sets PHYSIOLOGY apart from other biomedical disciplines is the focus on taking discoveries of how genes and their products affect cellular function and then exploring how these molecular and cellular functions are integrated into organs, and ultimately in the organism, in order to explain how the body works in health and in diseased states. Integrative physiology can uncover mechanisms of how the body regulates function down to the molecular level and how disruptions of this regulation, by genetic or environmental factors, can lead to disease. This makes physiology the science closest to medicine, and translational research is a strength of the department.

Molecular and Integrative Physiology (MIP):

  1. Combines cutting edge techniques such as gene manipulation, molecular imaging, omics and computational analysis, and cell/organism functional measures.
  2. Exploits the unique advantages of animal models from worms and flies to mice and humans.
  3. Has an international reputation in research areas that includes aging, metabolism, neuroscience, muscle (cardiac and skeletal), reproduction, circadian rhythms, gastrointestinal physiology, and systems and computational modeling.
  4. Aspires to be the top Physiology Department in the country by excelling in research and leading the nation in NIH funding, emphasizing in training and teaching of future physiologists, and promoting the careers of our students, trainees, and faculty.


How do you know we are any good?

You should ask this question about every place you apply; don’t just go by what is on the surface, talk to current students and look at the data. How well does the program do in attracting research funding? Michigan MIP is the number one Physiology department in the country in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and top funded basic science department at Michigan. We also receive support from many foundations specializing in specific diseases, as well as other government programs.

Is the training environment recognized as one of the best? We take student success very seriously. Our goal is to develop not only your technical bench skills, but also you as a scientist who can independently pose questions, formulate hypotheses, design experiments to effectively test these hypotheses, analyze and interpret the results, and, importantly, communicate your science in oral and written forms to a variety of audiences. We are continually sculpting our courses and other programs to meet and respond to trainee needs. We believe in career diversity for biomedical scientists; our faculty voted to provide our trainees protected time to explore and gain experience in a variety of careers. We are nationally recognized for our success in training and career development. MIP faculty lead several six different NIH-sponsored training grants, more than any other PIBS program. A high percentage of our trainees also receive individual fellowship awards from the NIH, NSF and disease-focused foundations. These awards are given at the national level, are very competitive, and leave our students better positioned to pursue successful research careers.


Training in modern physiology is focused on preparing students to be leaders in science, and our requirements are focused on a fundamental understanding of how genes, molecules, and cells interact to coordinate function of living organisms. We also provide flexibility for students to design a curriculum of training that meets their career aspirations, and focuses on developing toolsets such as scientific communication, collaboration, and mentorship/teaching, that can be applied to a variety of career opportunities. Our success in training is evidence by the success of our more than 200 PhD alumni, and our faculty leading several long-standing NIH sponsored training grants.

Required courses focus on fundamentals of cell and organismal physiology and electives allow students to customize their training towards their training interests.

Preliminary Examination

Students take the preliminary examination by the end of the summer following their first year. The preliminary exam is in the form of an BIH individual NRSA application, in which the student proposes and defends a project to a committee.

Teaching Requirement

All MIP students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for one term. Additional teaching opportunities are available to match the career goals of our students. Learning to teach and communicate effectively prepares you to work in an increasingly complex world. Communication skills make you a key player in many careers.

Career Development

Students participate in a student seminar series at both pre-candidate and candidate levels to develop scientific communication skills. External grant writing is strongly encouraged and supported to develop scientific writing and proposal development skills. Physiology mentors are committed to protecting time for their students to explore career opportunities through certificate programs, workshops and internships.

Expected Length of Program

Usually four and half to six years. Mentoring and tracking the success and progress of our students is a critical component of our program.

Student activities are focused on supplementing professional development and providing work-life balance for our students. Student life activities are supported by an endowed Graduate Education Fund (GEF) and departmental funds for social activities. Our students are also encouraged to take part in departmental and institutional service including recruiting, program committees and policy decisions, student support organizations, and hosting speakers.

Annual Student Awards and Symposium
MIP sponsors an annual student-organized research symposium that includes students selecting and inviting an internationally renowned keynote speaker, poster and oral presentations by trainees and student awards for research, teaching and service. Student travel awards are provided by the GEF for presenting at (inter)national meetings.

Science Outreach and Seek Program
MIP Students established a STEM outreach program called Science Engagement and Education for Kids. The program is bringing science curriculum and science outreach events to underrepresented students at elementary schools in nearby communities that have no science curriculum and are among the lowest performing schools in the state of Michigan.

Global Initiatives
MIP has established or is establishing research and educational partnerships and two way student exchanges with institutions in Ireland, Brazil, Israel and Italy.

Social Activities
MIP students select & organize social events, with support of the department, throughout the year, including monthly pub nights, fall picnic, spring BBQ, kayaking, movie nights, intramural sports, holiday parties and ice skating.

More than 200 alumni have obtained the PhD in our program. A vast majority of these alumni enjoy highly successful careers and leadership roles using their scientific training in academia (~60%), industry (~15%), education (~10%), medicine (~10%), and administration. This includes a number of CEOS, Deans and Department Chairs. Many are eager to chat with and help our current trainees investigate career possibilities.

Creating an impact
Molecular & Integrative Physiology

Learn more about the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology.

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