Graduate Program

Admission and Entry
Description of Programs
Financial Assistance
Graduate Catalog
Graduate Faculty
Affiliated Graduate Faculty
Graduate Handbook
Programs' Learning Outcomes
Resources and Opportunities
More Information
Current Students
Neuro MS Student wins University 3MT Competition


Physiology is the study of the functions of the body systems. Developmental biology is the study of how specific genes govern differentiation of cells, tissues, and organs with unique structure and functions. Neuroscience is the study of the development and function of the central nervous system and its connection to influencing/ regulating behavior. Graduate programs in the department offer research training and classroom instruction in a wide range of areas pertaining to these disciplines. A biophysics research group is also part of the department. Areas of research include neuroendocrinology and reproduction, endocrine and immune interactions, development of the central nervous system, hereditary connective tissue disorders, mouse and chick models of development, exercise physiology and glucose metabolism, membrane transport and channel structure, synaptic vesicle recycling, and blood pressure control by the autonomic nervous system.


Admission and Entry

All graduate programs have the same general admission and entry requirements. However, the Neuroscience programs have additional prerequisites as outlined in the sections below:
  • Semesters of entry and application deadlines: Fall, February 1 (priority deadline), May 1 (final deadline); Winter, September 10
  • Entrance examination: Masters - Choice of GRE, MCAT, or DAT. & Foreign students TOEFL Ph.D. - GRE & Foreign students TOEFL
Applicants are encouraged to communicate with the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology for further information.

BYU Office of Graduate Studies Online Application


Description of Graduate Programs

The Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology offers four graduate degrees: Physiology and Developmental Biology - MS, Neuroscience - MS, Physiology and Developmental Biology - PhD, and Neuroscience - PhD.
  • M.S. in Physiology and Developmental Biology
  • Ph.D. in Physiology and Developmental Biology
  • M.S. in Neuroscience
  • Ph.D. in Neuroscience
The Department has approximately thirty graduate students enrolled each year. Students working toward a master's degree generally complete all requirements within two years. Ph.D students generally complete all requirements in four to five years.

Financial Assistance

The Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology offers the following financial aid: teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and tuition awards. Specific endowment fund awards are also available.


Graduate Faculty

ALDER, JONATHAN K., Assistant Professor. PhD, Johns Hopkins University, 2007. My laboratory is interested broadly in how telomeres contribute to human health and disease. Telomeres are perhaps the best-characterized biologic clock and telomere shortening is a universal feature of aging. As such, understanding the pathologic state found in families with mutations in telomere genes provides a window to study the aging process accelerated. We are currently focused on understanding how telomere dysfunction leads to lung disease. We use genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, and animal models to investigate the mechanisms underlying telomere biology. Website

ARROYO, JUAN A., Assistant Professor. PhD, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, 2003. Molecular signaling of trophoblast cells apoptosis and the regulation of cell invasion during pregnancies complicated with Intrauterine Growth Restriction, Preterm Delivery and Preeclampsia. Website

BARROW, JEFFERY R., Associate Professor. PhD, University of Utah, 1999. Identify molecular mechanisms whereby the Wnt signaling pathway regulates the outgrowth of limbs and craniofacial structures during embryogenesis and how this pathway when aberrantly activated results in tumorigenesis.

BIKMAN, BENJAMIN, Assistant Professor. PhD, East Carolina University, 2008. Elucidate the molecular mechanisms that mediate the complications associated with obesity and metabolic diseases, with particular attention on lipid and inflammation-induced insulin resistance. Website

BROWN, MICHAEL D., Associate Teaching Professor. PhD, Colorado State University, 1999. Regulation of Axon and Dendrite Extension and Pathfinding During Nervous System Development. Regeneration of the nervous system following injury. Regulation of the actin cytoskeleton during cell motility and division. Website

BUSATH, DAVID D., Professor. MD, University of Utah, 1978. Mechanisms of neuronal channel structure, selectivity and gating; lipid-protein interaction; Gramicidin channel structure, permeability and dynamics; mode of nerve cell invasion by Botulinum neurotoxin. Electrophysiology; Molecular Modeling; Molecular Biophysics. Website

, Associate Professor. PhD, University of Utah 2003. Learning and memory are mediated by synaptic plasticity or in other words changes in synapse activity or structure. The goal of the lab is identify the mechanisms mediating different forms of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, the structure mediating spatial and declarative memory. Website

HANSEN, JASON M., Assistant Professor. PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2001. Cellular function is dependent upon numerous factors, including the balance of reducing and oxidizing equivalents of redox state. During periods of redox imbalance, cellular processes are perturbed, indicative of changes to cellular proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Our laboratory focuses on oxidative stress-related changes to cell signaling during embryonic development in efforts to better understand mechanisms of birth defects.

HANSEN, MARC D., Associate Professor. PhD, Stanford 2002. During development, cell junctions are assembled and disassembled to form tissues and organs. When control of this process is lost in cancers, metastasis results. Our goal is to understand the molecular basis of how cells control cell junction assembly and disassembly in developments and in cancer metastasis.

HILL, JONATHON T., Assistant Professor. PhD, Columbia University, 2010. Congenital heart defects are the most common form of birth defects in the United States. In order to understand the mechanisms underlying these diseases, we are using interdisciplinary approaches combining the zebrafish animal model, molecular biology, genetics and bioinformatics to characterize the gene regulatory network driving heart differentiation and morphogenesis. Website

JUDD, ALLAN M., Professor. PhD, West Virginia University, 1981. Interaction between the immune system, endocrine system, and nervous system. Effects of the immune system and immune system hormones upon the release of hormones from the adrenal cortex. Determination of the mechanism of cytokine stimulation and inhibition of adrenocortical function. Physiology; Neuroendocrinology. Website

KOOYMAN, DAVID L., Professor. PhD, Ohio University, 1993. The role of Bardet-Biedi syndrome proteins in centrosome assembly and regulation, including primary cilia disorders, i.e. sonic hedgehog signaling pathway. Mechanisms of Gene Expression. Website

PORTER, JAMES P., Dean, Professor. PhD, University of California, San Francisco, 1982. Autonomic control of the cardiovascular system-focusing on the role hormones such as angiotensin II, insulin, and vasopressin play in modulating neural regulation of blood pressure. Research emphases are on how these hormones shape the development of nueronal circuits for cardiovascular control in young adults. Neuroendocrinology; Hypertension. Website

REYNOLDS, PAUL R., Associate Professor. PhD, University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center 2004. Developmental role of autocrine/paracrine signaling in the lung during branching morphogenesis; pulmonary remodeling induced by interactions between messenchymal/epithelial compartments; Mechanisms of pulmonary injury and disease related to environmental tobacco or oxidative stress. Website

SILCOX, ROY W., Associate Professor. PhD, North Carolina State University, 1986. Mammalian reproductive physiology; Characterization, enhancement, and manipulation of ovarian function. Management; Superovulation; Embryonic Development. Website

STARK, MICHAEL R., Associate Professor. PhD, University of California, Irvine, 1998. Developmental biology-how neuronal precursor cells communicate with one another during early events in nervous system development. Research in the lab focuses on identifying molecules involved in early cranial placode development. Currently, we are investigating the role of Wnts, Frizzleds, FGFs and FGF receptors in trigeminal placode development. Developmental Biology. Website

SUDWEEKS, STERLING N., Associate Professor. PhD, University of Utah, 1997. Modulation of ligand-gated ion channel physiology by gene expression. These channels are involved in synaptic transmission and implicated in several conditions (e.g., epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, motor disorders, and schizophrenia). They are also the pharmacological targets in many therapeutic situations (e.g., any general anesthetics, sedatives, antiemetics, and even some novel analgesics). Pharmacology of the Nervous System.

SULI, ARMINDA., Assistant Professor. PhD, University of Utah, 2007. Neural circuitry development. The mechanisms that oversee proper development and formation of neural circuits. The development and innervation of specialized mechanosensory cells which are crucial for hearing and balance. A second project in the lab focuses on understanding the development of neurons that receive multisensory input. Multisensory neurons can be affected in individuals with neurological disorders such as autism, dyslexia, etc. Website

THOMSON, DAVID M., Associate Professor. PhD, East Carolina University, 2005. Research in the lab focuses on intracellular signaling pathways controlling skeletal muscle growth and metabolism. Exercise Physiology and Endocrinology. Website

, Associate Professor. PhD, Boston University School of Medicine, 2003. Translational anatomy of degenerative diseases and developmental disorders. Primary focus on histological validation of MRI biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, schizophrenia, and autism. Secondary focus on gross anatomical validation of new technique in the practice of radiology, cardiology, head and neck surgery, and anesthesiology. Website

, Chair, Professor. PhD, University of California, Irvine, 1986. Cellular and molecular physiology particularly vesicle membrane fusion and its regulation by SNARE proteins. Tenitus and botulium toxins. Molecular Mechanisms of Exocytosis; Neuroscience of Transmitter Release; Electrophysiology of Ion Channels. Website

Affiliated Graduate Faculty

Hedges, Dawson W., Associate Professor of Psychology. MD, University of Utah, 1988. Psychiatry; Neuroscience; Neuroimaging, Effects of stress on brain structure.

Hopkins, Ramona O., Professor of Psychology. Ph.D., University of Utah, 1996. Cognitive Neuroscience Psychology; Learning and Memory; Neurobiological Approaches to Cognition; Neuroimaging; Health Related Quality of Life. Neuropsychological outcome following critical illness, cardiac and pulmonary disorders.

Kirwan, Brock, Assistant Professor of Psychology. Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 2006. Cognitive Neuroscience of memory; Neuroimaging

Steffenson, Scott C., Associate Professor of  Psychology. Ph.D., University of Utah, 1986. Neuropharmacology; Neurobiology of Addiction; Learning and Memory.


Resources and Opportunities

Program resources include the laboratories and equipment of department faculty within the Life Sciences Building and the Eyring Science Center. An Electron Microscope Laboratory, with both transmission and scanning microscopes is also located on campus. A DNA Sequencing Center is available in the Life Sciences Building.


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