DVM seeking PhD

Program Structure and Requirements



Trainees enrolled in the Comparative Medicine Training Program are expected to earn a PhD degree, which requires original research, and typically takes an average length of 4.2 years to complete.

Scholars typically take their A Exams before the first anniversary of their enrollment. Successful completion of the A Exam is required for continued enrollment in the Scientist/Scholars Program.

A final ("B") exam is scheduled at the conclusion of the student's period of graduate study.

Coursework Requirements

Students are required to complete BIOAP 6100, a graduate level course in experimental design, and two core graduate-level core courses for letter grade in the areas of biochemistry, genetics, or cell and molecular biology. This formal coursework must be completed before the first anniversary of their enrollment. This requirement in some cases may be partially or completely fulfilled prior to appointment. Trainees should discuss their course selections with their faculty advisor, graduate training committee, and the training director. Waivers for prior coursework must be agreed upon by the Program Director.

Additional coursework information can be found on the linked Core Course form.

Maintaining Professional Skills:

The program can allow scholars to spend up to 10% of their time (2-3 days per month) in clinical practice or professional development activities. Prior approval for such activities must be obtained from the Program Director and the faculty trainer/mentor.


Trainee Capabilities

We expect trainees on the Comparative Medicine training grant to:

  • Participate in lab meetings and journal clubs
  • Participate in the bimonthly career discussions.
  • Present at Work-in-progress seminars once per year
  • Present your work in posters and as talks at National meetings
  • Publish!
  • Network with other scientists and know your fellow trainees.
  • Join the Scientific Society for your field.
  • Be ethical.
  • Get involved in your community.
  • Enjoy!

Fellowship Application/Research Proposal:

All supported scholars are required to prepare a fellowship application for submission to an external sponsor by the first anniversary of their enrollment. Trainees should consult with the Program Director and their faculty mentor at least 6 months prior to the due date of their fellowship application to discuss a suitable external sponsor mechanism. Fellowship awards available to veterinarians include:

  • Ruth Kirchstein Individual National Research Service Awards (NRSA)
  • Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Awards (K08)
  • American Heart Association Fellowships and others.

An advantage of writing a research proposal is that it will help focus your thinking about your research. During the process of preparing a proposal will have to:

  • Critically evaluate existing knowledge related to your thesis research;
  • Develop hypotheses;
  • Design experiments to test your hypotheses in a logical and connected way.

You will need guidance writing your first proposal and scholars are strongly advised to seek advice from their mentor. Trainees should consult with the Program Director about their proposal during the first 6 months of support, as it will take some time to formulate a successful proposal.

Individual Development plan (IDP):

All trainees must prepare an individual development plan each year and review this plan with their Faculty mentor and Graduate committee. This document should be submitted to the Program Director by February 1st annually.

Satisfactory Academic Performance:

For continued support on the training grant, trainees must maintain a B average grade in their coursework and show satisfactory progress in their thesis research.

Conditions of Appointment

The scholarship funds for The Graduate Program for Veterinary Scientists are provided by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH requires that the research conducted by the trainee must address the NIH mission and goals. All of the approved faculty trainers have NIH-funded research projects that will meet this requirement.
Trainees appointed to an NIH T32 fellowship are required to sign a Payback agreement that agrees you will perform qualified research or teaching activities for a length of time equal to the period of NRSA support you received.

Receiving 12 months of training support obligates you to perform 12 months of qualified research or teaching activities as payback. Only the first year of training incurs a payback obligation; the second year of training pays back the first year, with each month of qualifying payback activity paying back one month of NRSA support.

If you receive two full years of T32 training, you will have completed your payback obligation. In general, payback activity must involve at least 20 hours per week and be conducted over 12 consecutive months.

Recommended: Career planning and the Cornell BEST Program

All trainees are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Cornell BEST (Broadening Experience in Scientific Training) Program (http://www.best.cornell.edu/) and to develop a career plan early in their graduate training. The BEST program provides many resources that are applicable to careers within and outside of academia.

Trainee Outcomes

Current positions of graduates:

Current Position Number Percentage
Academia 8 30.8%
Government 3 11.5%
Clinical practice/residency 5 19.2%
Post-doctoral training 10 38.5%
Of those trainees who are no longer in formal training programs, about 50% are in academic tenure-track or clinical track professorships.