Research Opportunities

Masters Thesis

The thesis is prepared and submitted in compliance with the detailed Guidelines for Writing a Thesis or Dissertation.The oral defense is scheduled only after submission of an original copy of the dissertation to the Graduate College office for preliminary review by the Dean of the Graduate College. This copy as well as copies to the thesis defense committee must be submitted at least 4 weeks prior to the anticipated oral defense. 

Please follow this link for a list of all past Pharmacology Master's Thesis.

Masters Thesis Committee

After the student chooses a thesis advisor, a committee is formed that serves as both the Studies Committee and the Thesis Defense Examination Committee.* The thesis defense committee consists of at least four UVM faculty members, two from the Pharmacology Department including the thesis advisor. The chair of this committee must be from a different program and department than the candidate, and must be approved by the graduate dean upon nomination by the thesis advisor. This committee serves as both the comprehensive exam committee and the thesis defense committee. The candidate must meet with this committee to present a pre-thesis proposal (see below) and also approximately 6 months before the expected defense date to obtain "permission to write the dissertation". It is recommended that the candidate meet with this committee every six months to update the committee on the progress of his/her research. (Committee is composed of 1 outside program, 2 inside program, 1 either.)

Pre-Thesis Proposal 

The goal of the pre-thesis proposal is twofold.  First it will provide the thesis committee with a written summary of the proposed research so that they can make useful contributions at the first thesis committee meeting.  Second it serves as the first draft outline of the student's Master's Thesis.

Please note that this proposal is not intended to mimic an actual grant proposal in either size or scope.  It is intended as a starting point for discussion at the first thesis committee meeting, and as a way for students to begin preparation for their thesis.  The student is encouraged to work with their thesis advisor in the preparation of this document.

At least one week prior to the first dissertation committee meeting, the student will submit a brief (4-7 pages) summary of the planned research in the following format:

  • Specific Aims:  The first page should be formatted as a "Specific Aims" page of an NIH grant proposal.  This specific aims page should describe the context, long term goals of the project, hypothesis and/or model to be tested.  It is important to include information on how each aim will be approached experimentally.  The Aims should be written so that they are understandable not only by experts in the field, but by scientists with a broad range of expertise in the life sciences.


  • Experimental Design:  The remaining portion of the proposal should include the following:
    • A brief background section (1-2 pages).  Use the background section to build an argument for your project and give the reader what they need to know, but not more.  It is not intended to be a literature review.
    • An experimental design section (approximately 2-5 pages) describing how the research will be carried out and analyzed.  This section should describe how the research for each aim will actually be carried out and how the data will be interpreted.  This section should contain the following:
      • There should be enough methodological detail to give the thesis committee a clear idea of what the experiments physically entail and how the data will be quantified and analyzed.  Plans and rationale for statistical tests and sample size determined should be clear.
      • A discussion of the expected results, potential difficulties and limitations, and alternative approaches should also be included.


  • References:  Provide a list of references using a format that includes the title of the referenced article.  For example, in Endnote use the style for "Cell" as in:  (Brownstein et al., 2016).

Brownstein, C.A., Beggs, A.H., Rodan, L., Shi, J., Towne, M.C., Pelletier, R., Cao, S., Rosenberg, P.A., Urion, D.K., Picker, J., et al. (2016).  Clinical heterogeneity associated with the KCNA1 mutations include cataplexy and nonataxic presentations.  Neurogenetics 17, 11-16.


* Note: The thesis advisor is member #1. Member #2 is anyone with a PRIMARY appointment to the department of pharmacology. This excludes adjunct faculty. Member #3 is any UVM graduate faculty. This could be a person with Primary, adjunct or no affiliation with Pharmacology. Member #4 must have not have primary or adjunct faculty affiliation with Pharmacology. That outside member must also serve as the chair. All of the members must be qualified as graduate faculty with the graduate college.