Graduate Program

The Anatomy and Cell Biology PhD program aims to train the next generation of biomedical scientists. In addition, graduate students have the opportunity to specialize in human gross anatomy. Students will be trained in applying the scientific method to their area of research and will acquire essential skills in scientific writing and presentations. During their training, students will learn and apply a broad set of molecular and cell biological approaches. Students will be guided in their development by experienced and passionate faculty mentors. The current departmental research program focuses on epithelial stem cells, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, neurodegenerative disorders, and cancer biology. Students complete required coursework in Histology and Cell Biology, Foundations in Biomedical Sciences, Cancer Biology, Grant Writing, Statistics and Ethics in Research. Additional electives are available to further expand students’ skills and knowledge. First-year students are expected to complete two to three laboratory rotations with different members of the faculty. After these rotations, students will select their thesis mentor and begin their thesis research. Peer-reviewed publications and presentations of research at local and national meetings are expected of all PhD students. Our students generally graduate within 5 years after joining our program.


East Carolina University is committed to equality of educational opportunity and does not discriminate against applicants, students, or employees based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or handicap. Before seeking admission to the doctoral program in Anatomy and Cell Biology, the applicant should have or be in the process of obtaining a baccalaureate degree (BS or BA). Applicants should have taken Organic Chemistry, Biology, and Calculus. Additional coursework in the biomedical sciences is also recommended. Finally, applicants should be proficient in verbal and written communication.

Applications must be supported by an official transcript from each institution attended since high school, two (2) letters of recommendation from former professors who are familiar with your academic record and career interests. The Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology requires a written Statement of Purpose from the applicant describing their professional and career goals. After reviewing applications, select applicants will be invited to visit the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology for an interview.

The Brody School of Medicine offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences to all entering doctoral students. For this degree, students will select one of five Concentrations, represented by the department of Anatomy and Cell Biology; Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Microbiology and Immunology; Pharmacology and Toxicology; and Physiology.

Apply on-line:

Contact Us

Information and application packets regarding admission to the graduate program in Anatomy and Cell Biology may be obtained by contacting:

Dr. Karen Litwa
Director of Graduate Studies

Application forms to the graduate program and requests for information may also be accessed directly from the Graduate School office.


The major components of our graduate education program constitute coursework, laboratory work, in-depth self-study, and journal club discussion. The Director of the Graduate Program Committee will assist new students in selecting courses and research rotations.

Course Requirements for Anatomy and Cell Biology Program (36 – 38 hours):

  1. Histology and Cell Biology (ANAT 7210; 4 hours) (mandatory)
  2. Foundations in Biomedical Sciences I and II (BMSC7002 and BMSC7003; 4 hours each semester) (mandatory)
  3. Gross Anatomy and Embryology (ANAT 7200; 8 hours) or Medical Neuroscience (ANAT 7215; 4 hours) (elective)
  4. Current Topics (ANAT 6291; variable hours)
    Current topics courses will be offered on a rotating basis, and not every course will be offered every year. Examples of current topics courses that are currently planned are:

    1. Cancer Biology (mandatory)
    2. Advanced fluorescence microscopy
    3. Stem cells and regenerative medicine
  5. Research Proposal Strategies (ANAT 7365; 2 hours) (mandatory)
    In the Second Year Spring Semester, attendance and participation is required. This course is designed to instruct the student in the art of writing a grant proposal. This course will assist the student in writing their research proposal for the Doctoral Candidacy Examination.
  6. Ethics and Research (HUMS 7004, 2 hours) (mandatory)
  7. Biostatistics or Biometry (BIOS 7021 or PHAR 7777, 3 hours) (mandatory)
  8. Seminar (ANAT 7250, 1 hour) (mandatory)
  9. Elective Courses are offered by either the Department of ACB or other departments within East Carolina University. Electives totaling at least 16-20 hours to be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Advisory Committee and Director of Graduate Studies.

A general description of East Carolina University graduate courses is in the Graduate Catalogue along with additional information on program requirements and academic regulations.


Students gain laboratory experience with different investigators during the laboratory rotations in their first year. Students use these opportunities to aid in selecting the faculty member who will direct their dissertation research and to develop a working knowledge of techniques and current theoretical concepts of the discipline. The student will also develop an understanding of research problems in the discipline and gain skills in critical analysis and design of experiments.

Students also participate in program-wide journal clubs in which students critically evaluate current journal articles. Finally, students are encouraged to serve as teaching assistants in the following courses: Histology and Cell Biology, Foundations in Biomedical Sciences I or Gross Anatomy & Embryology and Neuroscience (optional).

Full-time doctoral students will receive an annual graduate assistantship of $28,000. Students who have achieved candidacy status are eligible for travel awards to present their research at national meetings.