Interdisciplinary Scientist Training Program


The Interdisciplinary Scientist Training Program is the graduate degree-granting arm of The University of Chicago's Medical Scientist Training Program. The goal of the ISTP is to train the next generation of physician-scientist leaders. Our program is designed to provide all ISTP students with rigorous scientific training that prepares them to excel in their field of interest, while providing the flexibility to forge new connections between traditional scientific areas.

The First Year

Students begin in Summer Quarter (mid-June) and complete the first half of the medical school's anatomy course with their MSTP cohort only. In August, students join their first-year medical student peers to complete the second half of the course. During the Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters, ISTP students have the opportunity to complete graduate and medical school courses. Throughout the academic year, members of the ISTP Curriculum Committee meet individually with students to design the curricular plan. 

Each ISTP student completes at least two lab rotations during the summer between their first and second year. These rotations allow students to identify their future PhD mentors in their area of interest.

All first year ISTP students participate in the Topics Journal Club course. This course provides an in-depth primary-literature based examination of basic science courses taken as part of the Pritzker Initiative Curriculum, and allows students to develop an appreciation for the primary literature, learn to critically evaluate articles, learn more about experimental design, learn how to evaluate and present an overview of a field, and become proficient in overall presentation skills.


ISTP encourages students to choose an area of “specialization.” Specializations, in general, consist of 5 courses: 3-4 that are programmatic, and 1-2 that are elective/basic advanced knowledge courses. However, some specializations require more coursework due to the nature of the research area. All courses will be graduate courses offered by an established PhD program. In addition to the coursework, Specializations require that the student participate in programmatic activities such as Research-in-Progress, Journal Club, Retreats (if available), seminar series, etc. All students present their research yearly in a program-approved venue.

Self-Designed Specializations

Students who choose not to do a prescribed Specialization, can design their own program with the approval of the ISTP Curriculum Committee. The self-designed program will include at least 5 graduate-level courses. In addition to the coursework, self-designed specializations must include a plan to participate in programmatic activities of an established graduate program such as Research-in-Progress, Journal Club, Retreats (if available), seminar series, etc. These students will also meet with and be advised by the ISTP Curriculum Committee to ensure that they make suitable course choices each quarter until a Thesis Committee takes over this role.

Breaking from Medical School to Complete Graduate Research

At the University of Chicago, ISTP students have the flexibility to choose to break from medical school to pursue their graduate research either after the first year of medical school or after the Spring Quarter of their second year of medical school. Most students take 4 years to complete their PhD research and successfully defend their thesis prior to returning to medical school.