Neuroscience Curriculum

scientific journals


Neuroscientists require multi-faceted training opportunities to ensure career success. Our curriculum  includes components specifically designed to help students incorporate cutting-edge experimental approaches in their biomedical thesis projects, develop in-depth critical reasoning, hone written and oral communication skills, work effectively in teams, and quantitatively evaluate and analyze data.

Our curriculum is made up of several different components designed to provide the range of training experiences needed by doctoral trainees.

  • Didactic general lecture courses provide students with the key information on which to build their neuroscience knowledge base;
  • Small group specialty courses introduce students to state-of-the-art concepts in neuroscience sub-disciplines;
  • Faculty-student tutorials provide students with one-on-one interactions with faculty in a specified area of expertise;
  • Techniques workshops expose students to a variety of general and cutting-edge experimental methods used in neuroscience research;
  • Thesis research

In addition, students participate in journal club, graduate seminar, career path seminars, and have the opportunity for mentored teaching experiences during their time in the program. A rich menu of community-based support activities are also provided.

More information about the curriculum and specific courses can be found in the GSBS Catalog.

Qualifying Exam

All Neuroscience students must complete a qualifying exam before the start of their third year. Because clear, succinct oral and written communication are essential for any successful research career, the qualifying examination consists of a written research proposal on the student's thesis topic and anoral defense of the proposal in front of a faculty panel.

The qualifying exam tests the student’s ability to identify and communicate the importance of the chosen research area, to create a timely and testable hypothesis, to design a rational and in-depth series of experiments to rigorously test the hypothesis, and to defend all experimental approaches to be employed in the proposed studies. During the oral examination, students should also be prepared to entertain questions outside the thesis topic area and probing one's general scientific knowledge.

Guidelines for the Neuroscience Qualifying Examination may be found in the Program Guide.

Thesis Committees

Neuroscience students select their thesis advisor upon completion of their laboratory rotations at the end of May of the first year.

At the beginning of the second year, all Neuroscience graduate students form a thesis committee to guide the student’s research direction and methodological approach. Thesis committees are initially composed of at least three members of the Neuroscience program faculty, including the thesis mentor. Prior to the student’s defense of dissertation (and typically during the final year of the thesis project), an external examiner with expertise in the student’s thesis area is added to the thesis committee. The external committee member participates in the student’s Defense of Dissertation.

Students meet with the thesis committee at least twice each year, once in the fall semester and once in the spring semester. The committee provides feedback using the GSBS Basic Science Division Thesis Advisory Committee Evaluation Form. Note that this form is not intended to contain the actual Thesis Committee Report. See the Program Guide linked below for guidelines on the thesis committee report.