Neuroscience Program

Objectives

The Neuroscience Graduate Program focuses on cellular and molecular as well as systems neurobiology. Topics of particular interest include synaptic physiology and synaptic plasticity; membrane biophysics, especially receptors and ion channels; neuronal organelle traffic, particularly the bio­genesis and exo- and endocytosis of synaptic vesi­cles; neurogenetics of invertebrates and verte­brates; development of neural systems; and molecu­lar and cellular basis of complex behavior.

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Special Requirements for Admission

Students wishing to join the Neuroscience Graduate Program must be enrolled in the Division of Basic Science and be in good standing academically. Usually, students seek enrollment in the Program toward the end of their first year of study following completion of the set of research rotations and selection of a mentor. Prospective students should note that the diverse research topics in the field make neurobiology an appro­priate doctoral subject for those with under­grad­uate degrees in physics, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and psychology, as well as in biological disciplines.

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Curriculum

Neurobiology is a field defined not by a spe­cific intellectual approach or experimental technique, but by its subject matter: the cells of the nervous, sensory, and muscular systems. Because of the variety of methods that must be brought to bear in studies of these systems, the optimal training for a career in neurobiological research includes an in-depth exposure to the principles of biochemistry, biophysics, cell and molecular biology, developmental biology, genet­ics, immunology, pharmacology, and physiology, as well as behavioral neuroscience.

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Core Curriculum

By providing a solid background in the above areas, the first-year Core Curriculum offers appropriate training for first-year students who elect to join the Neuroscience Graduate Program. The first-year course also provides 15 hours of course credit toward the minimum 24 hours required for graduation.

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Laboratory Rotations

First-year students participate in a minimum of two laboratory rotations. Insofar as possible, students with an interest in neurobiology should seek rotations that expose them to a wide variety of technical approaches, including anatomy, behavior, bio­chemistry, biophysics, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, and physiology. At the end of the first year of study, students choose a mentor for dissertation research.

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Advanced Courses

Course requirements and descriptions are listed on the Course Descriptions page.

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Neuroscience Journal Club

The Neuroscience Journal Club offers students an opportunity to keep abreast of recent research results, to sharpen critical acumen and to develop speaking skills. Every student in the Graduate Program is expected to attend a Journal Club and to participate actively. In addition, each student is required to make at least one Journal Club presentation per year.

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Neuroscience Seminar

Weekly neuroscience seminars hosted by the Departments of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neuro­science are held to present current advances in all areas of modern neurobiology. One or two sem­inars are organized by the students of the Neuro­science Graduate Program. Furthermore, numer­ous scientific presentations of interest to neuro­biologists occur each year in seminar series offered by the Departments of Cell Biology, Mo­lecular Biology, Pharmacology, and Physiology, among others. The University Lecture Series often deals with the nervous system and related topics.

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Work in Progress

Students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and other interested individuals meet on a biweekly basis to discuss current research carried out by students of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. The student presentations are made in a setting that fosters spontaneity and exchange of ideas.

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Annual Neuroscience Retreat

Once a year, students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members gather for an all-day meeting to present current work and exchange research ideas. This meeting is held off campus in a setting where participants have the opportunity to present their research in a manner similar to the annual meet­ing of the Society for Neuroscience. All students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program are expected to attend, and advanced students are required to present their research in a formal setting.

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Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination comprises a written and an oral component, each of which must be passed as part of the qualifications for admission to Ph.D. candidacy. Unless a prior extension is granted by the Steering Committee, each student must complete the qualifying exam­ination by the end of September of his or her second year of graduate enrollment. Those students in the Medical Scientist Training Program who initially take two years of medical training may defer the qualifying examination per approval of the Program Chair.

The written component is a research proposal dealing with a group of related scientific prob­lems in an area of study different from that in which the student expects to conduct his or her dissertation. The oral examination ordinarily is given in a single closed session lasting from one to two hours. The student is expected to answer questions relating to material in courses that he or she has taken, to the subject matter in the written proposal and to general information in the field of neurobiology.

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Dissertation Defense

A complete copy of the dissertation must be approved by the dissertation Committee before a public dissertation defense can be scheduled. The defense is composed of a public lecture describing the main observations of the research, followed by an oral examination by the dissertation Committee. Attendance during the oral examination is restricted to faculty members of the Graduate School, and participation is restricted to the examination Committee.

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