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Synopsis of the program

​T​he Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience is designed to be completed in four to five years. Students begin a combination of research and coursework as soon as they arrive. The first year project introduces the student to the conduct and reporting of empirical research. Students are expected to complete several published projects before entering doctoral candidacy. One of these projects can later be expanded into a doctoral dissertation. A course in statistics and a series of basic neuroscience core courses in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and integrative neuroscience are taken in the first two years of study. Once these research and course requirements are met, a qualifying exam provides entrance to candidacy for the doctoral degree. The student then proposes, conducts and defends a doctoral dissertation. A description of each of these requirements is given below.

Course Work

​In the first two years, a student must successfully complete the neuroscience core sequence of four courses, and one advanced course in statistics. The core sequence consists of Neuroanatomy (Neuroscience I), Neurophysiology (Neuroscience II), Neuropharmacology (Neuroscience III), and Integrative Neurobiology (Neuroscience IV) or Neurons and Networks. A student can take other graduate courses offered by the Behavioral Neuroscience Faculty or other Programs or Departments in the University related to the student’s interests.

First Year Project

​The first year project is an empirical research experiment or series of experiments that is conducted under the guidance of a student’s advisor. An oral presentation of the project is given to the area faculty before the end of the second semester (usually in the Behavioral Neuroscience Brown Bag Seminar). A written report of the research project should be submitted for publication by the end of the student’s second year of study.

Qualifying Exam

​In the third year of study, a student forms a committee consistent with department policy to administer the qualifying exam and serve as the student's dissertation advisory committee. The student must compose a comprehensive list of readings, in consultation with the committee members, that will consist of major review articles, relevant books, and empirical journal articles that define the major cores of behavioral neuroscience (neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and behavior) and the student's area of interest. Based on the reading list, the student develops questions for the qualifying exam that are then approved by the committee. A written and oral exam is then taken.


​Once a student has qualified for doctoral candidacy, the student proposes a dissertation question of scientific interest and designs experiments to answer the question. Following completion of the dissertation experiments, the student writes the dissertation, defends it in a final oral exam, and receives the Ph.D.

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Synopsis of the program