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Synopsis of the program

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​T​he Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience is designed to be completed in 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. Two 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 two advanced course in statistics. The core sequence consists of Neuroanatomy (Neuroscience I), Neurophysiology (Neuroscience II), Neuropharmacology (Neuroscience III), and Integrative Neurobiology (Neuroscience IV). 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

The qualifying exam should be completed by the end of the fall semester of the 3rd year or at the very latest by the end of the summer after the 3rd year. Before embarking on the qualifying exam, the student will complete first- and second-year research and clear all previous incomplete grades. All required graduate courses should be completed either before or during the semester when the qualifying exam takes place. The qualifying exam should be evaluated by the committee of 3 people who are serving as an Advisory Committee for a student PLUS 2 additional members, which can be from the same program or other Departmental/External faculty from the student's field of specialization and other supporting fields. Comments on the written part of the qualifying exam will be released to the student in writing. 

In consultation with the student's Advisory Committee, a student will choose one of the following options for the Qualifying Exam- 1) Four question-based essays, covering core areas within a concentration; 2) NRSA proposal; or, 3) Review paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. In each case, there will also be an oral component to the qualifying exam.


​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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