Coursework

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Behavioral Neuroscience Program

​​

General Requirements- Students must complete required coursework, a first- and second-year research project, pass the qualifying exam, and complete a dissertation. The Behavioral Neuroscience concentration requires a minimum of 80 credits from coursework, attendance of colloquia, and research hours.

​NSCI 626Advanced Neuroanatomy3
NSCI 627Advanced Neurophysiology3
NSCI 628Advanced Neuropharmacology3
NSCI 629Integrated Neuroscience I3
NSCI 630Integrated Neuroscience II3
  
TOTAL 15 credits

 

PLUS all BN students take-

PSYC 860Psychological Statistics3
PSCY 861Psychological Statistics3
PSYC 867Professional Development Seminar3
600/800 levelElective3
600/800 level*Elective3

 

PSYC 800PBS Colloquia8 (minimum)
PSYC 868First-year Research6
PSYC 868Second-year Research6
PSYC 868/869/964/969Research/Dissertation Research#30 (minimum)
TOTAL 80 credits

*One needs to be outside the Behavioral Neuroscience Curriculum and can be from another department

#minimum 9 of PSYC 969: Dissertation Research

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Master’s based on first- and/or second-year research

​A student may elect to obtain a Master’s Degree (M.S. in Neuroscience). This requires a successful thesis defense to the student’s Advisory Committee who must approve the final document prior to the student submitting the document to the Graduate College. The Thesis is also evaluated by the Department Chair and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Awarding the Master’s Degree is also subject to all other Departmental and University requirements. Passage of the Qualifying Exam is not a requirement for the Master’s Degree. 

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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.

Four question-based essays- The student must compose a comprehensive list of readings that will consist of major 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. This list should be completed and approved as soon as possible but not later than November of the third year. Based on the reading list, the student develops questions for the qualifying exam that are then approved by the student’s Advisory Committee PLUS two faculty members selected to serve on the Exam Committee. The Exam Committee selects and revises, as needed, four questions for the exam, in consultation with the student. For each question, the student is given two and a half days to prepare a written response. Thus, the exam is taken in four parts (one question limited to 2500 words each plus references), normally over a three-week period (15 working days providing 2.5 days for each question plus 1-2 day breaks as negotiated by the student). Questions are typically submitted and returned via email, which provides documentation of start and end times for each question. Failure to submit the exam by the deadline decreases the likelihood of a passing grade. This written exam is then evaluated by the student’s Exam Committee. The Exam Committee can also ask an expert outside of the Department or University to read and contribute to the evaluation. The student will be consulted and/or notified about the Exam Committee before undertaking the exam. The Exam Committee is responsible for determining the student’s grade. The student is given written feedback on the answers to the questions within two weeks to allow for preparation for the oral exam. If one (or more) of the written answers gets a “fail” grade a student will be given one opportunity to rewrite it. Students are encouraged to consult with examiners concerning their failing grade before undertaking the re-write. This extends the grading process and time of progression to the oral examination. 

In the oral exam, the same questions are revisited and the student provides arguments and responses in an interactive setting. During the first part, the student will orally deliver an overview of the answer to each question. In the second part, the student is expected to defend answers and visit questions provided in the written feedback. The Oral Qualifying Exam should be completed by the end of February or July. 

The three potential outcomes of the qualifying exam are: 

• Pass

 • Conditional pass: Will be given if any kind of remediation is required by the Exam Committee. These most commonly (but not limited to) include: full or partial re-write of one or more questions; or, additional time will be given if one or more oral answers fail to meet the standards of the Committee.

• Fail: If the student’s performance during the oral examination or following specific remediation is viewed as unacceptable by the Exam Committee, the student will either be recommended for dismissal from the program or given the opportunity of a second oral exam that must be completed within a specified timeline decided by the Exam Committee.

NIH NRSA Proposal- Students will first submit a 350-500 word (approximately one page) abstract of their proposal including the following components to the student’s Advisory Committee PLUS two faculty members selected to serve on the Exam Committee: 1) the names of both the student and mentor; 2) an overarching hypothesis of the proposal and its significance; 3) a brief statement of the specific aims of the proposal; 4) a brief description of the major techniques or technical approaches that will be used; and, 5) a summary of expected results and major conclusions if the project were successfully completed. A proposal abstract will be submitted either by May 1st of the second year, December 1 of the third year, or May 1st of the third year. The committee members should provide significant, meaningful feedback to the student about the proposal within 2 weeks.

Format of the Research Proposal- Students should follow the format and guidelines set forth for the Research Training Plan sections of pre-doctoral NRSA from the National Institutes of Health. The written proposal must contain the following sections as specified by the NIH for the Research Training Plan for pre-doctoral fellowship applications: 1) Specific Aims; 2) Background and Significance; 3) Innovation; 4) Research Design and Methods; and, 5) Literature Cited. The Behavioral Neuroscience concentration will create a source (electronic form) providing links to examples of successful proposals.

The proposal should be 6 pages (11 or 12 pt, Arial or Helvetica font) including sections 1-4, figures and figure legends, but not including Literature Cited. The proposal must be written solely and in its entirety by the student and may not be a reproduction of any other work completed or in progress. Students are encouraged to discuss their project with anyone, including their faculty supervisor, and members of their Exam Committee, in as much detail as they wish. This can include detailed discussions on aims, experiments, methods, etc. These discussions may include helping the student design experiments and critique the written document in general terms. However, the student must be prepared to orally defend ALL aspects of the proposal including the background, rationale, design of the specific aims, experimental design, data interpretation, pitfalls and methods including all techniques proposed. This aspect of the examination cannot be overemphasized.

The written proposal is due to the Exam Committee by either July 1st or February 1st (depending on the submission of the proposal abstract). The Exam Committee members must email within two weeks whether they feel the oral defense should proceed.  The oral defense proceeds as long as there is no more than one dissent among the committee and that dissent is not from the Faculty Advisor. 

The Oral Qualifying Exam consists of three parts. During the first part, the student will orally deliver a brief (20 minute) presentation explaining the research proposal to assigned Committee members. In the second part, the student is expected to defend the proposal to the Committee by answering questions related to the research project. The third part involves a series of broader questions from the Committee in which the student is expected to demonstrate a general knowledge in the field of Behavioral Neuroscience. The Oral Qualifying Exam should be completed by the end of July or February.

The three potential outcomes of the qualifying exam are: 

• Pass

 • Conditional pass: Any specific timetable and/or procedures for remediation will be set by the Committee. These most commonly (but not limited to) include: full or partial re-write of the proposal; and/or a re-interview on specific parts of the exam with one or all members of the Committee; and/or the successful completion of an additional graduate-level course.

• Fail: If the student’s performance during the oral examination or following specific remediation is viewed as unacceptable by the Committee, the student will either be recommended for dismissal from the program or given the opportunity of a second oral exam that must be completed within a specified timeline decided by the Exam Committee.

Review Paper - Students will first submit a 350-500 word (approximately one page) abstract of their paper including the following components to the student’s Advisory Committee PLUS two faculty members selected to serve on the Exam Committee: 1) the names of both the student and mentor; 2) an overarching hypothesis/area of focus for the paper; 3) a brief description of the length, formatting, and content of the paper; and, 4) a brief summary of the importance or unique focus of the paper. A proposal abstract will be submitted by either May 1st of the second year, December 1 of the 3rd year, or May 1st of the 3rd year. The committee members should provide significant, meaningful feedback to the student about the proposal within 2 weeks.

Content and Format of the Review Paper- The paper is a research paper in which the student should (a) provide a new integration of an existing body of literature that offers novel ideas, hypotheses, and/or theoretical perspectives, (b) identifies major gaps in the literature, and (c) discusses how those gaps might be filled. The paper cannot be a simple review of the literature; it must provide a synthesis or integration of theory and research on the topic and be issue- or idea-focused. The student’s goal should be to become a leading expert in the chosen research question and to demonstrate expertise by providing an integrative review of the literature that moves the area forward. 

The paper should be original and not derivative of another paper already published or unpublished but known to the student.The paper should be written in a style that is consistent with articles in journals that publish integrative, non-empirical papers. Indeed, one criterion that the Committee should consider in evaluating the paper is whether it is suitable for publication in a target journal appropriate for the concentration.

The minimum length for the paper text is 8,000 words, and the maximum length of text is 15,000 words. These limits do not include front and back matter (e.g., title page, references, and tables and figures). The student and Faculty Advisor should agree upon the intended length of the paper before writing begins. The paper is due to the Exam Committee by either July 1st or February 1st (depending on the submission of the proposal abstract). The committee members must email within two weeks whether they feel the oral defense should proceed.  The oral defense proceeds as long as there is no more than one dissent among the Committee and that dissent is not from the Faculty Advisor. Students are encouraged to submit their review articles for publication, but is not required for passing the qualifying exam.

Use of the Faculty Advisor and Exam Committee- Although the paper is primarily the work of the student, it is expected that the Faculty Advisor will provide advice, instructions, and feedback both before and during the writing process. However, the Faculty Advisor should not edit or rewrite any parts of the paper itself. The Faculty Advisor should serve in the role of an external reviewer who provides feedback about the content and style of the paper without directly collaborating on it.

Students should also consult with their Exam Committee members as they consider their paper topic and the scope of the paper. Students should have a conversation with each Committee member after they have developed a plan but before they have started writing. One of the jobs of the Committee is to provide feedback and assistance in finding appropriate materials for the project.

During the writing phase of the paper, students may discuss ideas with their Committee members by asking them to read and comment on parts of the paper. However, the Committee members must refrain from editing the paper. Instead, they should express concerns and point out weaknesses or strengths without telling students directly how to fix the problem.

Although students may not write collaboratively on the paper with their Faculty Advisor or Committee members prior to the oral exam, they may seek substantive collaborative help from Committee members afterwards if they plan to submit the paper for publication.

The Oral Qualifying Exam consists of three parts. During the first part, the student will orally deliver a brief (20 minute) slide presentation of the paper, typically using a small number of slides to illustrate major points.  In the second part, faculty will ask questions that stem from the document. The third part involves a series of broader questions from the Committee in which the student is expected to demonstrate a general knowledge of the field of Behavioral Neuroscience. The Oral Qualifying Exam should be completed by the end of July or February.

The three potential outcomes of the qualifying exam are:

• Pass

• Conditional pass: Any specific timetable and/or procedures for remediation will be set by the Committee. These most commonly (but not limited to) include: full or partial re-write of the paper; and/or a re-interview on specific parts of the exam with one or all members of the Committee; and/or the successful completion of an additional graduate-level course.

• Fail: If the student’s performance during the oral examination or following specific remediation is viewed as unacceptable by the Committee, the student will either be recommended for dismissal from the program or given the opportunity of a second oral exam that must be completed within a specified timeline decided by the Committee.

For All Three Types of Qualifying Exams- After evaluation of both the written and oral exams by the Exam Committee, a pass, conditional pass, or fail grade and a written feedback report are provided to the student. In the event that the exam or parts of the exam did not meet criteria for passing by majority of the Exam Committee, the student can elect to retake the exam or parts of the exam. Feedback from the Exam Committee will be given to help prepare the student for the retest. The re-administered exam (written and/or oral) must be completed within two months of completing the first exam. One re-take exam is allowed.  Failure to pass the re-take exam disqualifies the student from the doctoral program and he/she will be recommended for termination from the doctoral program. In the event of an unsatisfactory revised qualifying exam, the Exam Committee will convene to critically evaluate the student’s record to date. In most cases, if all other requirements have been met, the student can opt to prepare their first/second year research as a Master’s Thesis, so that when they leave the program they will do so having earned a Master’s Degree.

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