Curriculum Overview

To complete the program in the five-year time frame, students must begin research in the lab of their thesis mentor in the junior year. Students should identify a research mentor at the time of application. Drs. Silver, Lack, and Milligan can assist with identifying potential research mentors. Additionally, students in this program will have the opportunity to begin graduate level coursework in their junior year. The planned sequence of coursework and research is outlined below.

Neuroscience Minor (Years 1-4)

Students will complete the Neuroscience Minor requirements which include at least 4 semesters of research during their junior and senior year and at least one of the following courses:

  • Animal Behavior
  • Neurobiology
  • Developmental Neurobiology
  • Sensory Biology

Note that these courses require other biology courses as prerequisites, and students should plan their schedules accordingly. Students who take more than one of these courses for the Neuroscience Minor will be in a stronger position when beginning Neuroscience Graduate Program courses. The recommended pre-health professions curriculum (which can be combined with any major) will also provide strong preparation for Neuroscience Graduate Program courses.

Graduate Coursework (Years 3-4)

During their junior and senior year, dual degree students earn graduate level credit by enrolling in Directed Studies in Neurobiology which involves attending Neuroscience-related seminars, maintaining a seminar notebook, participating in lab meetings with their research mentor, attending journal club, and submitting a draft manuscript relating to their research for review by the program director.

Graduate Coursework (Year 5)

Introduction Neuroscience I: This course covers basic topics in modern neuroscience and provides a strong, interdisciplinary foundation.

The course is composed of two sections: I

  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology

In Neuroanatomy, students attend lectures that provide an overview of material and work in teams in the laboratory to explore anatomical relationships. In Neurophysiology/Pharmacology, sessions are a mixture of didactic lectures, discussion and student review and presentation of primary literature related to topics covered.

Introduction to Neuroscience II: This team-taught course is composed of three sections: I) Development, II) Sensory Systems, and III) Motor Systems. The overall course format is focused on student discussion of material. Course assignments and examinations are designed to develop student skills in experimental design and interpretation, literature review and oral and written presentation of material.

Introduction to Neuroscience III: Topics covered in this section include core concepts of cognitive neuroscience and psychology (e.g., attention, learning and memory, language, perceptual encoding, executive function, specialization, segregation, and lateralization) and basic computational concepts and models (e.g., associative networks, feature maps, learning algorithms). As this is the third in the series, it is also used as an opportunity to develop professional skills. Students develop the lectures and lead the discussions in this course, with expert faculty facilitation, guidance, and feedback. 

Quantitative Methods in Biomedical Sciences: This is the introductory quantitative data analysis course for the program. It was designed with two principles in mind. First, we recognized that if students were to be competent in selecting the proper methods for analyzing their data, and critically evaluating the selections of others, it was essential that they understand the concepts and mechanics underlying statistical analysis, and not just be trained in “point-and-click” software packages. Second, we recognized that modern datasets could no longer be analyzed by hand, and that virtually all modern analyses require automation. Competency is assessed with formal testing, evaluation of student-selected “analysis projects”, and evaluation of programming assignments. This course has grown to be the most popular statistical methods course in the entire graduate school with an annual enrollment of over 60 students as all PhD programs now appreciate the value of this type of training. It is also one of the highest-rated courses in student reviews. Graduates of this course go on to program and control the apparatuses and analytic frameworks in their respective laboratories. 

Seminars in Neuroscience: This seminar series includes presentations by: (i) seminars of students defending thesis, (ii) neuroscience faculty and post-docs; and (iii) visiting neuroscientists. Attendance is required by all students in the Program. All departments participating in the Neuroscience Program sponsor seminars on diverse topics in Neuroscience.

Neuroscience Tutorial: This is a required course of all students in the program. The tutorial Series provides opportunities for students to present their research in a seminar format. Students receive one-on-one feedback on strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for improving seminar skills from the course director and written comments from attending students and faculty. In the first year, MS (and PhD) students prepare a research manuscript paper during the summer semester. The 10-page, double-spaced paper is meant to be an empirical report on research conducted during a rotation and should be in the J. Neuroscience format. It should include a brief review of the literature related to the research question. MS students present a 20-30 minute seminar in their last semester of the program. Students are encouraged to coordinate the tutorial presentation with final committee meeting to evaluate the thesis.

Foundations of Scientific Integrity and Professionalism: A short-course designed to offer foundational ethics and integrity training to incoming biomedical graduate students. Key concepts include introduction to key professional norms in science, including, but not limited to, responsible conduct of research, new professional expectations, as well as student life. An introduction to topics, that will be further explored using case-studies in other courses include: plagiarism, animal & human subject research, record keeping, 

Curriculum Overview

Students begin graduate-level coursework by attending a Neuroscience Journal Club each semester. Students will also attend the Neuroscience Seminars course for at least one semester during the junior or senior year. The sequence of coursework and research spans 5 years.