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Curriculum Requirements

Required Coursework

All NGP students complete a core curriculum during their first year that includes: Cellular Neuroscience (NSC 512), Integrative and Systems Neuroscience (NSC 531), Ethics in Research (IND 501), Human Brain Anatomy (NSC 511)1,and 3-4 laboratory rotations of their own choosing. During years 1 and 2, NGP students must also complete 4 semesters of NSC Journal Club (NSC 592) and Applied Statistics in the Biomedical Sciences (BST 467). Students are also required to serve as a teaching assistant for one semester (usually in year 2 or 3) and to register for NSC Student Seminar (NSC 503) each semester they are in the program. 

At the end of the first year, students formally declare whether they will follow the Neuroscience (NSC) or Neurobiology & Anatomy (NBA) track. The two tracks accommodate distinct training objectives:

  • Neuroscience track –  maximum flexibility to tailor advanced coursework to fit individual education and research objectives
  • NBA track – comprehensive exposure to human physiology and anatomy or medical neuroscience through participation in the medical school curriculum          

Electives

In addition to the coursework listed above, students must complete a minimum of 10 elective credits of coursework.2  For most students, a maximum of 4 elective credits will come from either Foundations in Modern Biology (modules 3, 4 and 5) (IND 431), Biochemistry (IND 408), Molecular Biology and Genetics (IND 410), or Foundations in Cellular and Molecular Biology (ANA 511).  The remaining 6 (or more) elective credits are earned in upper level graduate courses and are chosen in consultation with the NGP Director and/or the student’s thesis advisor.    

Sample Curriculum

1st Year—All students

Fall Semester

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours3
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
IND 501 Ethics & Professional Integrity in Research 0
NSC 512 Cellular Neuroscience 5
NSC 590 Lab Rotations Variable Credits
3IND 431 Foundations in Modern Biology (Modules 3,4,5) 3
  Elective (optional) Variable Credits

Spring Semester

Course Number Course Title Credit Hours3
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
NSC 511 Human Brain Anatomy 1
NSC 531 Integrative & Systems NSC 6
NSC 590 Lab Rotations Variable Credits
  Elective Variable Credits

1 NSC 511 is not a requirement for M.D/Ph.D. students 
2. M.D./Ph.D. students can use 10 credit hours of medical school coursework to fulfill the electives requirement.
3. Students register for a total of 16 credit hours/semester.

2nd year—Neuroscience track

Fall Semester

Course Number Course Name Credit Hours
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
NSC 595 PhD Research Variable Credits
  Elective Variable Credits

Spring Semester

Course Number Course Name Credit Hours
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
4BST 467 Appl. Stats in Biomed. Sci. 4
5NSC 581 Teaching Tutorial 3
NSC 595 PhD Research Variable Credits
  Elective Variable Credits

2nd year—NBA track

Fall Semester

Course Number Course Name Credit Hrs.
6ANA 526 Human Structure & Function 16

OR

Course Number Course Name Credit Hrs.
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
ANA 525 Mind, Brain and Behavior 8
ANA 595 PhD Research 6

Spring Semester

Course Number Course Name Credit Hrs.
NSC 592 NSC Journal Club 1
NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar 1
5NSC 581 Teaching Tutorial  3
4BST 467 Appl. Stats in Biomed. Sci. 4
ANA 595 PhD Research Variable Credits
  Elective Variable Credits

Irrespective of track, students should strive to complete all coursework by the end of the fifth semester of study.

4. BST 467 may be replaced with either Intro to Biostatistics (BST 463) or Data Analysis I (BCS 510) offered in the fall semester. 
5. Students may elect to fulfill the TA requirement (NSC 581) in the fall or spring of year 2 or 3.
6. Students taking ANA 526 cannot register for any other courses that semester.

7Partial list of graduate level electives taken by current students and recent graduates

Course Number Course Title

ANA 405

Hearing & Balance: Structure, Function & Disease  

ANA 411

Cellular and Molecular Bio Found

ANA 513

Neuroinflammation

ANA 518

Intro to Neuroengineering

ANA/NSC 591

PhD Readings (Instructions on creating this course are in Appendix B on page 25 & 26)

BCS 502

Cognition

BCS 511

Behavioral Methods in Cognitive Science

BCS 512

Computational Methods in Cognitive Science

BCS 513

Intro to fMRI: Imaging, Computational Analysis & Neural Representations

BCS 521

Auditory Reception

BCS 532

Probabilistic theories of cognitive processing

BST 465

Design of Clinical Trials

GEN 507

Advanced Genetics

GEN 508

Genomics and Systems Biology

IND 420

Mastering Scientific Information

IND 447

Signal Transduction

MBI 403

Drug Discovery

MBI 456

General Virology 

MBI 473

Immunology

MBI 492

Special Topics

MBI 515

Advanced Immunology

NSC 525

Biology of Neurological Disease

NSC 547

Topics in Computational Neuroscience

PHP 404

Principles of Pharmacology

PTH 507

Cancer Biology

PTH 509

Pathways of Human Disease

PTH 571

Molecular Basis of Disease

TOX 521

Toxicology I

TOX 522

Toxicology II

7. Not all courses are offered each year.

Medical Scientist Training Program – M.D./Ph.D.

  • M.D./Ph.D. students are allowed to waive the required Neuroscience Graduate Program electives.
  • NSC 511 is not required for M.D./Ph.D. students. Email the course instructor for approval to waive this requirement.
  • M.D./Ph.D. students are exempt from the TA requirement but may do so if interested.
  • M.D./Ph.D. students need to complete only one rotation report – instructions on page 8-10 of the handbook.

Advising committees

During the first year each student is assigned a first year advising committee comprised of two NGP faculty members and a senior NGP student. The goal of the first year advisory committee is to provide critical feedback to students early in their careers, before they choose a thesis lab. Since students may not have formed individual relationships with faculty and senior students at this point, the first year advisory committee provides an opportunity to forge such relationships and get mentorship at a critical time when students may have less access to meaningful input. Mentors provide advice on areas that include (but are not limited to): expectations in graduate school, balancing classes and lab work, study habits, choosing a rotation and eventually a thesis lab, reading the scientific literature, scientific writing, qualifying exams, interacting with faculty and students, networking and future career options. The first year advising committee also provides feedback on rotation reports (see below) and oral presentations in student seminar. By the start of the second year, this committee is replaced by the Part I Exam Committee and eventually by the Thesis Committee. Timing and guidelines for convening these committees are described later in the handbook.

Lab rotations

The primary purpose of the lab rotation is to provide students with an insider’s view, through active participation in a research project, of the research interests, laboratory environment, and mentoring style of faculty they are considering as potential thesis advisors.  Laboratory rotations also provide an opportunity to learn new techniques and to gain an appreciation for different scientific approaches to a problem. The experience should broaden one’s research skills and, therefore, students may want to avoid multiple rotations in labs utilizing essentially the same approaches and techniques.  On the other hand, coordinating the rotations to employ different techniques aimed at investigations into one particular area of neuroscience research can also be beneficial.

NGP students must complete at least 3 rotations by the end of the summer after their first year.8  The Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education has established a standard set of start and end dates for lab rotations as follows:

Rotation Proposal Due

  • June 18
  • September 15
  • December 18
  • March 1

Rotation Begins 

  • July 1
  • October 1
  • January 2
  • March 16

Rotation Ends

  • August 31
  • December 15
  • March 15
  • May 31

Evaluations Due

  • September 15
  • December 20
  • April 1
  • June 15

8. M.D./Ph.D. students complete two lab rotations generally during their 1st and 2nd summers in medical school.

At the conclusion of each rotation, a Lab Rotation Evaluation is completed by the student and rotation mentor. Rotation Evaluation forms are available from the NGP Coordinator or online

Incoming students are encouraged to arrive early and begin their first rotation on July 1 before starting classes in the fall.

All incoming students attend a Chemical Hygiene, Bloodborne Pathogens, and Occupational Safety Seminar on Orientation Day.  When selecting a lab rotation, students must check with the mentor to find out whether they will be working with radioisotopes, certain regulated chemicals or biologicals, and/or animals or human subjects.  In such cases, students will be required to complete additional training.

Rotation reports

NGP first year students are required to complete two written rotation reports (MSTP students will only be required to complete a Fall rotation report). The goal of guided rotation reports is to provide students with the opportunity to practice their scientific writing skills early. These skills include the ability to formulate project goals, provide rationale as well as an overview of the field.  Many students come in with limited scientific writing experience and struggle to develop these skills in graduate school. A critical aspect of the rotation reports is to provide students with consistent feedback throughout the first year to ensure that their skills improve and that they are provided with the support they require, depending on their level of competency.

It is important that both students and faculty realize that rotation experiences vary widely. Some students will design and complete a full experiment and be ready to present their findings in the form of a scientific paper. Others will take part in a team approach and experience different techniques without formally carrying out an experiment. Those students may write a rotation report that focuses on the bigger questions addressed by their rotation lab or the techniques that they have explored to address these questions. DATA ARE NOT REQUIRED, but may be presented if available. The most important result of the rotation write-up is that students learn to communicate scientific concepts clearly and identify important aspects of a new scientific field.

To ensure that reports are completed in a timely manner, rotation reports will only be required for Fall and Winter rotations. Completion of the reports will be required to obtain a passing grade in NGP Student Seminar (NSC 503). Students not doing rotations in either of those rotation periods can complete a report on a rotation completed earlier.

Report format

  1. The main point of the report is to demonstrate an understanding of the scientific field explored during the rotation and to provide a description of the rotation experience. DATA ARE NOT REQUIRED, although students who have obtained data during their rotations are welcome to include them in their report.
  2. The report must include a Title followed by at least four sections:
    • Purpose: a brief paragraph succinctly describing the point of the rotation project or rotation experience
    • Introduction: an overview of the field and where the rotation project fits into the big picture view
    • Materials and Methods: description of the techniques used with their limitations. This section may include the design of experiments if this approach was part of the rotation whether or not the experiments yielded data
    • Discussion section describing any results or expected results if none were obtained and how they would inform the field and lead to future research directions.

A results section may be included if appropriate.

  1. A proposal will be required at the beginning of the rotation period. If the report describes a rotation that was completed prior to the timing of the report then the proposal can be replaced with the purpose section.
  2. The report is to be submitted as a Word document approximately 3-6 pages (one-sided) of text, double spaced, Arial font, 11 point, one-inch margins on all four sides of the page.  Figures, Tables and References are NOT included in this page limit.  Pages must be numbered.
  3. Complete references are to be provided at the end of the report.  There is no limit to the number of references; however, the student is expected to have read all the references cited. References should be cited in the text as “First author et al., 2005”, rather than numbered.
  4. Additional pages can be used, as needed for Figures, brief Figure Legends and Tables for data obtained during the rotation.

Timelines

Students are expected to turn in sections of the report on Mondays throughout the semester to their advisory committee and to rewrite those sections based on the feedback obtained. Hence, timely submission of both the report sections and feedback from the faculty is critical. Faculty may ask for additional rewriting if necessary. Although not required, students are encouraged to seek feedback from the rotation advisor before or along with submission to the first year advisory committee.

Sample timeline (will vary depending on semester/academic year):

Rotation start - Proposal due to committee

+ 1 week - Feedback on proposal due back to student

+ 1 week - Rewrite due to committee

+ 1 week - Background due to committee

+ 1 week - Feedback on background due back to student

+ 1 week - Rewrite due to committee

Rotation ends - Final draft due to committee

+ 1 week - Feedback on final draft due back to student

+ 1 week - Rewrite of final draft due

Journal club

Participation in a Journal Club is required each semester a student is enrolled. During years one and two, students must register for NSC 592.  This course, which focuses on both historic and recent findings in the neuroscience literature, provides experience with reading scientific papers, experimental design, data analysis, and critical thinking.  The readings are often coordinated with materials being taught in the core Cellular and Systems Neuroscience courses.  In years three and beyond, students are free to participate in a journal club related to their research area.  If a journal club in a student’s area of interest does not exist, students are encouraged to form one.

Student seminar

Students are required to register for NSC 503 NSC Student Seminar every semester they are in the program with the exception of the final semester in which they defend their thesis. However, students will need to continue attending the seminar in their dissertation semester until the PhD thesis defense is scheduled. This course provides a forum where students deliver, at least once per year, an oral presentation related to their research. Both students and faculty evaluate the talks and provide the presenter with feedback on various aspects of their presentation. Students must attend a minimum of 80% of the presentations each semester to receive a passing grade. Attendance includes NGP colloquia and named lectures such as the Notter and Doty. First year students must also satisfactorily complete a rotation report each semester (MSTP students complete one report in the Fall semester only). Students who miss seminar due to attending a scientific conference will be excused. Unexcused absences can be made up by written assignment after consultation with the course director.

Teaching assistantship

NGP students are required to serve as a TA for at least one semester.9 This experience typically includes responsibility for a weekly conference, discussion group, or laboratory in the undergraduate courses Basic Neurobiology (NSC 201, Fall semester) or Lab in Neurobiology (NSC 203, Spring semester), or the medical school courses Mind, Brain and Behavior or Human Structure and Function.  Students fulfill the TA requirement by registering for 3 credits of Teaching Tutorial, either NSC 581 (for teaching in NSC 201/203), ANA 581 (for teaching in HSF), or ANA 583 (for teaching in MBB). The TA requirement is usually fulfilled in the spring of the 2nd year or fall of the 3rd year.  Note that PRIOR APPROVAL from the course director is required before registering.

9. M.D./Ph.D. students are exempt from the TA requirement but may do so if interested.

Selection of Ph.D. Track

By July 1 following the first year of study, students declare which Ph.D. degree they will pursue, Neuroscience or Neurobiology & Anatomy. It is strongly recommended that students seek advice from the NGP Director or Associate Director and their research advisor prior to making the choice of Ph.D. track, keeping in mind the eligibility of faculty in each track, course requirements, teaching requirements, etc. A form available from the NGP Coordinator is to be completed and returned indicating the student’s choice.  At that time, the NGP Coordinator will schedule a brief meeting between the student, his/her thesis advisor and the NGP Director to go over student and mentor guidelines and remaining degree requirements.