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PhD Curriculum

Credit Requirements and Required Courses

While course requirements vary with the area of specialization, all students must complete a total of 72 combined credits required for the Ph.D. degree. Of the 72 credits, at least 28-course credits (at a minimum B grade average) are required, of which 24 must be at the 500 level or above. Required courses include 8 seminar credits of Advanced Studies in Neuroscience, 1 credit of Ethical Scientific Conduct, 3 credits Neurobiology 555, a Statistics course, one biochemistry-cell biology course, and an Ethics Refresher course. Up to 44 research credits are also required to bring the required total to 72.

First Year Fall Courses

A research literature review or independent reading.  (Pintar)

Introductory survey emphasizing experimental approaches to the study of invertebrate and vertebrate nervous systems. Molecular, biophysical, and biochemical bases of nerve cell function. Higher-level functions are shown as emerging from nerve cell properties, anatomical development, and mature connections. Plummer. Recommended: Biochemistry, physiology, or animal behavior. Permission of instructor. Offered every Fall.

For a full list of statistics courses that satisfy this requirement as well as NIH Rigor and Reproducibility training, click here

e.g. Molecular Biology & Biochemistry 16:115:511 3 credits (Deis) or Psychoneuroimmunology 16:830:585 3 credits (offered every other year) (Kusnecov)

First Year Spring Courses

A research literature review or independent reading. (Pintar)

This initial training course is required for biomedical PhD students and Masters of Science students.  The course complies with NIH guidelines for Responsible Conduct of Research training and consists of 13 hours of training.  Attendance and participation in the discussion of cases as well as weekly written assignments are required. The course is offered on Mondays from 4-5 pm and is P/F.  For more information, click here

For a full list of statistics courses that satisfy this requirement as well as NIH  Rigor and Reproducibility training, click here

Subsequent Years Courses

This class is offered on Tuesdays in February from 3-5 pm and is P/F. For more information, click here. This course is required for all the 5th year graduate students as well as the MD/PhD students in the 3rd year of PhD.  This is a case-based course that reviews the most important topics in Responsible Conduct of Research. It complies with NIH requirements.

A research literature review or independent reading. (Pintar) Offered every Fall & Spring.

Students in the biomedical science programs in SGS have the opportunity to take computational classes regardless of their specific discipline. This aligns with the goal of the NIH that each graduate program provides training opportunities in addition to their technical courses that equip trainees with quantitative/computational approaches. For a list of these workshops and courses, click here 

Potential Fall Elective Courses

Fall & Spring. Write an NRSA F31 grant proposal.  Special permission is required for upper-level students. West.

Fall & Spring, Tue & Thu 3:00-4:20 PM, Kahn. Offered yearly.

Offered Fall 2021, Tuesday 1-2:20 & 5:00 – 8:00 PM & then every Fall.

Tue 6:00-9:00 PM.

listed online as Nervous System & Behav 1.  The syllabus from the 2019 course is attached. The 2021 course will be similar. Tue 9:00-Noon (may change)

Modern methods of data analysis with emphasis on statistical computing univariate statistics, data visualization, linear models, generalized linear models (GLM) multivariate analysis and clustering methods, tree-based methods, and robust statistics. Prerequisite: Level IV statistics. Recommended: 16:960:563. Cabrera. Thu 6:00-9:00 pm

Fall & Spring  First Term: Structure and function of proteins, nucleic acid structure, catalysis of biochemical reactions, glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation. Second Term: Transcription, posttranscriptional processing, translation, gene regulation, photosynthesis, properties of membranes, signal transduction, intermediary metabolism.  Prerequisite: One year of organic chemistry. These courses are recommended for students outside the program in biochemistry. Deis

Synaptic transmission in the brain controls information flow. Dysfunction synaptic functions lead to neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. This course focuses on current topics on molecular mechanisms underlying the communication through chemical pathways in the mammalian brain; pharmacological and pathological conditions. Pang.  Offered Fall 2022, Tue/Thur 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM, and every other year.

Discussion of current literature, exploring concepts and mechanisms regulating the neuronal generation, and specification from undifferentiated precursors in invertebrates and vertebrates examined, including cell lineage, homeotic genes, neurotransmitters, and growth, trophic, and transcription factors. DiCicco-Bloom. Prerequisites: Neurobiology, molecular biology of cells. Offered Fall 2021, Tuesday 2:00 - 4:30 PM & then every other year.

Role at organismic, cellular, and molecular levels of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in reproduction, stress, growth, biological rhythms, drug addiction, and immunity. Sarkar. Offered Fall 2022, Tuesday @ 2:15–5:15 PM, and every other year.

Fall, Spring, Summer, Tue  4:30 – 6:00 PM, Sorensen. A sample syllabus is attached.

For graduate students interested in the effects of environmental toxicants on reproduction and throughout the lifespan - from the early embryo to adulthood. Click here to see the attached flyer.  Offered Fall 2021, Tue 3-4:20 /Thu 3-4:20 & 5-6:20 PM & then every other year.

Thu 4:30 - 7:30 PM

Spring & Fal,l Mon & Wed 1:30–3:30 PM. Basic principles of toxicology, organ toxicology, toxicology of specific chemical agents and radiation, and overview of environmental and industrial toxicology and safety evaluation. Fortin/Aleksunes.  Prerequisite: 16:115:503,504; 16:710:501,502, or equivalent.

Potential Spring Elective Courses

Fall & Spring, Tue and Fri 12:35 PM-1:55 PM, Kahn. Offered yearly.

 Covers aging and aging-related diseases from a 360-degree angle. Sesti.  Offered every Spring, Tue & Thu 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM. A sample syllabus is attached.

The goal of this course is to help students develop an advanced ability to communicate their research clearly and accurately and to emphasize its value and significance to diverse audiences. Course design includes classroom instruction supplemented with improvisation, video recordings, and ample opportunity for students to practice and receive immediate, constructive feedback in a supportive environment.  A multidisciplinary faculty with expertise in science, education, communication, and theater arts teach this course.  Students also complete a Capstone project in which they work with a professional in the academic or private sector to explore a possible career aspiration.  A sample syllabus is attached.

Tue & Thu 1:40 PM – 3:00 PM. Study the mechanisms responsible for the morphogenetic changes that occur during the development of selected vertebrates and invertebrates. The role of intercellular communication in development, including mechanisms of action of receptors and cell-adhesion proteins needed for this process.

Thur. 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM. In neuroscience and psychology, traditional training in statistics focuses on assessing experimental outcomes using parametric null hypothesis testing, including p-values, t-tests, and ANOVAs. However, powerful alternative methods exist for avoiding parametric assumptions, for comparing experimental data to (non-null) hypotheses, and for performing exploratory data analyses in multivariate datasets using statistical and machine learning approaches. These methods are becoming an increasingly important part of the scientific toolbox. The present course is meant to provide practical training in these alternative approaches along with a big-picture perspective on when and why to employ them. Because this course is intended for scientists, we will spend rather less time on the mathematics underlying these established techniques and instead make sure you understand them conceptually and know how to actually use them. The course will be organized around pairings of concept and implementation. A sample syllabus is attached.

This course is geared at building a base of biostatistical methods, rigorous experimental design, and reproducible research reporting. Biostatistics is engrained in experimental design, analysis and reporting of results, and interpretation of findings. This course covers the importance of incorporating statistical principles into all aspects of research. Wed 5:00-8:00 PM.  A sample syllabus is attached.

Offered in Spring. Millonig/DiCicco-Bloom

Offered in Spring, Mon & Wed 9-10:30 AM.

Mon and Wed 3:30 PM-5:00 PM. A sample syllabus is attached.

Mechanisms by which the nervous system is damaged by chemicals, trauma, and other agents.  Neurobiological basis for a response to injury. Offered every other year - Next will be Spring 2022.  

  1. Provide an overview of the mechanisms of action of the major classes of drugs of abuse followed by more in-depth discussions of the recent literature highlighting the changes in the brain associated with animal models of addiction
  2. Develop skills to appreciate, present and critically evaluate original research literature in the neuropsychopharmacology of addiction

Tue & Thu 9:30-11:00 AM. A sample syllabus is attached.

Spring & Fall. Basic principles of toxicology, organ toxicology, toxicology of specific chemical agents and radiation, and overview of environmental and industrial toxicology and safety evaluation. Fortin/Aleksunes.  Prerequisite: 16:115:503,504; 16:710:501,502, or equivalent.  A sample syllabus is attached.

Scientific advancement is almost always preceded by the development of new technologies. A recent example of this is the Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, which has now led to hundreds of papers, new scientific approaches, and even some promising avenues for novel treatments. Scientists must therefore continue to learn new technologies while maintaining the ability to work with established tools. Effectively navigating experimental design requires experimenters to understand the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies while also comparing them with classical approaches in order to choose the best tool for their experimental questions.  Offered Spring 2023, and every other year.  A sample syllabus is attached.

The course will focus on the immune system and inflammation, as it relates to brain function (i.e. the impact of neuroinflammation), with relevance to all manner of cognitive and emotional behaviors, as well as neuropsychiatric conditions. Students interested in cytokines, glia, neurodegenerative conditions, stress and behavior will find this a very helpful course. The course will be aided by an advanced introductory text just released which Dr. Kusnecov and his colleagues wrote. Offered Spring 2023, and every other year.

Fall, Spring, Summer. Sorensen. A sample syllabus is attached.

Wed. 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM