Graduate Program Requirements

Curriculum Requirements

Required core courses

  • Physiology and Pharmacology of Excitable Cells (NEU 827)
  • Systems Neuroscience (NEU 839)
  • Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience (NEU 811)
  • Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology (NEU 804)
  • Statistics for the Biological Sciences (PHM 830 or PSY 815)
  • Strategies in Neuroscience Research (NEU 807)


Students are encouraged to take electives in advanced areas of neuroscience or in other disciplines that complement their research interests. Students will choose elective courses in consultation with their faculty advisor and guidance committee. Electives will normally be taken in years two or three of study. Examples of currently offered electives in advanced neuroscience are:

  • Vertebrate Neural Systems (ANT 885)
  • Synaptic Transmission (PHM 810)
  • Developmental Psychobiology (PSY 809)
  • Neuropsychology (PSY 851)
  • Principles of Drug-Tissue Interaction (PHM 819)
  • Confocal Microscopy (NSC 837)
  • Writing and Manuscript Preparation in the Neural and Behavioral Sciences (PSY 992)

Research Forum (NEU 800)

First year NSP predoctoral students DO NOT enroll in NEU 800 (Research Forum) during their first year in the Program, but attend Research Forum sessions in the Fall and Spring semesters that are appropriate for early stage trainees. At the beginning of each semester, students will be informed about which weeks they are expected to attend Forum.

Second year NSP predoctoral students and beyond MUST ENROLL in NEU 800 (Research Forum) every Fall and Spring semester until graduation, unless there are schedule conflicts. If this is the case, the student should notify Jim Galligan in writing before the semester in which there is a conflict, explaining the nature of the conflict (e.g., another course, experimental schedule). Research Forum activities are often targeted to students in specific stages of training, and attendance at every Forum meeting may not be expected of every student. At the beginning of each semester, students will be informed about which weeks they are expected to attend Forum. For an enrolled student to receive a passing grade, the student can miss no more than three of the meetings that he/she is expected to attend. All students must earn 4 credits of Research Forum in order to receive the Ph.D in Neuroscience.

Fall 2015 Forum Schedule
Forum Core Objectives

Non-curriculum Requirements

Lab Rotations

First year students participate in two laboratory rotations, each one semester in duration. Students normally choose a Ph.D. mentor after the 2nd rotation.

Neuroscience Program Responsible Conduct of Research Series

NSP predoctoral students are required to attend 8 workshops offered by the Graduate School. Seven workshops should be from the "Responsible Conduct of Research" series and one should be from the "Conflict Resolution" series. In order for students to be credited for these workshops by the Program, they must submit to the NSP Graduate Secretary the following:

  • Obtain a certificate of attendance for the Responsible Conduct of Research series from the Graduate School
  • Have speaker for Conflict Resolution workshop complete and sign the NSP Conflict Resolution form stating the graduate student's attendance. Take the form with you to the workshop!

Comprehensive exams and thesis defense

Comprehensive exam and dissertation guidance committee

At the end of Spring semester in Year 2, students take a common written comprehensive exam that covers the broad area of neuroscience. The written exam is designed to assess the student's ability to integrate knowledge and concepts from the core courses, elective courses and from other sources such as the weekly seminars. By December 10 of the calendar year which the written component had been taken, the student will complete the oral component of the comprehensive exam. The oral exam consists of a defense of a thesis proposal that is presented to the student's dissertation guidance committee. Students are required to give a formal public seminar based on their thesis proposal at some time during Year 3.


Students conduct an original dissertation project based on the approved thesis proposal. Students present a public seminar based on their Ph.D. dissertation, which precedes the thesis defense with the student's dissertation guidance committee.

Neuroscience Program Retreat

Each year, the Neuroscience Program holds a retreat for all faculty, students and postdocs to welcome incoming students and to share data and ideas generated over the course of the summer. Student attendance is a requirement, and all returning students must present a poster.

Neuroscience Cross Campus Research Day

During the Fall and Spring semesters each year, the Neuroscience program gathers for a cross campus research day (CCRD) to foster collaboration between the campuses and labs at Michigan State University. As a result, the location of CCRD will alternate between East Lansing and Grand Rapids. Each CCRD includes a mix of talks by students and faculty, with the format of these talks varying for each CCRD. This provides an opportunity to appreciate the breadth of the program and to solicit comments from people that might not be as familiar with your work as your close colleagues or cohorts. All but students in the midst of their first rotation should expect to present at one or both CCRDs for the academic year. We aim for an open and relaxed atmosphere where compliments are sincere and any criticism is constructive. Please come to this event ready and willing to openly discuss your research and foster new or ongoing collaborations.


All students in the Program are required to obtain some teaching experience during their training. In most cases this is accomplished during their second year of study. The teaching assignments are in undergraduate courses in neuroscience or related discipline and are accomplished under the supervision of faculty instructors in that course. The extent of the teaching experience can vary based on the student’s interests and level of commitment. This can vary from as little as 3 lectures (including preparation of handouts, class presentation materials and exam questions) to more substantial participation throughout the course. This is an unpaid activity and the student should consult with their research mentor about the extent of their participation in this teaching requirement.

The Neuroscience Program also has paid teaching assistant (TA) positions available. This is a substantial teaching commitment (20 hours per week) and is accomplished under the supervision of the faculty course coordinator. Students would be a TA for one of the undergraduate NEU courses (NEU 301, 302 or 311L). The TA position provides stipend support, tuition (up to 9 credits), fees and health insurance for 1 semester. Students should consult with their research mentor before taking on a TA assignment. The TA assignment fulfills the teaching requirement for the program.

In all cases, students must have the course instructor complete the NSP teaching requirement form to get credit for this requirement.

Graduate Student Handbook

The Graduate Student Handbook contains valuable information for new students entering the Neuroscience Program.