Graduate Program

Welcome to the graduate program in Behavioral Neuroscience

Garet LahvisBehavioral neuroscience explores the interplay between what happens inside the brain and what the brain does, how genetic and environmental factors influence the physiological, anatomical, and epigenetic processes inside the brain that manifest in organismal behavior. Students joining our PhD graduate program gain outstanding training and mentorship across these boundaries of biology and behavior through studies of a variety of vertebrate species, including humans, rodents, and non-human primates. Our faculty offers expertise in the neurobiology of substance abuse, cognitive and affective neuroscience, behavioral genetics, animal communication, learning and memory, social neuroscience, and impulsivity. We integrate our diverse interests through the highly collaborative structure and collegiality of our program.

We accept students with a diverse array of qualifications and encourage applications from those who have completed undergraduate coursework in biopsychology or neuroscience and other basic biological science areas that are useful for studies in behavioral neuroscience (e.g., biology,chemistry). Applicants are strongly encouraged to have completed at least one semester of physical chemistry and at least one semester of organic chemistry prior to submittal of their application to our program. 

During the first year of our graduate program, students participate in laboratory research rotations to identify a mutual fit with a laboratory and faculty mentor. By the end of the second year, students have completed required coursework and a research proposal. Students then focus on their research. After graduating, some students pursue postdoctoral fellowships and others apply their expertise to careers in industry, government or communications.

Dr. Garet Lahvis
Graduate Program Director


Brief Overview of Program Requirements

Required Coursework

Students must complete all of the following didactic courses during the first year

An additional 9 hours of elective credits are required, but do not need to be completed in the first year.

Research Rotations

New graduate students participate in 2-4 research rotations during their first year. The objective of rotations are to (a) match the interests of the student with available research opportunities and (b) assign faculty who are willing and have the resources needed to serve as the student's faculty mentor after the first year.

Reprint Examination

During the first year of graduate training, students are expected to obtain experience in the critical evaluation of original research reports. This training is provided in part by the core courses and is typically supplemented by a program of supervised reading with their research advisors.

The preliminary or "reprint" exam serves to set a standard of competency in the critical evaluation of research articles and in oral expression, a standard which students are expected to attain early in their graduate career. In addition, it helps faculty to identify areas of weakness in this skill.

Qualifying Examination

All students must pass a written qualifying examination to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. 

The qualifying exam follow the format of a formal NIH-NRSA proposal and including three parts:

  1. Written proposal
  2. Oral presentation
  3. Oral examination.

Ph.D. Research Proposal

A written Ph.D. Research Proposal must be submitted by the student and approved by the departmental Dissertation Advisory Committee by the end of the 3rd year.

Ph.D. Dissertation and Oral Examination

All students must complete a Ph.D. dissertation and pass the Graduate Council Oral Examination. It is generally expected that students will complete this requirement during 5th year of training.

Please note that the above is a brief overview and does not include all detailed program requirements.