Graduate Program

Welcome to the graduate program in Behavioral Neuroscience

Andrey Ryabinin in mountainsHow does neural activity in specific neuronal populations govern our everyday behavior? Why can different people behave differently in similar environmental conditions? How do our experiences interact with our genetic background to produce our behavioral repertoire? Why can neural processes go wrong and how can we help individuals affected by mental disorders? If you are passionate about these and similar questions, our program can offer you the greatest adventure of your lifetime!

Our faculty explores the interplay between neurobiology and behavior and has extremely diverse research expertise. We are especially represented in behavioral genetics, neurobiology of alcohol and drug abuse, neurobiology of cognition and mental disorders. Our faculty performs studies in humans, in rodents and primates and using in vitro and in silico methods. Our training program is not only supported by OHSU, but also by training grants from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Drug Abuse and National Institute of Aging. Our faculty is also well funded by research grants from NIH and NSF. Using these funding sources we take good care of our students and postdocs.

We accept students into our program with diverse qualifications and backgrounds who have completed undergraduate coursework in biopsychology, neurobiology or other biological sciences relevant to behavioral neuroscience. Our emphasis is on applicants with strong basic science background and substantial research experience. Applicants are strongly encouraged to have completed at least one semester of physical chemistry and organic chemistry prior to submittal of their application. Another strong factor is fit with particular faculty's research interests. The admission process is highly competitive. Active faculty participation ensures that the admission process is fair.

During the first year of our program, students complete an intense core coursework and several research rotations. The research rotations ensure a 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.

Andrey Ryabinin, Ph.D.
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.