The Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at OHSU aims to train predoctoral students in modern neuroscience concepts and techniques. The large faculty (140+ strong) has expertise in all areas of neuroscience, including molecular, cellular, systems, developmental, and medical neuroscience. The core curriculum is concentrated in the Fall term of the first year, permitting students to focus on the essence of graduate training—full time research rotations followed by independent research in a mentor's laboratory—as soon as possible.
Students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at OHSU arrive in Portland between June and August; early arrivals take advantage of the delightful Portland summer and can carry out one of three required laboratory rotations.
In early August, students begin with introductory courses such as Graduate Fellowship Workshop which aims to teach students how to put together a great NSF or other fellowship application; Navigating Complexities of Graduate Training which introduces students to power dynamics and how to have difficult conversations with your future mentor; and NGP Bootcamp where students get a quick introduction to neuroscience and hands-on techniques. Between the end of summer term and beginning of fall, we have the annual NGP Retreat, which serves as an introduction to the wider neuroscience community for first-year students. The retreat is held away from Portland (at Timberline Lodge) and features two days of talks, workshops, and fun.
Core curriculum and advancement
The 12 week core course begins at the end of September and emphasizes all aspects of neuroscience (cellular, molecular, and systems). The program also emphasizes training in reading and dissecting the primary literature, the focus of the seminar course. At the end of the core course, students take a comprehensive take home exam, which tests students both on their grasp of the neuroscience core curriculum and on their skills in understanding neuroscience papers. Students also participate in full time laboratory rotations starting in January of the first year, using these rotations to help choose a dissertation lab. During the first year, students are advised by a faculty member chosen as their academic mentor, who guides them through courses, including electives and rotations.
By April of the second year, students take the oral qualifying exam, which allows them to advance to candidacy. The qualifying exam consists of a written component, which is a thesis proposal in the format of a pre-doctoral NRSA grant, and an oral defense. An optional writing course sponsored by the Vollum Institute is of great use to many students in preparing for the written exam.
Completion of thesis work
Subsequently, the student chooses a dissertation advisory committee, who guides their dissertation research. Students are evaluated at several points during their participation in the program, and are subjected to several yearly requirements, including a thesis committee meeting every six months and a public talk on their research.
Finally, the culmination of a student's graduate career is the assembly of a written dissertation and its oral defense.
Until recently, most NGP students went on to postdoctoral fellowships. As the opportunities for Ph.D. neuroscientists has broadened, the NGP and OHSU have provided ongoing workshops and seminars in professional skills and career planning.