Dr. Yongsoo Kim, an associate professor in the Department of Neural & Behavioral Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, is pictured in his lab in July 2016, framed by laboratory equipment and looking away from a screen depicting two images of a section of the brain.

Neuroscience PhD

Neuroscience PhD Program Details

The Neuroscience Graduate Program at Penn State College of Medicine brings together scientists from different basic and clinical disciplines to focus on the nervous system.

Some researchers seek to clarify the development or function of the brain at the cellular, molecular, or genetic levels. Others seek to understand how the nervous system processes information, controls autonomic functions, regulates states of consciousness, or determines behavior. Still others search for the means to diagnose, prevent, and successfully treat malignant brain tumors, congenital and acquired brain diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, or dysfunctions caused by pathologic states in brain structure.

All are committed to educate graduate students in the neurosciences.

Program Overview

First Year

During the first year students, participate in coursework and undertake three laboratory rotations.

In the fall semester, students take the two core courses, BMS 502 Cell and Systems Biology and BMS 503 Flow of Cellular Information, as well as NEURO 520 Cell and Molecular Neuroscience.

In the spring semester students take NEURO 511 Human Neurobiology, NEURO 521 Systems Neuroscience and NEURO 530 Professional Development.

One laboratory rotation in the fall semester and two rotations in the spring semester are carried out to develop laboratory technical skills, learn ways to design and analyze experiments and to begin to identify potential laboratories to carry out thesis research.

Students are required to maintain a B average in courses and, at the end of the first year, must pass a Candidacy Exam. This exam consists of a written paper on one of a given set of topics and an oral exam on the year’s course work.

Second Year

During the second year, students begin to focus on their thesis research but have a number of required courses (NEURO 522 and 523 Seminars in Neuroscience, BMS 591 Ethics in the Life Sciences and PHS 520 Introduction to Biostatistics) as well as the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of electives.

Before the beginning of the fall semester of the third year, students must pass a Comprehensive Exam. This exam consists of a written research proposal followed by an oral examination and is administered by the student’s doctoral committee.

Third Year and Beyond

Completion of the requirements for a PhD in Neuroscience entails the preparation of a dissertation (written thesis), a final oral examination (thesis defense), and formal acceptance of the thesis by the student’s doctoral committee.