Ph.D. Program Overview

Introduction to the Program

Thank you for your interest in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. We are a large, multidisciplinary program consisting of over 100 faculty members from all parts of the University of Minnesota, over 25 departments from over 10 colleges. The multidisciplinary nature of our Ph.D. program is one of its most significant strengths. Often the most novel and interesting research comes from the bringing together of two disciplines, and this multidisciplinary approach is supported by the collaborative environment at the University of Minnesota.

Itasca Lab Course

When you start your graduate training in our program, you begin your studies in July with a five-week laboratory course covering a range of topics in molecular, cellular, and systems neuroscience. Held at the Lake Itasca Biological Field Station at the Itasca State Park located northwest of the Twin Cities, this intensive course is a completely "hands-on" experience, with students carrying out both classical and cutting edge experiments in a modern, well-equipped laboratory. Only available at the University of Minnesota, this nationally recognized course will give you an unparalleled introduction to the excitement of neuroscience.

Core Curriculum

After returning from Itasca in late August, you will spend your first year studying our core curriculum. This is designed to cover all the broad areas in Neuroscience, from molecular neurobiology and genetics to computational neuroscience. Formal classes begin in September. The first year's core curriculum includes courses in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience and Behavioral Neuroscience. The program boasts a faculty:student ratio of more than 1:1, as there are over 100 faculty members who are members of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience.

Lab Rotations and Minor

You will then choose four laboratory rotations. These rotations will enable you to experience potential fields of study for your doctoral work in Neuroscience and facilitate the selection of an appropriate advisor and thesis topic. You will be expected to select your Ph.D. thesis advisor by the end of the first year. In addition, you must take an additional 12 credits in a supporting or minor field. These are usually finished by the end of the second year. Typical minors or supporting programs include cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, statistics, psychology, medicine and computation. A rich array of specialized elective courses is offered through the neuroscience program and other departments throughout the University. We strongly encourage our students to master collateral areas of knowledge by enrolling in these courses, which can be tailored to meet each student's academic needs.

Professional Development

A program-sponsored course, the "Career Skills Course," offers the opportunity to ask all of those questions you always wanted to ask about graduate school and a career in science. Journal clubs and weekly seminars offered by many departments, including the Department of Neuroscience, provide ample opportunity for students to keep up-to-date on developments and issues in neuroscience. We also offer a weekly Neuroscience Colloquium, where faculty and students from the Graduate Program in Neuroscience have an opportunity to share their work and lunch in a friendly, collaborative atmosphere. This gives everyone an opportunity to see the diverse research opportunities here at the University of Minnesota. Many new collaborations start with these weekly research presentations.


The second year and subsequent years are filled with the most exciting and challenging aspects of our graduate program: defining a thesis topic and establishing a research program. The Graduate Program of Neuroscience is multidisciplinary and collaborative. Because there are over 100 faculty associated with the program, students find that their opportunities for research are vast. During this time, you will work closely with your advisor, and your ideas and hard work will produce not only a doctoral thesis, but also the neuroscience of tomorrow.

The complexity of research necessitates a multidisciplinary approach and a collaborative environment to be successful.