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 125 faculty members from all parts of the University of Minnesota, 30 departments from 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 August with a four-week course covering a range of topics in molecular, cellular, and systems neuroscience. Held partially in the Twin Cities and at the Lake Itasca Biological Field Station at the Itasca State Park located northwest of the Twin Cities, this nationally recognized course will give you an unparalleled introduction to the excitement of neuroscience, while also giving you the opportunity to get to know your classmates extremely well in a unique setting. It also allows you to meet a number of the faculty members in the program as well as a number of more senior graduate students as they rotate through the different modules of the course.

Core Curriculum

After returning from Itasca in late August, you will spend your first semester studying our core curriculum, which includes Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience and Systems Neuroscience. In the Spring semester you will take one of two courses focused on quantitative and computational neuroscience as well as one or two elective courses. Our elective courses include foundational neuroscience courses such as Developmental Neuroscience and Behavioral Neuroscience as well as a variety of more specialized course. This combination of core and elective courses provides strong foundational neuroscience knowledge and flexibility to focus more deeply within specific neuroscience areas.

Lab Rotations and Minor

During your first year, you do three 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. Our large interdisciplinary program includes faculty in all the areas of Neuroscience. You will be expected to select your Ph.D. thesis advisor by the end of the first year.

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. This 3-semester sequence, offered pass/fail, is required of all our trainees. It covers important areas, including responsible conduct of research, intellectual property, scientific rigor and responsibility, and similar topics. The third semester of the course is dedicated to training in grant writing.

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, with lunch provided, where faculty and students from the Graduate Program in Neuroscience share their work in a friendly, collaborative atmosphere. This gives everyone an opportunity to see the diverse research is our scientific community. Many new collaborations start with these weekly research presentations. Starting in year 3, GPN trainees present annually in the Colloquium series, providing an update on their research in a formal, but friendly, setting. In addition, all our trainees are encouraged to present posters and give oral presentations at regional, national, and international meetings. We have funds to which trainees can apply to help support travel to these meetings.


The second 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 125 faculty members 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. We strive to provide this type of experience to all our trainees.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience is composed of students, post-docs, and faculty with the mission to facilitate change within our community that will foster a diverse and equitable environment. This work is guided by a strategic plan that was developed in 2021 and updated in 2023. Accomplishments of the DEIC to date include:

-Adoption of faculty advising and mentorship statements on GPN website
-Development of a professional guide with funding and training opportunities for URM students
-Implementation of two mechanisms that provide funding and awards for DEI-related work amongst students and faculty
-Guidance for the revision of GPN curriculum, including Itasca program, core courses, and preliminary exams to improve equity and accessibility
-Support of several programs supporting URM engagement in STEM from high school to postdoctoral levels
-Hosting community events to encourage open dialogue related to DEI-activities including book/journal clubs, town halls, and seminars

GPN Student
GPN Student
GPN Student
GPN Student
GPN Student
GPN Student