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 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. This gives 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. You start to receive your stipend, and you are provided with room and board for the entire experience. 

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 Neurobiology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Quantitative Neuroscience courses.

Lab Rotations and Minor

During your first year, you do 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. As we have over 125 faculty members who participate in our program, there is a wide range of faculty in all the areas of Neuroscience in which to choose.

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. 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 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. In the Fall, the faculty usually present. The Spring semester is reserved for our graduate trainees starting in year 3, offering them an opportunity to update the GPN 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 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 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.


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