PhD Program: Neuroscience
People working in a lab


Embracing a complete spectrum of neuroscience training and multidisciplinary techniques


Program Overview

The Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Michigan was constituted in 1971, making it the longest-standing neuroscience training program in the United States. The Program is interdisciplinary and inter-departmental with faculty and students located in the Medical School, the College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, the Dental School, the School of Kinesiology, the College of Engineering, the School of Nursing, and the School of Public Health. We are a collegial and interactive group that performs research across the breadth of the neuroscience field.

Neuroscience graduate students on this campus form a cohesive group that promotes interactions among the faculty, making the Neuroscience Graduate Program the nexus of the neuroscience community at U of M. A PhD in Neuroscience provides tremendous flexibility in choosing one’s career path. Our program captures the excitement and interaction intrinsic to the field of neuroscience.

The Neuroscience Graduate Program includes more than 150 faculty members representing more than 20 basic and clinical science departments in the the Medical School, the College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, the Dental School, the School of Kinesiology, and the College of Engineering. Members of our faculty include a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a past-president of the Society for Neuroscience, and several Institute for Scientific Information “Highly Cited Researchers.”

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Program Details

The heart of training in the Neuroscience Graduate Program is laboratory research. Graduate students in neuroscience begin research training upon their arrival on campus, and complete at least three research rotations with program faculty before adopting a laboratory for their dissertation research. With over 150 distinguished faculty, the research areas represented by the Neuroscience Graduate Program are expansive. These research areas represent seven major sub-disciplines in neuroscience:

  • Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
  • Clinical and Translational Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Sensory Neuroscience
  • Computational Neuroscience

Neuroscience research at the University Michigan spans the full range of experimental methods, from molecular biology to human neuroimaging. Students and faculty present their research at local events including the annual Fall Retreat, the Neuroscience Seminar series, in program-sponsored poster sessions and an annual Spring Symposium. In addition, students and faculty travel to several national meetings, including the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, to present their results.


The coursework in the Neuroscience Graduate Program curriculum equips students with knowledge in basic neuroscience and related disciplines. A yearlong core course is the hub of the curriculum, and emphasizes Neurophysiology, Neuropharmacology, Neural Development, Circuits and Computational Neuroscience, Sensory Systems, Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, and Clinical and Translational Neuroscience.

Students complete additional laboratory training in cellular and molecular neurobiology during an intensive 2-week laboratory class before the start of the Fall semester. Courses in statistics and research ethics are required and elective courses are offered across a wide variety of departments and programs allowing students to individualize their training program.

In addition to formal coursework, graduate students in the program attend weekly seminars at which students, faculty and invited lecturers present their work.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is an academically rigorous process in which students are tasked with writing and orally defending a concise research proposal. This assessment is designed to furnish students with a distinctive educational opportunity, allowing them to develop and outline research projects within a field of neuroscience of their choice. Moreover, it encourages them to engage in thoughtful, critical discussions about their projects. Evaluation criteria focus on the students' ability to demonstrate creativity in a scientific context and to articulate their ideas clearly and persuasively through both written and oral communication.

Teaching Requirement

All graduate students are required to teach one course for one semester, usually in year 2.

Expected Length of Program

The usual time to degree is approximately 5.8 years.

The pride and strength of the NGP is its truly exceptional students. From 2001-2017, NGP students published more than 250 papers with most of these in notable and high impact journals. NGP students also competed very successfully for extramural fellowships, including predoctoral NSF, Department of Defense, and NIH NRSA awards as well as regional and local fellowships.

Students in the Neuroscience Program are active in a number of outreach activities including BrainsRule!, a one day reverse science fair for middle school students; FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and the Sciences) promotes the STEM fields to young women throughout the year in a variety of activities; and Science Education and Engagement for Kids (SEEK) participates in monthly science clubs in disadvantaged areas of the community for elementary and middle school children. Students also join the Neuroscience Graduate Student Organization (NGSO), which coordinates additional outreach activities in local schools, hosts journal clubs and represents the Neuroscience Graduate Program to their peers in PIBS and on campus.

NGP students have a strong commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with a variety of activities including strong student representation in multiple campus DEI committees & groups, peer-led workshops with topics such as diversity in STEM, and annual attendance at both ABRCMS and SACNAS. NGP students also mentor undergraduate students from a variety of minority-serving institutions for summer experiences.

Finally, students in the NGP have access to a number of International Research Opportunities through established relationships with Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) and Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel). Students can work with the Global Research Engagement Opportunity Program to find international research opportunities at any university worldwide.

There are more than 202 alumni of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Many of our alums complete a post-doctoral position and recently we have had students placed at Yale, UC Berkeley, HHMI, Harvard and MIT among other universities nationwide and around the world. Our graduates work in varied fields including academic research, industrial research and development, academic medicine and biotechnology.

Creating an impact

Learn more about the Department of Neuroscience.

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