Although there are no rigid prerequisites for admission to the neuroscience program, entering students should have a background that includes courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and mathematics. Each sub-discipline of neuroscience requires a different degree of preparation in each of these areas, and students with inadequate backgrounds in the basic biological, physical, and behavioral sciences are required to satisfy the deficiency after admission to the program. Prospective students should apply for admission through the Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) Graduate Program.
Students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program participate in research throughout the program In the first year, students choose among the faculty to conduct at least three laboratory rotations. These rotations serve as the basis for choosing an advisor for the student’s dissertation research. First-year students also take courses in the foundation of modern neuroscience. These include a core course in Neuroscience that covers molecular, developmental, systems and behavioral neuroscience. In the latter half of the first year, after students have selected a dissertation advisor, coursework is focused oin one of three tracks: Molecular & Developmental Neuroscience, Synapses and Circuits, or Neuroimmunology. Completion of all coursework requirements usually occurs by the second year.
By the end of the second year, students are expected to pass a qualifying exam consisting of a written review and an oral examination in order to advance to candidacy. They will continue research throughout the remainder of their time in the program, with the goal of making an original and significant contribution to their field. To graduate, all students must publish a first-author paper in a peer-reviewed journal, submit a written dissertation, and orally defend the dissertation before their committee and the academic community
The students’ program of courses is developed through close consultation with their faculty advisor and their graduate advisory committee. Attention is placed on flexibility in the program. Each student’s program is tailored to meet individual needs and interests.
There is no foreign language requirement.
Requirements for Ph.D in Neuroscience
All BIMS students must complete a minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit. A minimum of 24 out of the 72 credit hours must be graded coursework, and no more than 48 of the 72 credit hours can be comprised of Non-Topical Research.
Requirements for graduation include the following courses:
Each student must choose from and complete coursework for one of the following concentrations during the first year spring term:
Molecular & Developmental Neuroscience
Synapses and Circuits
In the first year, students choose among the faculty to conduct at least three laboratory rotations. These rotations serve as the basis for choosing an advisor for the student’s dissertation research in the second half of the first year.
Qualifying Examination (Area Paper)
At the end of the second year of graduate work the students are expected to complete the requirements for advancement to candidacy. In particular, the core course work must be completed, a major area paper must be written and the Qualifying Exam must be taken. The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to evaluate the student on intellectual capabilities that are not revealed by formal course work and success in laboratory research. In essence, the exam and its antecedents (the written work described below) are to examine the student’s ability to synthesize information from original sources, identify the critical questions/problem areas, criticize existing work in a creative fashion, and propose experiments that would resolve the remaining issues.
The written portion of the Qualifying Exam is a scholarly review of a well-defined field of research. The paper should identify the research themes and the goals, evaluate the state of knowledge of the field, and identify areas where further work is needed. A particularly important aspect is the critical but creative evaluation of the literature. Additionally, there should be a ‘Specific Aims’ portion (1 page) of your research overview for context. This document should be approximately 20 pages long.
The oral defense is meant to evaluate the student’s ability to utilize all facets of their previous training during interchanges similar to those encountered at scientific forums. They should be able to verbally present material in a manner that is understandable and succinct. They should be able to defend their ideas in a professional manner, and should be able to accept and react positively to criticism. The students should, at this point, behave as an emerging professional scientist capable of expressing and exchanging ideas with colleagues. They also should be capable by this stage of evaluating evidence, and distinguishing between data and interpretation
The Dissertation Proposal
After advancement to candidacy the student begin formulating a possible dissertation project and present it in a dissertation proposal. The first part should represent an introduction to the research area, a presentation of the outstanding problems, and an historical perspective indicating the importance of the work. The second portion of the dissertation proposal should describe in detail the specific experiments to be carried out, anticipated results, and possible interpretations. The defense of the proposal will involve an evaluation of the student’s grasp of the problem area, their research methodology, and their understanding of the possible interpretations of any data that may be obtained.
The Dissertation and Defense
The student must complete an independent research project under the close supervision of the primary mentor. The student’s dissertation committee must be consulted regularly regarding progress, meeting at least once per academic year. Timelines and assessment of progress should be explicitly discussed at each committee meeting. The research must constitute an original and significant contribution to the field and is to be fully presented in the candidate’s dissertation. As evidence of this level of achievement, the Graduate Program expects that students will author research papers, including some as first author, and these papers will appear in recognized, peer-reviewed journals. Specifically, the program requires at least one primary peer-reviewed research paper on the student’s dissertation project with the student as first author in order to graduate.
As part of the requirements for graduation, the student must write a dissertation and defend it. The dissertation defense is constituted in two required parts, a public dissertation seminar (should be attended by the members of the dissertation committee and is open to all members of the University of Virginia and the community as a whole) and a private dissertation defense (must be attended by the members of the dissertation committee).
Summation of Thesis to UVA Library
Doctoral students must upload the final, approved version of the dissertation to the University Library’s digital repository, also known as LIBRA, by the same due dates as for the Final Exam form. Information regarding the repository, the submission process and copyright law is available through the LIBRA web site. Please note the following:
- The title page of the dissertation should be formatted according to the approved template. Signatures of the dissertation committee members should appear only on the final examination form. These signatures should not appear on the title page of the document that is uploaded to LIBRA.
- Students are responsible for ensuring that they upload the final, approved version of their thesis. Documents submitted to LIBRA cannot be deleted or corrected.
- The thesis title submitted to the department in step three above will appear in the LIBRA upload interface. If the title listed in LIBRA does not match the final title of the thesis, the student must stop the upload process and inform his or her departmental graduate administrator of the correct title. The thesis title listed in SIS, LIBRA and the student’s transcript should be identical.
LIBRA will accept the thesis as a single PDF document up to 100MB. Students also have the option to upload supplemental files.
There are no formatting requirements or restrictions; however, students should adhere to traditional physical standards if they wish to purchase bound copies from UVA Printing and Copying Services.
Survey of Earned Doctorates
All students are required to complete the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates
Requirements for Dual Degree Program
The Neuroscience Graduate Program accepts students in the Medical Science Training Program (dual degree MD and PhD students).
Students in the MSTP are in an accelerated curriculum and generally complete their Graduate Requirements within 4 years.
Students enrolled in the MSTP will often use the coursework completed during the MD preclinical curriculum to receive transfer credit for course requirements. For example, MSTP students can petition the Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD degree-granting program with which the student affiliates to receive transfer credit for BIMS 6000 (Core Course in Integrative Biology). Decisions on these petitions will be made by the DGS in consultation with the MSTP Director and the student’s research advisor.
Beginning with the cohort of MSTPs matriculating into the MD program in summer of 2021, and based on the School of Medicine’s Policy on course credit equivalencies, students who are awarded transfer credits for the core course requirement will be awarded 10 topical credits, the equivalent graded credit hours of the Core Course in Integrative Biology.
For those MSTPs who take the core course, the pre-clerkship curriculum will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies of their selected degree-granting program for other appropriate coursework equivalencies for which they may receive transfer credit (up to 10 credits in total).