The Center accepts students only for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. A minimum of 72 points is required, at least 36 of which must be taken in residence at New York University. At least 37 points must be taken in graded courses. All students will be required to complete the following core curriculum during their first year: Cellular Neural Science, NEURL-GA 2201, Sensory and Motor Neuroscience, NEURL-GA 2202, Laboratory in Neural Science I and II, NEURL-GA 2203 and 2204, and Introduction to Research in Neural Science I and II, NEURL-GA 2210 and 2211.
Additional first year courses will be determined by the area of specialization selected by the student, either Systems and Computational Neuroscience or Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. Students in the Systems and Computational Neuroscience specialization will take Behavioral and Cognitive Neural Science, NEURL-GA 2205, and Mathematical Tools for Neural Science, NEURL-GA 2207. Students in the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience specialization will take Molecular Neurobiology, BMSC-GA 4485, and a course in biostatistics such as Statistics in Biology, BIOL-GA 2030, Mathematical Tools for Neural Science, NEUR-GA 2207, or a similar course as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. These are all graded courses.
In the second and third year, students will select three advanced elective courses in neural science or a related discipline (typically each is 3 credits), with approval from their advisory committee, to complete the remaining required number of graded points.
Non-graded credit courses: Students also attend the Seminar in Current Topics, NEURL-GA 3390, and the Fellows’ Seminar, NEURL-GA 3380. The courses Reading Course in Neural Science, NEURL-GA 3305, 3306, and Research Problems in Neural Science, NEURL-GA 3321, are intended to provide appropriate course credits for faculty-guided readings and research necessary for preparation of the Ph.D. thesis. These courses can be taken more than once for credit. Dissertation Research, NEURL-GA 3301, courses are taken only by students who are preparing the thesis document and who have completed about 66 points and the required number of points in graded courses.
Thesis Lab Selection: In the first year and the subsequent summer, students will perform two or more laboratory rotations as part of the process for identifying an appropriate advisor and research area for the dissertation work. Rotations during the academic year are taken for credit and receive grades. During the second year, each student will usually have selected an area of primary research interest and the faculty member with matching research interests to serve as the primary advisor. Together they will develop a program of research that will eventually become the doctoral thesis work.
Qualifying: In order to qualify, students must first satisfactorily complete the first-year core curriculum and courses in one area of specialization. In addition, by the beginning of their third year they will prepare and submit a written qualifying exam to their thesis advisory committee. This was formerly called the “Second Year Paper”. The qualifying exam will be written in the form of an NIH NRSA pre-doctoral fellowship. The form of the paper should be suitable for submission as a fellowship or small research grant proposal; students are encouraged to seek independent funding for their research training. It should contain a literature review, an account of research progress, and a plan for future experiments based on any preliminary data that may have been obtained up to this point in training. Although the proposal does not bind students to pursue the experiments described as their thesis work, the proposed experiments should lay out a reasonable course of action based on progress to date. Copies should be submitted to each member of the committee and one to the Director of Graduate Studies.
After submitting the written qualifying exam to their thesis committee, students must then give an oral presentation of the proposed program of research to the committee. The committee must determine that the document and oral defense are acceptable for students to qualify for doctoral research.
Annual committee meetings will, in part, be used to monitor how the thoughts and plans first outlined in the proposal are shaped, developed, and altered through further discoveries. The formal process of writing a Dissertation Proposal in the third or fourth year is made less critical by regular committee meetings.
Research Talks: In September, students entering the 2nd year give brief talks based on research completed during one of the first year rotations. Fourth year students give full research talks, based on current research, during the Autumn Fellows’ Seminar series.
Dissertation and Final Examination: Students prepare their written dissertation based on their doctoral research and submit it to their examining committee. The final examination is the oral defense of the thesis, which includes a one-hour talk based on the written document. The examining committee usually consists of the three members of the dissertation committee plus two additional members, chosen by the student in consultation with the dissertation committee members and the Director of Graduate studies. One of the additional members is often an invited expert from outside of the University. Passage of the thesis defense is contingent on at least all but one of the examiners voting to accept the thesis and its defense.