Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are in the program?

Each year, there are approximately 10-15 students working in the labs of the Behavioral Neuroscience faculty.  Some new students are admitted each year through the Behavioral Neuroscience graduate program within Psychology.  Others are admitted through a variety of units, including the Neuroscience Program, Department of Integrative Biology.

All members of the Behavioral Neuroscience interest group in the Psychology Department are members of the interdepartmental Neuroscience Program. These two PhD-granting programs are separate, which one should I apply to?

It depends on what is best for you as an individual, and it is a good idea to discuss this issue with the person you are most interested in working with before you apply. However, the following
list may help you in making your decision:

  • In either Psychology or Neuroscience, you can conduct your research in any of the following labs - Agruello, Johnson, Lonstein, Nunez, Sisk, Smale, Veenema, Wade, or Yan, and the project you do could be identical regardless of the program.
  • The coursework in Psychology and Neuroscienceis different with respect to the number that are elective vs. required.  In Psychology, there is somewhat more flexibility with respect to which courses each student takes and when they are taken. All students in the Neuroscience Program take a series of required coursesduring their first two years. In practice, however, Psychology students often elect to take many of the same courses as Neuroscience students. All of the courses are open to graduate students in both programs.
  • The Neuroscience Program requires that students rotate in two labs during their first year; the Psychology Department does not.
  • The format of the comprehensive exam differs. Behavioral Neuroscience students
    in Psychology develop an upper-level course in their discipline (this course is not taught, just planned), typically in their third year. Neuroscience students take a sit-down exam at the end of their second year.

How many classes do students typically take?

Students typically take two 3-credit classes each semester prior to beginning their dissertation work. This allows ample time for involvement in research. Students take required courses including statistics and Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience, and can choose from options such as Sensation & Perception, Developmental Psychobiology, Systems Neuroscience, and others. Students may also take courses offered in other departments.

How long does the graduate program take?

The graduate program is usually completed in five years, although some students take less or more time. Students typically finish a master's degree in their second or third year, and are then admitted to the doctoral level of the program.  The comprehensive exam is then completed, followed by the doctoral dissertation.

Will I be assigned to work with a particular professor, or will I get to choose whom to work with?

First-year students often begin working with a particular faculty member by communicating directly with them when applying to the program. Our application form encourages prospective students to indicate which faculty member’s research is of particular interest to them. Students may sometimes choose to work in more than one laboratory during their first year while deciding which faculty member’s research best suits their interests. We are a highly collaborative group, and all graduate students (not only first-year students) are encouraged to work with more than one faculty member or on more than one research project to gain experience in different areas of Behavioral Neuroscience or to obtain new skills.

What type of financial support is available?

Most students are supported through teaching or research assistantships. Some receive University Fellowships.  Students with these types of funding receive tuition waivers and health care benefits. Funding for four academic years is guaranteed for all students in good standing, and it is commonly available for students who need a fifth year to complete their degree.  Behavioral Neuroscience faculty commonly support students during summers.  As the become prepared, students are encouraged to apply for external funding, and many have been successful in obtaining fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

Where are graduates employed?

Many of the graduates that obtain their Ph.D.s in the labs of Behavioral Neuroscience faculty go on to become post-doctoral researchers at a variety of institutions, and from there onto faculty positions. Others have opted to find employment teaching at small colleges or conducting research in industry.  We encourage students to pursue their passions.

Do students attend or present research at professional conferences?

Most students attend the annual Society for Neuroscience conference, as well as other conferences more focused on their particular research area (such as the meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.  Funding for these activities is available from a variety of sources on campus, and is commonly provided by students' major professors.

Do students publish research in professional and scientific journals?

It is expected that students will publish research articles in top-tier scientific journals based on their masters thesis and dissertation work. 

Do I need to have my own computer?

Behavioral Neuroscience laboratories all have computers that graduate students can use for some applications. Software typically includes Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and statistical packages. All computers provide access to the Internet. However, most students do choose to purchase their own computer for use at home and/or in their offices.