PhD Requirements

PhD Program Requirements Image

Program requirements are detailed in Guidelines and Regulations for Doctoral Study in the CNUP Training Program. These written guidelines and regulations are updated yearly and presented to each class of entering students. They provide detailed information on all aspects of the training program. Key aspects of the program are listed below.


  • Students start research in a laboratory they select immediately upon entering the program.
  • Students gain experience in at least two laboratories, through rotations during the first year.
  • Students choose a doctoral advisor no later than the end of August of the first year.


  • A sequence of three core courses are typically completed in the first year:
    • Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology I
    • Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology II
    • Systems Neurobiology
  • 2–3 elective courses (there are many from which to choose).
  • A statistics course (there are several from which to choose).
  • Scientific Ethics and Professional Development I and II.
  • A Grant Writing course.
  • Research seminar (regular attendance is required throughout graduate training).
  • Journal Club (regular attendance at a broad-based student-run journal club is required until students have advanced to candidacy).


  • Second-year students typically serve as teaching assistants to members of the training faculty for a one-term course.


  • Preliminary exam (aka the "reprint exam," taken at the end of the first year, tests the student's ability to orally present and critically evaluate a published research report).
  • Comprehensive exam (taken in the middle of the third year, takes the format of a grant application, tests the student’s ability to propose and defend hypothesis-driven original research).
  • Doctoral dissertation proposal (typically in the fourth year) and defense (typically in the fifth year).

Student Evaluations

  • Annual evaluation by the CNUP Student Evaluations Committee (also mid-year evaluation of first-year students).
  • Second year research evaluation by a faculty committee chosen by the student.