Graduate Program in Neuroscience

PhD Requirements


Core Sequence

During the first year, students are required to take a series of seven graduate level courses that provide exposure to core principles of neuroscience.

  • NEURO 501, 502, 503 & 504 cover topics in cellular neurophysiology, cellular and molecular neurobiology, developmental neurobiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, systems neuroscience, cognition and behavior.
  • NEURO 527 is a reading and discussion course focusing on topics covered in NEURO 501-504.
  • NEURO 545 exposes students to quantitative methods and modeling used in neuroscience.
  • NEURO 559 introduces students to a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Seminar Series

All students are expected to attend the Program seminar series (NEURO 510) throughout their graduate careers.  Students receive credit for this course during their first two years.

Lab Rotations

During the first year, students are required to complete three one-quarter laboratory rotations (NEURO 526).

  • At the end of each rotation, students  deliver a short oral presentation describing their work.
  • The rotation advisor will provide a written evaluation of the student’s performance.
  • Students should contact the Program Office at the beginning of each quarter with the name of their rotation advisor.
  • All students in the Program are expected to attend the quarterly rotation talks.

Students complement their coursework with electives in areas of interest. Students must complete electives totaling at least 10 credits.


  • Electives may be taken for a grade or on a pass/fail basis.
  • Single credit courses that represent lab meetings, departmental journal clubs, etc., do not fulfill the elective requirement.
  • Entering graduate students will in general not be allowed to take elective courses in their first year, but may do so under special circumstances (e.g., a course is not offered every year) with prior approval.

More senior students should consult with their advisor and Supervisory Committee to  determine an appropriate curriculum of elective courses.  The Program’s Core Elective Course List provides an up-to-date listing of elective courses .

  • Students may petition  to receive credit for courses that are not part of the core list, but are deemed important for the student’s dissertation project.
  • Approval for any elective not on the list is required before the student enrolls in the course.
  • Students may also petition for credit for courses taken at other institutions while enrolled in the program, such as summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor or Woods Hole.
  • All students who have not completed their electives requirements are required to submit an advisor-approved elective plan annually by the end of Summer Quarter.

Graduate School Minimum

It is the responsibility of the student to meet the following minimum graduate school requirements. Most are met by the Program requirements, but they should be considered when selecting your elective courses.

  1. At least 18 graded credits of your course work must be at the graduate level and must be completed prior to scheduling your General Exam. The Graduate School accepts numerical grades in 400-level courses approved as part of the major and all 500-level courses.
  1. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 is required for a graduate degree. The Graduate School provides a quarterly report of graduate students whose GPA’s fall below 3.0 either cumulatively or for that quarter. This can result in academic probation.
  1. The student must pass the General Exam. Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter the exam is taken.
  1. The student must prepare a doctoral dissertation on a topic in neuroscience. The topic and scope of the dissertation are developed with guidance from the dissertation advisor and thesis committee. There is no clear-cut definition of a minimum requirement for a thesis. However, the dissertation should describe original research that advances the field of neuroscience and clearly indicates training in research. Credit for the dissertation ordinarily should be at least one-third of the total credit. The Candidate must register for a minimum of 27 credits of dissertation over a period of at least three-quarters.
  1. The student must pass a Final Examination, usually devoted to the defense of the dissertation. The General and Final Examinations cannot be scheduled during the same quarter. Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter the exam is taken and the degree is conferred.
  1. Completion of all work for the doctoral degree must be done within ten years of matriculation. This includes quarters spent On-Leave or out of status as well as applicable work from the master’s degree from the University of Washington.
  1. Registration must be maintained as a full- or part-time graduate student at the University for the quarter in which the degree is conferred.
  1. A student must satisfy the requirements that are in force at the time the degree is to be awarded.