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Degree information and requirements

Neuroscience Coursework

Below are a group of core courses for Neuroscience students that provide a foundation in the neurosciences  and data analysis.

  • Introduction to Neuroscience broadly covers many aspects of neuroscience and the research that laid the foundation for our current understandings. This course is taken in the first semester of enrollment in the program. 
  • Structure & Function of the Nervous System introduces students in their first year to the basic anatomy and physiology of the human nervous system. Students have the opportunity to view discussed structures in human tissues. 
  • Neurophysiology is typically taken by students in their second or third year and explores biophysical concepts underlying signaling in the nervous system. Topics include membrane potentials, ion channel function, and circuit physiology.
  • Neuroscience Seminar The weekly Neuroscience Seminar provides an opportunity for intellectual and social exchange among the students and faculty. The topic and the faculty member directing the Seminar changes each semester. Past topics include neural epigenetics, neuropathies, olfaction, reward processing and neural regeneration.
  • Bio-statistics is taken by all students to support rigorous data analysis and evaluation of results in scientific research articles as well as their own research.

The Neuroscience Program is a research-oriented program and students are expected to take a minimum of 2-3 credit hours of research per semester.

The remaining coursework is tailored to fit the student. Beyond the foundational courses, the student and faculty advisor identify elective courses that best meet the educational and research needs of the student.  Additional courses in  cell physiology, neurodegeneration, pathophysiology, molecular biology, pharmacology, electron and confocal microscopy are available to Neuroscience students. Additionally, Neuroscience students attend a weekly Neurophysiology seminar series in which invited speakers give a research presentation and meet with graduate students.

PhD Degree Requirements 

A. During the first week of arriving on campus, each student will be consulted by an advisory committee. This committee will be comprised of an academic advisor and one to two additional neuroscience faculty. The role of this advisory committee is to orient the student to UW and Neuroscience and Graduate School requirements and expectations (research and academic). This committee will serve as the mentoring committee for the student during his/her initial year of graduate training. This group may or may not comprise the student's Doctoral Thesis Committee.

B. During the first semester, students are required to take Introduction to Neuroscience (NEUR 5280), and complete by the end of the second year Structure and Function of the Nervous System (NEUR 5100) and Neurophysiology (NEUR or ZOO 5685 or 5670). A grade of B or better is required for Neuroscience course work. Classes receiving a deficient grade will be repeated or arrangements will be made with the instructor to correct the deficiency.

C. Neuroscience Seminar. Students are required to take the Seminar in Neuroscience (NEUR 5715) each semester during the first three years.

D. Graduate students are required to maintain a B average or better during their residency, and progress and performance will be reviewed annually.

E. During the second year, students, with the guidance of their academic advisor, will form a Doctoral Thesis Committee. The committee will consist of the advisor, three to four faculty members in the Neuroscience Program, and a Graduate School representative.

F. A formal Master's degree project is not presently required for doctoral students but a master's level neuroscience proficiency is expected to be demonstrated. This will be demonstrated by a research project that will be identified during year 1. The benchmarks for the successful completion of the master's level research will be the: 1) presentation of the research at national/international meeting; 2) presentation of the work during the Neuroscience and Physiology Seminar or in a prearranged seminar, with questions; and 3) the publication of the work in a refereed Neuroscience journal.

G. Seventy-two (72) credit hours including 42 hours of formal coursework at the 4000 level or above from this or other accredited university graduate programs.

H. The Program of Study should be approved by the committee before the end of the second semester and approved by the Graduate Dean.

I. Research tool. It is the responsibility of the student's advisory committee to ensure appropriate breadth of coursework and knowledge of Neuroscience, as assessed by the preliminary examination. No formal certification of a "tool," as designated by some departments, will be required by the Neuroscience Program.

J. Preliminary exam. "Doctoral students are required to successfully pass a preliminary examination. The exam may not be given before the student (1) has an approved program of study on file in the Graduate School, (2) has completed at least 30 hours of coursework, and (3) has completed any research tool requirements listed on the program of study. Doctoral students are admitted to candidacy once they have successfully completed the preliminary examination. If you are a doctoral student, you have four calendar years after the successful completion of your preliminary examination to complete your degree. (taken from the Graduate School Student Handbook)
The examination is comprehensive, covering all areas of Neuroscience, but emphasizing the student's area or expertise. Questions are aimed at not only testing the student's in depth knowledge in their area of expertise, but also their ability to synthesize and generalize to a broader area or topic. The format of the preliminary exam will consist of both a written and oral portion. The format of the exam will be determined by the student's graduate committee. The written portion may take the form of literature reviews, open or closed book questions, experimental design questions, etc. Students should take the preliminary exam in their fifth semester of graduate study, after completing most of their graduate coursework and their masters level research project. The work will at least have been submitted for publication.
An examination committee will consist of the student's graduate committee and a member assigned by the Graduate Faculty. The composition of the Committee must be approved by the NAG and the Graduate School. Assessment of a student's performance will remain the responsibility of the student's graduate committee. Students who do not perform satisfactorily in regards to the research proposal and preliminary exam may be dropped from the graduate program upon the recommendation of the student's graduate committee, the NAG, and the Program Director. In such cases where the student has failed the exams and is not admitted to doctoral candidacy, but met the requirements for the MS in Neuroscience, the student may petition for a Master's degree. The committee will identify which, if any, additional requirements must be met.

K. Research Proposal. Students must have satisfactorily passed the Preliminary exams before advancing to the dissertation research. Doctoral students must write a dissertation following guidelines of the Graduate School of the University of Wyoming. The student will prepare a written proposal that will be submitted for review by the student's advisory committee. The committee will evaluate the: 1) originality; 2) quality, and 3) rigor of the dissertation research. Time schedule -- In general, it is recommended that the student present the research proposal during year 3 of his or her doctoral studies.

l. Advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D degree. For advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D degree, students must have successfully completed the following requirements: 1) benchmarks for Master's level research proficiency (outlined in II); 2) committee-approved program of study; 3) preliminary exam; and 4) committee-approved research proposal. Advancement to candidacy allows the student to proceed, but is not a guarantee that the PhD degree will be awarded. Additional requirements must be met before the final awarding of the degree.

M. Dissertation research: Students will typically carry out the bulk of their research in their advisor's laboratory. The dissertation research reflects the individual student's contribution to the scientific field. Typically the dissertation will comprise several studies conducted during the student's graduate studies. It is expected that the studies will show a progression to greater and greater independent and critical thinking on the part of the student. Not all experiments or publications during the student's graduate studies may be suitable for a dissertation, and the student with his/her advisor and committee will identify the projects included in the final dissertation. The dissertation research is expected to culminate in a focused, high-impact monograph that results in publications in quality peer-reviewed journals.

N. The Final Examination (Defense): At least two (2) weeks prior to the final examination, all graduate candidates must notify the Graduate School by email all defense date information, e.g., student's name, degree, thesis/dissertation title, time, date, place, etc. All final examinations should be held at least 10 days prior to the Completion of Requirements form deadline date. Student should provide a copy of the thesis/dissertation to their committee members at least two (2) weeks prior to final examination.
Awarding the Ph.D. The Ph.D or Doctoral Degree is the highest degree that is awarded by universities in many fields, including Neuroscience and is the highest level of academic achievement. Successful completion of all of the requirements will lead to the doctoral degree. As per Graduate School policy, The doctor of philosophy degree does not represent a specified amount of work over a definite period of time but rather the attainment of independent and comprehensive scholarship in a particular field. Such scholarship will be manifest in a thorough acquaintance with present knowledge and a demonstrated capacity for research. The fulfilling of the following requirements suggests, therefore, only the minimum task one must undertake to earn the doctor of philosophy degree. No amount of time spent in graduate study or accumulation of credit hours entitles the student to become a candidate for this degree. Similarly, while publications are expected, the PhD is not awarded based on some arbitrary number of research publications. Only after the dissertation committee approves the dissertation research and the oral defense is the PhD awarded. An unsatisfactory final research dissertation or defense will delay or prevent awarding the PhD. In such a situation, the student will have the opportunity to meet with the committee to identify the problems. Students will be presented with options that may include, correcting the deficiency and having a re examination, opting out of the doctoral program, petitioning for a terminal MS degree.

Contact Us

Neuroscience Graduate Program

University of Wyoming

Department 3302

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071


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