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Section 6: Requirements for the PhD in Neuroscience


The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Neuroscience shall reflect a mastery of such areas as cellular, molecular and developmental neurobiology, neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, behavioral neuroscience, neuro-oncology, neuroimmunology, and neurotrauma.  During the course of study, the student has the option of deciding whether to specialize in one or more of the above areas.  All students are strongly encouraged to complete the doctoral degree within a five (5) year time period.


All doctoral students must fulfill the Graduate School’s residence and credit hour requirements.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires the equivalent of at least 3 academic years of work beyond the baccalaureate degree with a minimum of 80 hours of graduate credit.  If a student has earned a master’s degree in a relevant area, then a minimum of 50 graduate credit hours beyond the master’s degree is required.   If the master’s degree was earned at another university, it must be transferred to this university.

Residence at the University is required to afford the student an opportunity to engage in intensive, concentrated study over an extended period of time in association with faculty members and other students in an atmosphere conducive to a high level of intellectual and scholarly activity.  All domestic students are required to establish Ohio residency by the end of autumn semester in their second academic year.

The following requirements must be fulfilled after the master’s degree has been earned or after the first 30 hours of graduate credit have been completed:

  • a minimum of 24 graduate credit hours required for the PhD must be completed at this University
  • a minimum of two consecutive pre-candidacy semesters or one semester and a summer session with a full-time enrollment must be completed while in residence at this University
  • a minimum of 6 graduate credit hours over a period of at least two semesters or one semester and a summer session must be completed after admission to candidacy


It is required that all NGP students, with the exception of those in the MD/PhD track, take the introductory core course sequence. These courses are normally scheduled in the first year and must be completed by the end of the second year. 

Fall Semester

  • NEUROSC 7001: Foundations of Neuroscience 1 (4 credit hours)
  • NEUROSC 7100: Current Topics in Neuroscience (1 credit hour) – paper discussion course to accompany NEUROSC 7001
  • NEUROGS 7887: Seminar Topics in Neuroscience (1 credit hour)

Spring Semester

  • NEUROSC 7002: Foundations of Neuroscience II (4 credit hours)
  • NEUROSC 7200.01: Neuroscience Laboratory (1 credit hour) – 1st half of semester
  • NEUROGS 7887: Seminar Topics in Neuroscience (1 credit hour)

Summer Semester

  • BME 894 or BIOPHRM 5510: Responsible Conduct in Neuroscience Research

Beginning with the 2024-2025 cohort, all Neuroscience Graduate Students must also complete six credit hours worth of related electives.  The student should consult her/his advisor for recommended additional coursework in accordance with the student’s chosen course of study.

A list of “Recommended Electives” includes, but is not limited to: 

  • MOLGEN 5701: DNA Transactions and Gene Regulation
  • NEUROSC 5644: Behavioral Endocrinology
  • NEUROSC 5790H: Developmental Neurobiology
  • NEUROSC 7500: Neuroimmunology
  • NGSY 8250: Biology of the Tumor Microenvironment

Other electives may be taken, at the discretion of the student and his/her advisor.

Students are also required to complete one course in statistics. Recommended statistics courses include:

  • STAT 5301: Intermediate Data Analysis I
  • PSYCH 6810: Statistical Methods in Psychology I 

After satisfactorily completing the Candidacy Examination, it is normally expected that a student will not enroll in any course other than NEUROGS 7887 and the 8999 course of the advisor’s home department.

Students who transfer into the Program from other graduate programs, whether at OSU or another institution, must also meet the core course requirement.  They may petition to the NGP Committee to accept courses taken in their former Program.  The NGP Committee will determine if the courses taken are equivalent to the NGP core courses and will determine if the transfer student may be exempted from taking one or more core courses.

In certain instances, with permission of the NGP Committee and the student’s advisor, students may be exempted from taking a core course if adequate proficiency or equivalency can be demonstrated.  The NGP Committee may approve an alternative course of study.


Students are engaged in research during every semester and summer session of their training.  Students doing laboratory rotations should register for the 6193 course of the rotation mentor’s home department, e.g. NEUROSC 6193 (Individual Studies in Neuroscience) for mentors who are in the Department of Neuroscience.  Once students have successfully passed their candidacy examination, they should register for the 8999 course of the advisor’s home department, e.g. NEUROSC 8999 (Research in Neuroscience) for advisors who are in the Department of Neuroscience.

The following policy is predicated on the principle that students should have exposure to multiple research experiences prior to selecting a dissertation laboratory:

  1. Three rotations are the norm and are strongly encouraged.
  2. Rotations will be in 7 week modules; 2 in autumn semester, 2 in spring semester and all first-year students must be performing research in labs during all 4 modules.  Generally students will decide on a lab in consultation with the relevant mentor after the third rotation.
  3. If a student has not identified/chosen a lab after three rotations he/she may continue for a final 7 wk session in one of the three rotation labs (in consultation/agreement with the relevant mentor) or do a 4th rotation.
  4. If a student has identified/chosen a lab after 2 or 3 rotations in consultation with the relevant mentor he/she should continue in that lab in the ensuing rotation modules.
  5. Students are expected to have chosen a lab by the beginning of summer session at the end of year one.

Exceptions: As with all guidelines some exceptions may be made (e.g. if a student transfers midyear from another program/institution with a newly arriving faculty, or if a new student is financially supported from the outset by the advisor and not by the program). Any such exceptions would require a petition with the graduate studies committee.


Communication of research results is critically important in any scientific research endeavor. Published research papers are the primary form of written communication, and the most important measure of research productivity. The second most important method of research communication is oral presentation of data at research meetings. The dissertation document should represent an original scholarly body of work that contributes to the field. This document must be of a caliber similar to that expected of an article submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Indeed, the dissertation-associated work should be published in peer-reviewed journals. 

The following are the research expectations of NGP students:

  • At least one published or in press primary research paper, with first-authorship, is required; this minimal requirement, however, is generally considered below the expectations of the program, unless the papers are of extraordinary content and impact 
  • At least one non-OSU conference research presentation (oral or poster), with first-authorship, is required; this minimal requirement, however, is generally considered below the expectations of the program 


The NGP considers a teaching experience to be an important part of a PhD student’s professional development. To this end, all students, including those appointed as Graduate Research Associates, are required to teach one full semester during their training. This experience should include at least one student-facing activity (e.g. guest lecturing, office hours, review sessions, etc.) and at least one of these activities: grading, responding to emails/message board, preparing course materials. If the student is appointed to a GRA during the teaching experience, these teaching activities cannot exceed an average of 5 h/week. Alternatively, any Graduate Teaching Associate appointment fulfills this requirement. Students may obtain a list of teaching opportunities by contacting the Program Administrator.  


All students must attend all invited speaker seminars in the Neuroscience Seminar Series and Frontiers in Neuroscience series in all years of tenure in the NGP (see section 15.2); limited exceptions are allowed on a case-by-case basis, and must be pre-approved. Exceptions include research-related travel and vacations, illness, or research-related scheduling conflicts that cannot be avoided.


As part of their professional development NGP students are expected to participate in service to the program and to engage in research education in the community. Service may include participation on the student NS Seminar Committee, participation in luncheons with invited seminar speakers, annual recruitment events, and other activities. Such service is ongoing in every year. Community research education includes mandatory participation in the annual Brain Awareness Week event in March at COSI. Each student must participate in at least one morning or afternoon session, twice during their tenure in the program (two different years). Other outreach activities could include participation in the student-led outreach group, NEURO. 


All students must engage in a nine-session course in Responsible Conduct in Neuroscience Research (BME 894 or BIOPHRM 5510). The courses are primarily discussion based and cover i) Ethics and the Practice of Science, ii) Mentor and Trainee Relationships and Collaborations, iii and iv) Data Acquisition, Analysis, Presentation, Sharing and Management, v) Research Publication, Conflict of Interest, and Confidentiality, vi) Grant Application and Institutional Responsibility, vii) Patents, Intellectual Property and Inventions, viii) Animal Experimentation, and ix) Research with Human Subjects.


All students are required to satisfactorily complete the Candidacy Examination in order to proceed with their thesis research.  To graduate from the Program, all students must successfully complete the Final Doctoral Examination.  These examinations are described in sections 10 and 11, respectively.


Enrollment eligibility for a pre-candidacy doctoral student who has not registered in the Graduate School within the preceding two full calendar years will be automatically deactivated.  Eligibility for doctoral students who have passed the candidacy examination is automatically deactivated at the end of a five-year candidacy period if they have not graduated by then.  To reenroll, the student must petition the NGP Committee for reactivation and  there is no assurance of readmission.