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Program of Study

Overview

Training the next generation of research neuroscientists requires that graduate students be provided with an unusually broad range of didactic course work spanning the disciplines of biology and psychology, have the opportunity to undertake research training in any of the neuroscience subdisciplines across the range from molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, and the possibility of acquiring skills in neurochemistry, neurophysiology, neural imaging and neurobehavioral analysis. To provide such training, the neuroscience doctoral programs in Biology and Psychology have integrated to form the CUNY Neuroscience Collaborative.  Faculty from both disciplines work together as a single integrated unit, in the admissions and assessment process, the teaching of an integrated First Year Neuroscience Curriculum, the presentation of a Neuroscience Colloquium/Seminar Series and the supervision of students during First Year Rotations and Dissertation supervision. Faculty from the Theoretical Neuroscience Program at the Graduate Center (GC) and Neuroscience faculty from the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center also contribute in a number of ways.

Training Program

During their first year, students rotate through two or three laboratories and are encouraged to select research supervisors from faculty different from their undergraduate experience.  They complete a two-semester interdisciplinary course in Neuroscience which is team-taught by faculty from both disciplines and ranges broadly across molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience. In addition to didactics, one function of this course is to train them in research presentation and critiques. They attend the weekly Neuroscience Colloquium, where they have a chance to lunch with speakers of interest. By the end of the first year, they will have selected a faculty mentor who has agreed to provide support for them through research and teaching activities which will supplement the support (stipends, health insurance, tuition remission) which they receive through the CUNY Graduate Center. The student organizes an Advisory Committee of faculty with direct or cognate expertise in their area of interest and meet with them. The student also meets with the Training Program director at least once each semester during the first year.
 
Assessment: In addition to course grading, faculty in each of the rotations provide a detailed analysis of the student’s strengths and weakness as well as an indication of their willingness to provide financial support during the preparation of the Dissertation. All students are reviewed by the CNC Executive Committee at the end of the First year.
 
Satisfactory progress during this year requires completion of Milestone I—section of a laboratory and faculty advisor
 
During their second year, students continue to develop the research project they had begun with their chosen mentor, takes special electives in areas of interest, and take some form of supervised training in teaching. During the second semester, they take a course (Research Development and Ethics) taught by faculty from the two different disciplines, which provides an in-depth discussion of ethical issues related to research—a copy of a recent syllabus is attached—and in which they begin to prepare the research proposal (based on an NRSA or NSF predoctoral research grant) which will become the basis both for their 2nd Exam and for their Dissertation. They may also fulfill a Quantitative Neuroscience requirement to complement the Statistics requirement they met during their first year.
 
Assessment:  The aim of the First Examination is to assess the student’s ability to master the background of a neuroscience area with which they have had no research experience. In addition to assessing general knowledge of key methods, data and concepts in Neuroscience, we examine the student’s ability to provide a detailed critique of a research publication, and to generate an original research proposal this area. 2nd Year annual review of student.
 
Satisfactory progress during this year requires completion of Milestone 2, passing the First Examination
 
During their third year, students complete their 2nd Examination and proceed to generate pilot data which will serve as the basis for their Dissertation proposal. They also make a presentation based on their research at the Neuroscience Colloquium.  In consultation with their Advisor, they will refine the hypotheses, research strategy, design and analysis of their draft Thesis proposal.
 
Assessment: The Second Examination:  Based upon a draft proposal comparable in form to that of an NSF or NRSA predoctoral fellowship, this Exam is designed to ensure that students have mastered the basic information, methods and modes of analysis necessary to proceed towards the Dissertation. Continued progress in the program requires satisfactory passage of the Examination within 2 attempts.
 
Satisfactory progress during this year requires completion of Milestone 3, passage of the Second Examination
 
During their fourth year, students will begin submit the Dissertation proposal and begin to generate draft manuscripts for publication based upon one or more of their research studies. This will involve careful supervision of the writing itself and discussions of appropriate publication venues.  They will also be required to make a presentation at the Neuroscience Colloquium which will serve as a Progress Report on their research. This work will be carried in conjunction with Advisory Committee meeting.
 
Assessment:  Satisfactory progress during this year requires completion of Milestone 4, submission of the Thesis Proposal.
 
During their fifth year, students will complete and submit for publication manuscripts based upon their Thesis research. Discussions with advisors on career planning will include consideration of Postdoctoral fellowship possibilities and contact with possible sponsors.  With their advisers and Grad Center counsellors, they will also explore opportunities in translational research and biotechnology areas.   Assessment. Completion of Milestone 5, the Dissertation Defense.
 

Electives and other specialized training courses

The list below indicates some of the specialized courses available to doctoral students.

  • Animal Behavior I: Evolution
  • Animal Behavior II: Mechanisms
  • Anatomy of Human Cognition
  • Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience (e.g. Attention, Memory, Methods)
  • Learning (e.g. neural and behavioral mechanisms)
  • Cell biology of myelination
  • Physiology of the nervous system
  • Developmental neuroscience
  • Diseases of the nervous system
  • Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Overview of First Year and Mentor

Students should expect to spend the majority of their first year in laboratory work. To assist them in their laboratory choices, all entering students will attend an Introductory Research Colloquium (during Orientation week) that will include presentations by current students and selected faculty, and will also register for the Neuroscience Collaborative Colloquium featuring Neuroscience faculty who are interested in sponsoring student research. The organization of training for entering students is designed to ensure that each identifies an appropriate faculty thesis mentor by the end of the first year.

In addition to their research work, all entering students will take a year-long interdisciplinary course sequence in neuroscience. The combination of research and course work will prepare students for the First Exam (qualifying exam).

Paths to Degree