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Neurobiology Graduate Study

 

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Neurobiology Program Summary

The Biological Sciences graduate program in the area of neurobiology is one of several neuroscience M.S./Ph.D. programs on campus. Each of these courses of study has slightly different requirements and emphases. UIC also has an undergraduate neuroscience curriculum leading to a B.S. in Neuroscience. Faculty in the Biological Sciences Graduate Neurobiology Group (to which this web page pertains) tend to have strong primary interests in synapses, motor control, and sensory processing. However, it should be emphasized that neuroscience is inherently highly interdisciplinary, and students in the Biological Sciences program have opportunities to interact and work with students and faculty from several different departments on many types of projects. Prospective students should feel free to contact any of the faculty in the program to learn more.

This web page contains only a brief summary of important information about graduate studies in neurobiology. Other sources of (more complete) information are departmental and graduate college websites, as well as program documents provided at matriculation and throughout one's course of study.

Anyone who wishes to join the Neurobiology Group as a graduate student must apply by filling out the Department of Biological Sciences graduate application.

In their first year, new Neurobiology graduate students take at least four classes:
  1. Neus 501, Graduate Neuroscience I
  2. Neus 502, Graduate Neuroscience II
  3. Bios 592, Research Seminar (BioS Neurobiology Journal Club)
  4. Bios 593, Introduction to Laboratory Research (which encompasses lab rotations; see below)
Neus 501 and Neus 502 provide a core foundation in graduate neuroscience. Instructors are drawn from several departments and colleges within UIC, including Biology, Psychology, and the medical school.

Bios 592 is a weekly informal gathering where students from several departments present and discuss new papers and their own research. It is an important mechanism for promoting and maintaining a sense of cohesion and shared excitement among a diverse array of faculty and students. Neurobiology graduate students are expected to enroll, and participate in, Bios 592 every year.

During the first year, students also perform laboratory rotations. All Ph.D. students must do a minimum of one 5 week laboratory rotation in each of 3 different laboratories. These rotations give students and faculty an important opportunity to work with each other before making a long-term commitment. Each student must complete rotations and select a permanent advisor/home lab by the end of spring semester in the first year. The advisor must be a member of UIC's graduate college. If a student has not found an appropriate permanent advisor by the end of the spring semester, then the student will be deemed not to be in good standing, and may be immediately terminated from the program.

After the first year, students may take further classes, depending on their specific area of research or requirements imposed by their graduate committee. For example, students whose work involves vertebrate animals should take GC 470 (Essentials of Animal Research), students whose work involves extensive work with recombinant nucleic acids or genetics might take Bios 524 and Bios 525 (Graduate Molecular Biology I and II), and students whose work involves animal behavior studies could take Bios 486 (Animal Behavior). To graduate, each student must fulfill all graduate college requirements appropriate to his/her degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) as well as the specific class requirements listed above and suggested by the student's graduate advisory committee.

Students should register for at least 16 credits each semester. After the first year most of these credits will be Seminar- or Research-related (Bios 592, 594, 597, 598, or 599), as the student's focus on independent research becomes increasingly important.

In the second year, each student (in consultation with his/her advisor) selects a graduate advising committee who will oversee the student's preliminary exam and continued progress in the program. Ph.D. advising committees consist of at least 5 members. At least 3 committee members must be UIC graduate faculty in good standing, and at least two must be tenured. It is highly recommended, but not required by the graduate college, that at least one member be from outside the department of Biological Sciences. M.S. committees contain at least 3 persons, at least one of whom must be tenured and a full member of the graduate faculty. Graduate committees are important sources of guidance who should be consulted frequently. Students are required to have a formal committee meeting at least once per year after the committee is formed.

Students in the first two years who have not yet formed a formal graduate advisory committee will meet each spring semester with an ad hoc faculty advisory committee.

By the end of the third academic year (which ends in May), each student must take a preliminary exam. Traditionally, these exams contain both oral and written components. The written portion typically takes the form of an NSF or NIH-style proposal on the student's proposed topic of research. The preliminary exam is an important mechanism for evaluating each student's progress and potential. Students may be allowed to re-take a preliminary exam once, or may be immediately dismissed from the program. Students who fail to pass a preliminary exam by the deadline will be dismissed from the program.

The Graduate College Catalog lists the credit requirements for the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Please see the Graduate College website for more information about UIC Graduate College requirements and the path to graduation.

Briefly:

M.S. students must complete at least 32 credit hours of 400- or 500-level coursework. At least 9 credit hours must be from graded 500 level courses (as opposed to ungraded courses or courses graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U). 5 credits must be from Bios 597 or 598 (Project or Thesis Reseach).

Ph.D. students must earn at least 96 credit hours of 400- or 500-level coursework (64 if a Master's degree is already held). A minimum of 8 credits must be from graded 500 level courses (as opposed to ungraded courses or courses graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U). At least 32 credits must be Bios 599 (Dissertation Research).

Coursework that earns a failing or unsatisfactory (U) grade does not count toward graduation. A student whose GPA falls below 3.0 enters academic probation, and will be dismissed from the program if the GPA remains low.

A thesis (M.S.) or dissertation (Ph.D.) is required for graduation. The content of these documents is formed in consultation and collaboration with advisors and committee members. Please see the Graduate College website for information on the thesis style required. Before graduation, the thesis/dissertation must be approved by the student's advisory committee and presented to the public.

The time limit is 4 years to earn the M.S., or 9 years for a Ph.D. (6 if the Ph.D. student was admitted with an M.S.). Students who do not complete their degree requirements within 5 years of passing the preliminary exam must retake the examination.