There are three required core courses for all students in neuroscience Ph.D. programs.

  • Cellular Neurobiology: This course is concerned with the structure and function of the nervous system at the cellular level. The cellular and subcellular components of neurons and their basic membrane and electrophysiological properties will be described. Cellular and molecular aspects of interactions between neurons will be studied. This will lead to functional analyses of the mechanisms involved in the generation and modulation of behavior in selected model systems.
  • Survey of Systems Neuroscience: This lab-centered course teaches students the fundamental principles of vertebrate nervous system organization. Students learn the major structures and the basic circuitry of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system. Somatic, visual, auditory, vestibular, and olfactory sensory systems are presented in particular depth. A highlight of this course is that students become practiced at recognizing the nuclear organization and cellular architecture of many regions of the brain in rodents, cats, and primates.
  • Behavioral Neuroscience: This course provides an introduction to neuroethology, examining brain activity relative to behaviors and organisms evaluated from an adaptive and evolutionary perspective. It starts with a brief introduction to classical ethology, and then develops a series of example animal model systems. Both invertebrate and vertebrate models are considered although there is a bias towards the latter. Many of these are "champion" species. There is a heavier demand for reading original data papers than typical in introductory graduate-level courses. An integral part of the course is a series of assignments where you develop grant proposals describing novel science experiments in animal models, thereby challenging your knowledge of the material and teaching aspects of scientific writing. In recent years there has been more computational material presented. The course is not available to undergraduates without prior approval of the instructor.

Four elective courses:

Elective courses can be selected from any division at the University of Chicago – provided students are able to articulate how it aids their research. One of the elective courses MUST be related to quantitative analysis or computational neuroscience. See below for a list of sample elective courses.

Elective Neurobiology courses:

  • NURB 32400 Synaptic Physiology (McGehee): Autumn Quarter, alternate years
  • NURB 33600 Experimental Design in Motor Control Research (Hale): Autumn Quarter
  • NURB 36050 Principles of Data Science and Engineering for Laboratory Research (Yu): Autumn Quarter
  • NURB 33480 Neurogenetics (Zhang): Winter Quarter
  • NURB 32130 Psychoactive Drugs, the Brain and Behavior (De Wit et al): Winter Quarter
  • NURB 32300 Molecular Principles of Nervous System Development (Kratsios, Grove): Spring Quarter
  • NURB 34810 Neurons and Glia: A cellular and molecular perspective (Carrillo, Green): Spring Quarter
  • NURB 34600 Neurobiology of Disease (Garcia): Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters (3 quarters of attendance needed)

Computational Neuroscience courses:

  • CPNS 31000 Mathematics Methods for the Biological Sciences I (Kondrashov): Autumn Quarter
  • CPNS 31100 Mathematics Methods for the Biological Sciences II (Kondrashov): Winter Quarter
  • CPNS 32610 Theories of Cortical Circuit Dynamics and Computation (Doiron): Winter Quarter
  • CPNS 34231 Methods in Computational Neuroscience (Kaufman): Winter Quarter
  • CPNS 32111 Signal Analysis and Modeling for Neuroscientists (Van Drongelen): Spring Quarter
  • CPNS 35600 Theoretical Neuroscience: Statistics and Information Theory (Palmer): Spring Quarter

Lab rotations:

Students are required to complete at least two lab rotations during their first year. Such rotations provide hands-on experience and help the students identify the best thesis research laboratory and advisor according to their specific research interests and mentoring needs.


The Biological Sciences Division (BSD) requires all graduate students to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) in two courses for academic credit (without pay) before their Ph.D. degree is awarded. Students particularly interested in teaching can TA for pay in additional courses, with the consent of their thesis advisor. These students are encouraged to pursue certificates and training opportunities offered by the Chicago Center for Teaching and Learning.

  Autumn Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter Summer Quarter 
Year 1

Systems Neuroscience

Lab Rotation

Cellular Neurobiology



Lab rotation

Ethics (R3R) 

Behavioral Neuroscience


Lab rotation  

Year 2

Elective (any quarter)

TA (any quarter)


Research Research

Qualifying Exam


Year 3

TA (any quarter)


Research Research Research
Year 4 Research Research


Senior Ethics

Year 5 Research Research Research Defense

Year 3-5

Advanced Topics Course (Electives); Annual Student Talks; Journal Clubs; Professional Development Series