Neuroscience

Ph.D. Program

Fostering collaboration and creativitythe Neuroscience Ph.D. program at VCU is an opportunity for students to explore a broad range of disciplines related to neuroscience.  

Our uniquely interdepartmental, integrated curriculum provides students with a core of knowledge of the basic structure and function of the central nervous system while allowing flexibility in choosing their advisors, electives and specialized areas of research.  

Students function as independent research investigators after completing their required didactics, and upon graduation will be equipped to conduct independent research and teach in the neuroscience disciplines at a university or academic health center.

A Message from our Director

VCUSOM Message from the Chair

A Message from our Director

The strength of VCU’s interdisciplinary Neuroscience Ph.D. program lies in its flexibility. We encourage students to explore a multitude of fields relating to neuroscience and ultimately pursue research that sparks their interest within any of our participating departments. Ph.D. candidates have the unique opportunity to interact and collaborate with peers and educators across nearly a dozen departments within the School of Medicine, facilitating both academic and social opportunities that enhance their overall learning experience here at VCU.   

The program has had a strong focus on head trauma, drugs of abuse and glial cell biology, and our dedicated faculty and students take pride in shaping the future of neuroscience research.    

John Bigbee, Ph.D.

Research

We encourage our students to explore a variety of neuroscience research areas before committing to a mentor and a research laboratory. Research groups include: 

 

  • Drug abuse and mental illness 
  • Glial cell biology 
  • Injury, repair and degeneration 
  • Plasticity and development 
  • Channels, receptors and transporters 
Learn more about our research groups

Students enter doctoral training via the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal, which allows them to remain uncommitted to a department or program until transitioning at the end of the first year of study. Students may choose to concentrate in neuroscience from the beginning or select the doctoral program in neuroscience after exploring opportunities in other departments and programs.

Candidacy exams occur in two parts, typically after the second year for Ph.D. students and the first graduate year for those on the M.D./Ph.D. track. Students should complete both parts by the end of their third-year fall semester, and M.D./Ph.D. students should complete both parts by their second graduate year.

Aaron Barbour

Aaron Barbour

Aaron Barbour

Aaron Barbour

Neuroscience

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Maria Bent

Maria Bent

Maria Bent

Maria Bent

Neuroscience

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Yu Tzu (Rita) Chen

Yu Tzu (Rita) Chen

Yu Tzu (Rita) Chen

Yu Tzu (Rita) Chen

Neuroscience

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Elizabeth Dustin

Elizabeth Dustin

Elizabeth Dustin

Elizabeth Dustin

Neuroscience

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Nicole Ekanem

Nicole Ekanem

Nicole Ekanem

Nicole Ekanem

Neuroscience

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Kelly Flounlacker

Kelly Flounlacker

Kelly Flounlacker

Kelly Flounlacker

Neuroscience

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Alan Harris

Alan Harris

Alan Harris

Alan Harris

Neuroscience

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Martina Hernandez

Martina Hernandez

Martina Hernandez

Martina Hernandez

Neuroscience

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Elizabeth Leggett

Elizabeth Leggett

Elizabeth Leggett

Elizabeth Leggett

Neuroscience

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Michael Marone

Michael Marone

Michael Marone

Michael Marone

Neuroscience

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Nima Nassehi

Nima Nassehi

Nima Nassehi

Nima Nassehi

Neuroscience

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Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Neuroscience

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Justin Saunders

Justin Saunders

Justin Saunders

Justin Saunders

Neuroscience

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Samantha Spencer

Samantha Spencer

Samantha Spencer

Samantha Spencer

Neuroscience

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Gladys Shaw

Gladys Shaw

Gladys Shaw

Gladys Shaw

Neuroscience

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Elizabeth Thomason

Elizabeth Thomason

Elizabeth Thomason

Elizabeth Thomason

Neuroscience

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Rudy Toneatti

Rudy Toneatti

Rudy Toneatti

Rudy Toneatti

Neuroscience

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Nicole Weston

Nicole Weston

Nicole Weston

Nicole Weston

Neuroscience

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Rory Weston

Rory Weston

Rory Weston

Rory Weston

Neuroscience

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Life in Richmond

Urban life with a small-town feel

We encourage our graduate students to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and Richmond is a wonderful place to engage in that well-rounded lifestyle. As the capital of Virginia since 1779, Richmond attracts students, faculty and staff from around the globe. The city’s location affords easy day trips to destinations like Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, Colonial Williamsburg and the Blue Ridge Mountains, among others.

As a mid-sized city with a metropolitan population of 1.3 million, Richmond provides stimulating activities while maintaining its intimate feel and unique vibe. Vibrant neighborhoods offer distinct, diverse experiences, with no shortage of art galleries, museums, music venues, restaurants, breweries and parks. For the outdoor enthusiast, you can’t beat the offerings in the city’s riverfront parks and urban wilderness areas such as white-water rafting, hiking, mountain biking and festivals.

Learn more about our community

The Neuroscience Ph.D. program typically admits five to seven students per year, with financial support including a living stipend plus tuition and fees for the duration of their training 

The application is available through the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal. If you have any questions about the program or application requirements, please contact:

Contact Us

John Bigbee, Ph.D.

Neuroscience Graduate Program Director

Neuroscience Program Director

Email: john.bigbee@vcuhealth.org