Fostering collaboration and creativity, the 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.
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.
The following coursework is required of all students:
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Systems Neuroscience
- Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
- Critical Thinking
- Neuroscience Seminar
During the summer following year one, students begin working in the research laboratory of their chosen thesis advisor.
- Techniques in Neuroscience and Cell Biology
- Scientific Integrity
- Scientific Writing and Grantsmanship
- Neuroscience Seminar
- Research Presentations and Journal Club
- Directed Research
- Electives (2)
- Neuroscience seminar
- Research presentations and journal club
- Directed research
The following courses are commonly incorporated into the neuroscience curriculum as electives:
- Basic Concepts in Pharmacology
- Behavioral Pharmacology
- Cell Signaling and Growth Control
- Functional and Clinical Neuroanatomy
- Human Embryology
- Infection and Immunity
- Integrated Bioinformatics
- Introduction to Human Genetics
- Ion Channels in Membranes
- Mammalian Physiology
- Mitochondrial Pathophysiology and Human Diseases
- Molecular Basis for Disease
- Neurobiology of CNS Diseases
- Neurochemical Pharmacology
- Pharmacology of Analgesics
- Principles of Pharmacology
- Statistical Methods
We are happy to work with students individually to identify relevant and appropriate elective courses.
The comprehensive candidacy exam occurs 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. Ph.D. 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.
Students write a mini review and defend it before their graduate advisory committee.
In consultation with their advisors, students prepare an oral defense of an NIH-style grant proposal, also defended before their graduate advisory committee. We strongly encourage students to submit their proposals for extramural funding, such as NIH predoctoral fellowships, when appropriate.
We encourage our students to explore a multitude of neuroscience-related research options before committing to a mentor, a lab and a doctoral track.
Under the guidance of an academic advisor, students select and complete three 10-week research rotations. By the end of the year, students choose faculty mentors and match with the lab in which they’ll conduct their doctoral research.
Students transition into their chosen lab in a discipline related to neuroscience. By the end of the second year, students have completed their academic requirements and devote 100% of their time to dissertation research.
Learn more about research areas and the faculty accepting students into their labs.
Yu Tzu (Rita) Chen
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:
John Bigbee, Ph.D.
Neuroscience Graduate Program Director