Graduate Training in Neuroscience

Neuroscience Institute Education Graduate Training in Neuroscience
Neuroscience Institute Trainees Examine Samples Using High-Resolution Microscopes
Graduate Training in Neuroscience

Our PhD Training Program in Neuroscience harmonizes the Neuroscience and Physiology PhD Training Program offered by NYU School of Medicine’s Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and the Doctoral Program in Neural Sciences offered by NYU’s Center for Neural Science.

Our trainees have access to resources and faculty across both campuses and engage in dynamic projects in basic, translational, and clinical research spanning multiple disciplines. We welcome applicants with diverse academic backgrounds.

As a doctoral candidate, you partner with a faculty mentor to conduct research in fields ranging from molecular and cellular neurobiology to cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. Our flexible curriculum is tailored to optimize your research interests, positioning you to receive a well-rounded training experience and make significant contributions to the field.

The intellectual environment of the neuroscience program is enhanced by extensive interactions with other programs, such as NYU School of Medicine’s MD/PhD program and NYU’s Cognition and Perception Doctoral Program in Psychology.

All doctoral candidates receive benefits, including an annual stipend and opportunities for student housing.


We accept applications each fall. There is a single application process for our harmonized doctoral program. You have the option to select the Neuroscience and Physiology PhD Training Program or the Doctoral Program in Neural Science, or you may indicate no preference. Applicants are assigned to a program upon receiving an offer of admission. Download a copy of our most recent brochure for more information on neuroscience research and graduate education at NYU.

Most applicants select a program based on research or faculty interests, but there may be other factors that influence your choice. Our comparison of the two neuroscience PhD programs clarifies some of the differences between them and may help you decide.

During our application period for the 2019–20 academic year, which opens in September 2018 and closes on December 1, you can submit an online application. Although we prefer you apply using this portal, we also review applications submitted through Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

If you are applying to NYU School of Medicine’s MD/PhD program, you must submit your application through the American Medical College Application Service® by October 3, 2018, and then complete several additional steps after your initial submission. Learn more about the MD/PhD program admissions process.


Our core curriculum provides doctoral candidates with comprehensive training in the major areas of neuroscience. Based on your research interests, you select one of two areas of specialization: molecular, cellular, and translational neuroscience (MCT); or systems, cognition, and computational neuroscience (SCC).

In the first two years, all students take Cellular Neuroscience, Sensory and Motor Systems, and Laboratory in Neural Science I and II, as well as perform laboratory rotations. As you progress through the program, you take advanced electives and select a lab for thesis research.

See examples of curricula for MCT and SCC specializations. For individual course descriptions, see NYU’s neural science course catalog and the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences course catalog.

Mentoring and Milestones

Our graduate directors and advisors provide guidance and mentoring from the moment you are accepted through the defense of your doctoral dissertation.

In year one, you are assigned a first-year advisor, who provides general support and guidance and helps you choose a lab-rotation advisor whose research interests match your own. Your first-year advisor also helps you maintain a balance between coursework and lab research.

In the beginning of year two, under the guidance of your advisors, you select a thesis lab and identify specific areas where advanced electives can contribute to your specialized knowledge and advance your research. You also start to form your thesis committee.

By the start of your third year, you begin to prepare for your qualifying exam. You also meet with your thesis committee every six months to one year to get feedback on your training and research.

Laboratory Rotations

In year one, you choose two or three laboratories in which you complete rotations. This helps you gain the experience and insight you need to choose a thesis lab. You may elect to work in the lab of any approved neuroscience faculty member.

Although many students have a background in neuroscience, we encourage you to rotate in labs that focus on research areas that may be unfamiliar to you.

Qualifying Exam

After you choose your thesis lab and complete 32 credits of coursework with an average grade of B or higher, you defend a thesis proposal to your thesis committee. The proposal is in the format of a National Institutes of Health Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award combined with an oral defense of the project. Your proposal must demonstrate that your project is adequate to support a doctoral dissertation and reflect your knowledge of your research area, your understanding of experimental approaches and design, and your capacity to rationally analyze scientific problems and form cogent questions.

Thesis Defense

At the end of your training, you obtain permission from your thesis committee to begin writing your thesis. A written thesis consists of a substantial body of published or publishable research. When you have completed your thesis, you present your research in a public seminar that is open to NYU’s scientific community and defend your thesis in a closed-door session with your thesis committee.

Seminars and Events

In addition to the Neuroscience Institute’s events series—which includes a weekly neuroscience group meeting and joint neuroscience colloquia—our doctoral program hosts a range of seminars, courses, and skill-building workshops to help PhD students gain well-rounded experience as researchers and scientific communicators.

Fall Open House

At the beginning of the academic year, we host an open house for incoming graduate students, during which faculty members give brief talks about the program and neuroscience research at NYU. Our goal is to introduce you to our broad community and prepare you to choose your rotation labs.

Interview Weekends

Each winter, the graduate training programs in neuroscience and physiology and neural science jointly host two interview open houses. These events give prospective students a chance to meet with current students, attend poster sessions, and have meals with faculty, among other informal activities.

Scientific Integrity and the Responsible Conduct of Research Seminar

The National Institutes of Health mandates that biomedical graduate students receive training in the responsible conduct of research. All first-year graduate students in the Neuroscience and Physiology PhD Training Program take this short course during their spring semester.

Students are assigned to sections and are responsible for required readings and participating in discussion sessions. Each week, senior graduate students and postdoctoral fellows present case studies. To evaluate participants’ comprehension and retention of information presented during the course, each student must pass a written final examination. Attendance is closely monitored throughout the course.

Grant Writing for Scientists Seminar

Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences offers a spring short course on grant writing. It is a requirement for second-year graduate students and is also open to more senior graduate students or postdocs who are in the process of writing a grant. The course teaches students about all aspects of grant writing, including selecting appropriate funding mechanisms, writing individual grant sections, and understanding administrative policies.

First- and Third-Year Talks

As part of the comprehensive training programs at NYU School of Medicine and NYU’s Center for Neural Science, students have many opportunities to present their work to the broader NYU neuroscience community. Each fall, in our series of informal talks, students are coached by faculty and present their ongoing doctoral research.

Details regarding first- and third-year talks will be posted in fall 2018.

Contact Us

If you have questions about our graduate training programs, please email Heather McKellar, PhD, senior manager of education and outreach, at or contact our leadership team.

Our mailing address is:

Neuroscience Institute
435 East 30th Street
Room 1107
New York, NY 10016