The curriculum for Neuroscience students is well-defined, rigorous and multifaceted.

The first year of our curriculum emphasizes fundamental skills, core neuroscience knowledge, and research experience. In their first year, students perform at least 3 research rotations (see below) and take core courses in the fundamentals of molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience. To build their quantitative and critical-thinking skills, they also take graduate research fundamentals, coding and statistical thinking, grant writing, participate in a “works in progress” student-led neuroscience journal club and attend a DBBS-wide research fundamentals course and grant writing boot camp. Students are also required to participate in at least one additional journal club, attend seminars and the annual Neuroscience retreat every year.

At the end of the first year, they undergo a 6-week long qualifying examination process requiring a deep dive into an original research topic resulting in a written grant application followed by an oral defense. Once students pass the written and oral exams, this intense first-year experience gives students the scientific breadth and experience in designing a research question to capitalize on lab- specific training.

In their second year, they focus on the research experience, while also engaging in formal training in research ethics, oral presentations, and deepen their knowledge by taking at least 2 nanocourses. They also attend three teaching workshops and apply that training in at least one mentored teaching experience (MTE). Students form a thesis committee by the end of year 2; this committee meets every 6-9 months to help advise and oversee progress until the thesis defense.

Optionally, students may select an advanced Pathway, and are encouraged to participate in a variety of journal clubs, seminars, scientific outreach programs, interest groups and career development activities; these build critical thinking, presentation, teaching, and leadership skills and provide important avenues for career exploration.


The curriculum focuses on fundamental neuroscience knowledge, critical thinking, writing and professional skills. In purple, are the required neuroscience content courses, in blue are the required research and professional skills classes and in green are optional classes. In black are the research-related milestones.


The curriculum and student milestones over time. Classes are offered by the Neuroscience Program specifically for Neuroscience students, and by DBBS, for all DBBS students across 12 programs.


CCSN Pathway

The Cognitive, Computational, and Systems Neuroscience Curriculum Pathway (CCSN) is a specialized curriculum that is available to students who are pursuing the Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience, Psychology, or Neural Engineering (this includes students in the MSTP program who are seeking a Ph.D. in one of these areas). Traditional anatomical, physiological, and behavioral techniques are combined with cutting-edge engineering approaches to non-invasive neuroimaging as well as computational strategies essential for modeling brain function. The CCSN curriculum helps students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to tackle problems using interdisciplinary approaches.


Imaging Sciences Pathway

The Imaging Sciences Pathway offers additional training in the principles of imaging and its use in studying the brain and body.


Summer Courses

Several institutions offer superb advanced laboratory and semester courses during the summer. We encourage students and fellows to take advantage of these courses. Support is available from the Merlie Fellowship.


John Merlie Fellowship for Travel 

John Merlie was an eminent molecular neurobiologist who joined the faculty at Washington University in 1982 and was an active member of the neuroscience graduate program until his death in 1995. Following his death, numerous friends and colleagues contributed to a fund established in his name. The aim was to provide support for program activities, with emphasis on graduate training. In deciding how to use the fund, his colleagues and widow took account of the facts that he was a superb mentor, generously provided training opportunities to students from other laboratories, and taught in the Neurobiology course at Woods Hole. Accordingly, it was decided to establish a Fellowship that would help make it possible for young neuroscientists to visit other laboratories or institutions, in order to obtain advanced training in topics and methods not readily available at Washington University.


Lucille P.  Markey

The Lucille P. Markey pathway is an innovative educational experience introducing students and fellows to human disease states not generally covered in graduate courses.