First year classes are generally scheduled in the morning to give students the afternoons free to do research in a laboratory. After the initial period of coursework, students choose their specialty fields from a diverse list of topics. Students complete the core set of courses and three research rotations in the first year. These laboratory rotations are an excellent opportunity for students to experience the approach and environment of laboratories they are considering for the PhD thesis work.

Following the completion of each rotation, the student is required to schedule and present a seminar on the research conducted in the present laboratory. The Graduate School mandates a preliminary evaluation of a student's fitness to proceed to the Comprehensive Exam. The preliminary exam consists of a one hour discussion with three faculty to assess how laboratory and course material of the first year have been integrated by the student.

After the 2nd year, students proceed with research in their specialty areas until the generation and defense of a thesis leads to the award of a PhD in Neuroscience. 

Learning Outcomes for the Neuroscience PhD Program

Graduate education in general | Doctoral education is the foundation of future scholarship and the “engine” of the research enterprise.  It prepares future faculty and leaders in the academy and other areas of industry and society.

Program/Student Learning Outcomes | The PhD program in Neuroscience trains graduate students to become proficient and successful investigators who are able to:

  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of central concepts in the biomedical sciences.
  • Understand the current concepts in Neuroscience.
  • Read and critically evaluate the scientific literature.
  • Formulate hypotheses based on current concepts in the field and design, conduct, and interpret their own research projects.
  • Present research results in peer-reviewed publications and in a dissertation.
  • Communicate research results effectively through oral presentations at scientific seminars, conferences, and other venues.
  • Write a competitive application for research funding.
  • Develop ancillary skills, where necessary, to obtain positions outside of scientific research.

Graduate Teaching

All graduate students are strongly encouraged to be a Teaching Assistant for one semester during their graduate training. This assistantship may be in the Medical Neurobiology class or arranged with the Course Director in the Neuroscience Core courses.

Doctoral Thesis

Students will give annual reports on the progress of their thesis research to the Neuroscience faculty in the form of 30 minute seminars, and meet every 6 months with their Thesis Committee. Upon completion of a body of original research that constitutes a significant contribution of new knowledge to the field of Neuroscience, students will write a PhD thesis containing this information, and defend this document at an oral examination.

Program Handbook

Please review the Neuroscience Program Handbook for more information about program curriculum.

Graduate School

CU Denver
Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Room 1251

Denver, CO 80204

CU Anschutz
Fitzsimons Building

13001 East 17th Place


Aurora, CO 80045


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