Overview

The Neuroscience Graduate Program develops courses designed to equip students with the background necessary to participate fully in contemporary neuroscience research. This begins with a series of courses in the first year that cover Neuroscience in a Nutshell, Cell and M olecular Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience, Grant writing, as well as a Matlab bootcamp. The second year features Responsible Conduct of Research, Statistics for Biomedical Sciences, and electives that teach quantitative methods in neuroscience. In upper years, electives are offered that students may choose to take depending on their interests.

Students from umbrella programs, BSP and MSTP, may take courses out of sequence and have accommodations based on their program specific coursework. Program directors will help students joining from other programs design a curriculum suited to their needs.

Details listed below.

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.

NEW! Graduate Certificate in Neural Engineering

The certificate in neural engineering will provide students with focused knowledge in this growing sub-discipline of bioengineering, with a focus on use of engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace, or enhance neural systems.

12 credit hours | open to graduate students in Engineering or Neuroscience at University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus.

Learn More


The first year centers on coursework and laboratory rotations. Course descriptions are below.

Fall Semester

DPT 7806: Biomedical Sciences Core (6 units) | Course Director: Dr. Chad Pearson. Course Description: This core course provides a unified knowledge of the fundamental principles of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and molecular biology. It is designed for all first year basic sciences graduate students.

NRSC 7501: Introduction to Neuroscience (1 unit) | Course Director: Dr. Abigail Person Course Description: This course covers "Neuroscience in a Nutshell" introducing students to the breadth of neuroscience spanning biophysical properties of neurons, neural development, synaptic plasticity, systems and computational neuroscience. The emphasis is on appreciating the interdisciplinary nature of neurosciences and introducing students to key themes of the discipline.

NRSC 7615: Developmental Neurobiology (3 units) | Course Directors: Dr. Emily Bates and Dr. Santos Franco. Course Description: This course will cover topics in the development of the nervous system, such as neuronal birth, migration, differentiation, and death, axonal pathfinding, cell-cell recognition, and synapse formation, modulation and elimination. Part of the course is devoted to the discussion of original literature in the field.

NRSC 7650: Research in Neuroscience (Lab. Rotations I and II) (1 unit) | Coordinated by: Graduate Training Committee and Program Director. Course Description: Students will perform research in the laboratory of one of the members of the program. The rotation will be followed by an oral presentation. Each rotation will occupy approximately 12 weeks. Rotation II will begin near the end of the fall semester (in November) and end early in the spring semester (in February).

NRSC 7662: Neuroscience Seminar (1 unit) | Seminar Committee Chair: Dr. Jason Aoto. Seminar Series Description: Seminar series designed to present recent important findings in Neuroscience research. Different topics are presented weekly by Neuroscience Training Program faculty, students and visiting faculty. First year students are required to attend all the seminars and all other students are strongly encouraged to attend as many seminars as possible. The GTC monitors the attendance of first year students. Final grade is based upon attendance and participation at these seminars.

Spring Semester

NRSC 7600: Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology (3 units) | Course Director: Dr. Chris Ford. Course Description: Covers how nerve cells go about their business of transmitting signals. Required textbook: From Neuron to Brain, 5th Edition. A Cellular and Molecular Approach to the Function of the Nervous System.

NRSC 7610: Fundamentals of Neurobiology (3 units) | Course Directors: Drs. Molly Huntsman and Diego Restrepo. Course Description: Lecture, laboratories and manuscript discussions to provide basic knowledge of the structure and function of the nervous system, focusing on systems level approaches.

NRSC 7650: Research in Neuroscience Rotation III (1 unit) | Course Director: Graduate Training Committee. Course Description: Research rotations allow students to become familiar with potential thesis labs and projects. Students perform independent research projects of limited scope during both semesters. Seminars describing the work are presented mid-fall semester, one at the end of the fall semester and one during the last week of the spring semester. Three rotations of NRSC 7650 must be completed before the beginning of the Fall semester of the second year.

NRSC 7661: Grant-Writing Workshop (1 unit) | Course Directors: Drs. Dan Tollin and Sue Kinnamon. Course Description: A practicum in how to read and write a grant proposal with emphasis on the NRSA pre- and post-doctoral fellowship applications. Pre-requisite - NRSC 7610 or permission of the course directors.

NRSC 7662: Neuroscience Seminar (1 unit) | Seminar Committee Chair: Dr. Jason Aoto. Seminar Series Description: Seminar series designed to present recent important findings in Neuroscience research. Different topics are presented weekly by Neuroscience Training Program faculty, students and visiting faculty. First year students are required to attend all the seminars and all other students are strongly encouraged to attend on a regular basis. The GTC monitors the attendance of first year students. Final grade is based upon attendance and participation at these seminars.

Rotation Talks

Following the completion of each laboratory rotation, first year students are required to present a seminar on the research conducted in the rotation laboratory. Rotation talks are 10 minutes long, allowing 5 minutes for questions. Talks are rehearsed in advance with members of the Graduate Training Committee, and are evaluated during the formal presentation for the entire NSP community.

Preliminary Examinations

The Graduate School mandates a preliminary evaluation of a student's fitness to proceed on to conducting thesis research. The Preliminary Exam in NSP consists of both written and oral components. For the oral exam, the Exam Committee questions students for ~45 minutes on concepts taught to the students during the first-year coursework. The goal is to determine how well this material has been learned by the student.


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.