PhD in Cognitive & Neural Systems

Course Requirements

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements

PhD students are required to complete at least 16 semester courses (64 credits) as follows: at least 10 courses chosen from the CNS program’s curriculum, of which at least two must be 700- or 800-level courses, with the remaining courses chosen to form a coherent area of expertise. The latter courses will be selected in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor.

Post-Master’s Requirements

Students who enter the PhD program with a master’s degree in biology, physiology, medicine, computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, or psychology are required to take eight courses (32 credits) chosen from the CNS program’s curriculum, at least two of which must be 700- or 800-level courses, and to fulfill all other program requirements.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Qualifying Examinations

Students are required to pass a qualifying examination on the CNS curriculum. The examination is offered each year in January and in May. A student must have passed eight courses in the CNS curriculum to take the PhD qualifying examination.

In addition, the student must have completed an approved supervised research effort during their CNS tenure, equivalent to at least one full summer as a research assistant.

In lieu of the written qualifying examination, students have the option of producing and defending a paper, called the Written Proposal, that details a project appropriate for dissertation research. The Written Proposal will follow the formatting guidelines of a National Research Service Award (NRSA) pre-doctoral grant application. No student will be required to submit an actual NRSA application, but those who are eligible will be encouraged to do so after passing the requirements for the CNS Written Proposal. In most cases, the Written Proposal is expected to also serve as the basis for the candidate’s prospectus for the PhD dissertation (see below). The Written Proposal will be prepared in consultation with the faculty member who is expected to be the primary supervisor for the proposed research.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.