PhD IN COMPUTATIONAL NEUROSCIENCE
An essential feature of the Program is a set of “core” courses: these are taken by all students in GPN (Neuroscience & Computational Neuroscience) during their first year and are aimed at developing a community of thinkers, who move through the training program together, building relationships that cross inter-departmental and inter-campus barriers, and foster cross disciplinary collaborations.
Based on their previous scientific background, students complete 12 credits of “core” neuroscience coursework that provides a strong foundation in this diverse field of graduate study. The fall class is a team-taught lecture/discussion course that meets on alternate days on the Charles River Campus and the Medical Campus. GPN students register in the following:
- Principles of Neuroscience I: From Molecules to Systems (GMS NE 700) (4 cr)
- Neural Systems I: Functional Circuit Analysis (GRS NE 741) (4 cr)
- Neural Systems II: Cognition and Behavior (GRS NE 742) (4cr)
Additional “core” neuroscience requirements include: a 7 week intensive introductory course in data analysis and mathematical models for students who do not have a strong background in computation as well as students with an extensive training in the area.
An Introduction to Mathematical Models & Data Analysis in Neuroscience (GRS MA 665-666) (2 cr)
This introductory course combines lectures and hands-on computer time to treat real laboratory data like case studies and motivates students to use the mathematical approach as a means to better understand their own research via statistical data analysis and modeling. Computational Neuroscience students are required to take both modules of the course (4 cr).
ADDITIONAL REQUIRED CURRICULUM
In addition to the “core” curriculum, students also take the following seminar coursework during their first year and enroll in 2-4 laboratory rotations:
Frontiers in Neuroscience (NE500,501) (4 cr)
During the first semester students attend a weekly enrichment course organized by a GPN faculty member who facilitates their interactions with BU neuroscience faculty from across the University. Every effort is made to stretch the perspective of entering GPN students into new areas relevant to the study of mind and brain. Topics include brain disorders, behavioral and cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, neuropharmacology, computational modeling, neuromorphics, systems neuroscience, and neurogenetics.
Students are assigned papers that represent the key research area and perspective of each investigator and with a classmate present a powerpoint encapsulation of major findings, potential limitations, and next areas for exploration that remain to be tapped. Presentations are made in the presence of the visiting faculty member over lunch with active discussions by all members of the entering GPN class. Students are also expected to attend neuroscience distinguished lectures and student seminars as a new member of the GPN community. When possible a visit from outside speakers is also coordinated with the class so that students have the opportunity to delve deeper into a visitor’s unique perspective on the future of neuroscience.
During the second semester, students focus on developing their own research presentation style through a series of planned exercises and reports on their own rotation laboratory experiences. Students also develop grant writing skills that will help them to generate an NRSA and/or NSF application for future research funding and for their written qualifying exam. The course stresses peer group learning and the evolution of critical thinking through constructive criticism and grant critiques.
Laboratory Rotations (NE800/801 (2 – 4 credits; 2 credit minimum)
Providing an enriching set of laboratory research experiences directed by GPN faculty for students during their first year is a central feature of the neuroscience training program at Boston University. The multitude of highly talented mentors in computational neuroscience who have funded research projects provides the student with a large number of potential laboratories from which to choose their thesis research mentor that will complement their current interests, and through laboratory rotations, expand their horizons into different areas of investigation that they may grow towards in the future. Most computational neuroscience students take two rotations with a minimum of one rotation in an experimental lab. Many students choose to take additional rotations their first year since they are still on university funding and want to take advantage of all the different perspectives in our faculty community.
Clinical Rounds (2 credits)
During their second year all students participate in a unique opportunity to interact with human patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders. These experiences take place at the Boston VA supervised by a clinician scientist that is a member of the GPN training faculty.
Students enrolled in the computational neuroscience training specialization should reference the requirements specific to that curriculum as it applies to required and elective choices.
PROGRAMMATIC REQUIREMENTS FOR CONTINUED STUDENT REGISTRATION
Additional program credits come from Directed Study (NE901/902) during thesis research with the mentor and attendance is required at neuroscience ethics and responsible conduct of research (RCR) workshops, at the majority of distinguished lectures, faculty seminars and program events of the GPN (including student recruitment, the annual Neuroscience Retreat, GPN social gatherings (such as the Fall Welcome Reception, the Laboratory Matching Ceremony, and the Holiday Party) and most importantly at GPN graduate student seminars. All students are required to give at least one short presentation annually at the Neuroscience Graduate Student Seminar Series and to fulfill the calendar deadlines on their graduate milestones.