Frequently Asked Questions
BU Graduate Program for Neuroscience
1. How does funding typically work?
PhD in Neuroscience:
For the first year, most PhD students will either be funded by an early stage T32 neuroscience training grant or by the University. After the first year of coursework and laboratory rotations, students join a lab and are typically funded by that lab, or by an individual training grant, until completion of their degree. Students are also eligible for teaching fellowships, ranging from small graduate courses to large undergraduate courses in a number of departments throughout the University. One semester of a teaching assistantship or outreach activity is strongly suggested for all students to enhance their learning experience in GPN. There are also additional funding vehicles for students in their second and third years including later stage T32 training grants and University Fellowships should the need arise. Once a student is admitted into GPN, it is the responsibility of the program to make sure that each and every student has full stipend support throughout their time at BU so that they can concentrate on the training mission and graduate in a timely fashion. There is a tracking system at the administrative level and dissertation advisory committee meetings each semester to make sure that in addition to the PI, all students have oversight through the program structure.
2. Do I need to enter a lab directly upon starting graduate school?
GPN students are required to participate in laboratory rotations during their first year in graduate study. Past experience suggests that many students change their interests based on classes, lab rotations, seminars, etc. that are experienced during their first two semesters. For this reason we encourage most students to enter a lab the summer after they finish their first two semesters of coursework. Students can, however, petition the Graduate Education Committee if there is a unique case where they would like to form an agreement with a faculty member before entering the program, however, this does not mean that they are not required to carry out laboratory rotations. Often this situation occurs for international students and students who have already had extensive laboratory experience during previous graduate study as a Master’s student.
3. What are the lab rotations like?
Students in the Neuroscience PhD track take from two to four rotations that are a minimum of 7 weeks each. Students are expected to spend 20 hours a week on their lab work during the semester. To receive credit, a laboratory rotation report must be submitted after the completion of each laboratory experience. Computational neuroscience students are required to do two 1-credit lab rotations, one in an experimental lab and one in a computational lab. (Some labs at BU qualify as both computational and experimental labs.) Each rotation for computational students lasts one semester, and the student is expected to spend 10 hours a week on their lab work during that time. All students can petition to do additional lab rotations to help them choose an area of interest and laboratory for thesis research should the need arise.
4. What is the typical completion rate and time-to-completion for GPN Neuroscience and Computational Neuroscience PhD students?
Most neuroscience students at Boston University complete their PhD in 5 to 6 years although there are certainly cases where students complete in 4 years, especially students who already have obtained their Master’s degree or are in the dual MD/PhD program at the medical campus. The Computational Neuroscience PhD specialization is new, and therefore there are no graduates yet. However, this specialization is an expanded version of a BU program with a twenty year history: the PhD program of the Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems (CNS), which is effectively being replaced by the GPN Computational Neuroscience specialization. CNS students have historically achieved an approximately 90% completion rate. The length of time in the program varies from student to student. Some students finish in as few as 4 years (particularly those who have a masters degree in a related field before entering the PhD program), while others take longer. A student who makes good progress in their research can expect to graduate in 5-6 years.