Neurosciences Program Overview

The Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP) at UM is a dynamic program focused on current neuroscience concepts and multidisciplinary techniques to train & grant students the Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience.  Faculty available to mentor students come from various UM Departments and specialize in a variety of areas including neurochemistry, neuromolecular dynamics and drug design, cellular neurobiology and physiology, behavioral neuroscience, biophysics, and neurobiology of disease. 

Doctoral degree training is typically completed within four or five years and consists of general course work, research rotations and selection of the dissertation laboratory in the first year; coursework in the concentration area & research in the second year; comprehensive qualifying exams & research in the third year; concluding with research and dissertation defense in the final year(s). 

Program curriculum is flexible and coursework is completed during the first two years of the doctoral program to allow for maximum time spent working on research in the student’s selected advisor’s laboratory. 
Students are accepted into the graduate program for admission during fall terms and typically arrive in Missoula during July and August.Those arriving early can take advantage of the beautiful Missoula summer and can carry out one or more laboratory rotations. 

Courses start at the end of August each year, with general coursework and research rotations the focus in year one.  At the end of the first year, students are expected to select an advisor in whose lab they will work to conduct independent research towards a dissertation throughout their tenure in the program.  The Research Advisor serves as a mentor to the student and assists the student in assuring that all deadlines and procedures are followed.  Prior to selection of a research advisor, the Graduate Education Committee will advise first year students. 

Before the start of the third semester, students must select an advisory committee.  Through discussion and mutual agreement, the student and research advisor select an area of interest and other faculty members to serve on the advisory committee.  The advisory committee is comprised of a minimum of five members, at least four of who are full time faculty or adjuncts in the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience, and one from outside the Center.  The student is responsible for approaching these faculty members to request service on the Advisory Committee.  After completing the Advisory Committee Form, the student submits the form to the Graduate Education Committee, who forwards it to the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education in the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences for approval.  Once approved, by the college, the form is submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies for the University of Montana for final approval. 

In addition to selection of the Advisory Committee, students must prepare a plan of study that includes all courses to be taken.  The plan of study must subsequently be endorsed by the Advisory Committee.  Any changes in the plan of study, once approved, require approval of the Advisor, Advisory Committee, and the Graduate Standards Committee.

During the second year, students must complete an informational seminar (BMED 594) on an informational topic approved by the Research Advisor.  At the beginning of the third year, students must complete the comprehensive qualifying exam.  This exam includes both a written component, typically an NRSA-type format grant proposal, and an oral portion that evaluates the candidate’s general knowledge of the neuroscience discipline, and their ability to apply that knowledge in the research setting and in written and oral communication of research and scientific ideas.  A process for selection of the written proposal topic is described in Program Policies. 

A dissertation research proposal should be completed and endorsed by the Advisory Committee no later than the middle of the fifth semester in attendance.  A research progress seminar should also be presented during the third year.  Students will spend their remaining time in the program conducting research to assemble a written doctoral dissertation, completing the program with the doctoral dissertation defense. 

Pictured: Brent Lyda working on his research of the EAAT3 Transporter