Neuroscience Graduate Group Academics

Artist: Greg Dunn

NGG training consists of six key components (see the Handbook for more details):

Laboratory Rotations: Students complete a minimum of three semester-long laboratory rotations. Each rotation is chosen by the student, under the guidance of the Academic Review Committee. Rotations provide students with opportunities to learn a wide range of modern laboratory techniques and gain first-hand experiences that will aid in the selection of a thesis laboratory. Lab rotations always end with a public presentation explaining the work to the Penn neuroscience community and sometimes lead to outside presentations and papers.

Courses (click here for a complete list of required and elective courses offered by the NGG): Coursework is completed during the first two years of candidacy. To ensure exposure to the broad basis of modern neuroscience, each first-year student is required to complete four Core courses, in molecular biology, cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and a Journal Club associated with the weekly MINS Seminar Series. First- and second-year students also choose, with guidance from the Academic Review Committee, several elective courses offered by the NGG (including those offered as part of the Neurobiology of Disease series), BGS, or elsewhere at Penn. Second-year students are required to participate in a Journal Club or Lab Group Meeting where they make a formal presentation of a papper or their own research at least once persemester.

Candidacy Exam: In the spring of the second year (first year for combined-degree students), each student must successfully complete the Candidacy Exam to advance to the thesis phase. The Candidacy Exam consists of a written proposal detailing the design and plan for completion of the student’s thesis research and an oral defense of this proposal. The format of the written proposal follows the guidelines for the NIH Predoctoral NRSA Fellowship. This proposal is defended to a panel of NGG faculty chosen by the student and the NGG Chair.

Teaching: Each NGG student is required to serve as a Teaching Assistant for one semester in one of three courses in Penn's Penn’s Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) program. Students typically fulfill this requirement in the year following successful completion of the Candidacy Exam. This requirement provides NGG students with important teaching experience and helps to better integrate the primary graduate and undergraduate neuroscience programs on campus. Other teaching opportunities are also available, as detailed in the Handbook.

Research: The most important element of the Ph.D. is the generation of a body of original research, completed during the research phase. During these years, the student works with the thesis advisor and the student-selected thesis committee toward the execution of original research and the communication of this research with the scientific community through meeting attendance, scientific talks, and publication.

Dissertation: The thesis dissertation demonstrates the student’s competence in the conduction and communication of scientific research. This document includes a general introduction and conclusion encapsulating the published research required to qualify the student for graduation. An oral defense of the document, to the thesis committee and an additional outside judge, completes the Ph.D.

Neuro images courtesy of NGG graduate Greg Dunn (http://www.gregadunn.com).