Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Welcome to the Graduate Program in Neuroscience


The doctoral program in neuroscience is a research intensive program that will train students in the skills necessary to develop and independent research career.  Please review the Graduate Program Handbook for complete details, but a brief summary of the program is as follows:

Year 1

  • Students rotate through 3 laboratories to find a fit that works best for the student and the sponsoring lab.
  • Students participate in activities sponsored by the integrative Programs in Biomedical Science umbrella (iPBS).  These include:
    • A leadership retreat to define goals and expectations for one’s graduate experience.
    • A professional development series that will enhance the student’s understanding of the ethics of science and career opportunities in science.
    • Two core courses, one on deconstructing research to better understand how biomedical research is performed, and one on experimental design.
  • Students engage in neuroscience specific content through a novel microcourse design.  Microcourses are focused (1 credit) courses that engage the primary literature and illustrate current issues and experimental approaches being used to address those issues.  Students select from a menu of topics that best fits their research interests.
  • Give a rotation talk at the end of the fall semester.
  • By the end of Year 1 students will have identified a thesis mentor, formulated a thesis committee, and begun laboratory work built towards defining their thesis project.

Year 2

  • Complete microcourse requirements for the neuroscience program.
  • Complete a course in the design and structure of proposals that lead the student to developing their thesis proposal.
  • Give a work-in-progress seminar that begins to outline the student’s thesis project.
  • Learn how to develop and deliver course content through assignments as a teaching assistant.
  • Complete the Qualifying Exam.  After the Qualifying Exam the student’s performance on all aspects of their time in the program is evaluated and a decision is made whether or not the student should move towards developing a PhD proposal.
  • The student’s develop a thesis proposal and defend their proposal in the Preliminary Exam.
  • By the end of Year 2 students will have completed all (or nearly all) of their course requirements, will have defined thesis project and will be launched into the research intensive phase of their graduate work.

Years 3, 4, and beyond

  • Students pursue their experimental plans, write and publish results, and present findings at local and national meetings.
  • Students may continue to engage in teaching activities if they desire.
  • Once the student has completed an original and publishable set of work in accordance with their thesis proposal, they defend their thesis proposal and are awarded the PhD degree.
Some other elements to be aware of:
  • As long as a student maintains good academic standing in the PhD program and is making adequate progress in their thesis research, they will be provided a tuition waiver and a stipend (contact program for current stipend levels).  Stipends come with expectations of assisting in either research activities (RA) or teaching activities (TA).
  • Incoming students will be considered for special scholarship funds that are added to the standard stipend (Graduate School Scholarships or the ARCS Foundation).
  • The best way to make sure your application is complete and ready to be evaluated by the admissions committee is to contact the program coordinator.  This should be done in addition to contacting the Graduate School (if we know you are applying, we can make sure the Graduate School processes your application in a timely manner).
  • You can contact the Graduate Program Director (Dr. Simasko) or Associate Director (Dr. Appleyard) to ask specific information.  Making an initial contact via email to set-up a time to call is usually best (rather than a random call). 
  • Although not required, you are welcome to directly contact faculty who you might be interested in working with to determine if they are currently accepting new students and to better understand if their current projects and your interests align.
  • Students are expected to attend all departmental seminars unless otherwise indisposed (seminar attendance is required for credit in Years 1 and 2).
  • Students are required to submit their thesis proposal for external funding at least once.  The program will help the student select an appropriate venue to submit their research program.

Because the emphasis of the graduate program is to develop independent investigators, most resources in the program are dedicated to the PhD program.  However, there are times in which a Master’s degree is the preferred option (either for the circumstances of the student or mentor). 

Some aspects of the MS program to be aware of:

  • As a general rule, the program will not fund MS students.  However, students are welcome to self-fund or work with a mentor to identify another source of funding.
  • Because the expected time to complete a MS is only two years, MS students do not do rotations and must have a mentor identified before they enter into the program.  The admissions committee will need confirmation from the potential mentor that they are in support of the application.
  • More details can be found in the Graduate Handbook or by contacting either the Program Director (Dr. Simasko), Associate Director (Dr. Appleyard), or Program Coordinator

Tyler Bland

Poncin Fellowship Application
ARCS Scholarships

For Additional Information
Contact our Graduate Coordinator at:
   Program in Neuroscience 
   PO Box 647620 
   Washington State University 
   Pullman, WA USA 
   Phone: (509) 335-7675 
   Fax: (509) 335-4650 

Or email at