University of Pittsburgh

Department of Neuroscience

Components of the Plan of Study

In developing a plan of study, students are expected to strike a compromise between breadth in neuroscience and depth in their area of specialization.  Students are encouraged to be innovative in designing their graduate training experience.  Thus, courses are defined as any accredited interaction between a student and one or more faculty members.  This includes formal lecture courses (usually but not always at the graduate level), and seminars or tutorials (e.g., directed readings; see section 5.3).  Courses offered at other universities and research institutes or special study programs outside the University of Pittsburgh may fulfill this requirement.  However, students should check with the Chair of the Graduate Advising Committee to determine if a course outside of the University of Pittsburgh curriculum can be used toward the course requirements of the program.

5.1. Research

Each student is required to be actively involved in laboratory research during each term they are enrolled.  A minimum of three terms of laboratory research is required for a master’s degree and it is expected that no more than two years of study will be required to complete the requirements. Research must make progress toward addressing a relevant hypothesis, must be written as a Master’s Thesis in the form of a manuscript submitted for publication, and must be presented in a public seminar and defended to the student's Research Committee.

5.2. Core Curriculum in Neuroscience

The core curriculum consists of a course in systems neuroanatomy (either Systems Neurobiology, NROSCI 2102, or Functional Neuroanatomy, NROSCI 2011) and coursework in cellular and molecular neuroscience (either Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, NROSCI 2100 and 2101 or Neurophysiology, NROSCI 2012, plus Synaptic Transmission, NROSCI 2017).  Students who have taken Functional Neuroanatomy (NROSCI 1011), Neurophysiology (NROSCI 1012), and Synaptic Transmission (NROSCI 1017) to fulfill requirements for their BS degree are not required to take these core courses, but are still required to complete at least 12 credits of coursework.

5.3. Electives and Tutorials

Students may also take elective courses in order to further their expertise in neuroscience.  Students also may establish tutorials in specialized areas for which formal courses are not available.  In such cases, a student (or group of students) identifies a faculty member willing to serve as a tutor and develops a syllabus, including a mechanism by which competency in the area will be assessed, in collaboration with the faculty tutor. The course syllabus must be approved in advance by the Program Director.  The subject matter of these tutorials usually will be "academic" in nature; i.e., with a focus on the critical assessment of primary and secondary literature.  It also may involve learning new laboratory techniques.

5.4. Statistics

Students are required to obtain a background in statistical and quantitative analysis of data that is appropriate to their area of research.  An undergraduate statistics course in which the student received a minimum grade of B fulfills the minimum requirement.  The content of this course must be reviewed and approved by the program Director.  It is also strongly recommended (though not required) that students take a graduate level course in statistics.  Students should consult with the program Director for recommended courses.

5.5. Journal Club

Each student is required to participate in a weekly journal club during each fall and spring term that they are registered.  The journal club that the student attends may be either the CNUP journal club or one of the more specialized journal clubs sponsored by faculty of the Department of Neuroscience.  In either case, students are required to present a paper in the formal setting of a journal club at least once each term.

5.6. Neuroscience Seminar Series

Each student is required to attend research seminars on a regular basis.  Each fall and spring term that the student is enrolled in the master’s program, they must register for Neuroscience Seminar Series (NROSCI 2106).  This "course" requires that the student attend a minimum of 10 relevant research seminars during the term.  For each seminar that a student attends, he/she must send an e-mail message noting their attendance to the seminar coordinator.

5.7. Ethics

All students are required to adhere to the ethical requirements stipulated in the University of Pittsburgh Student Honor Code.  This code is posted on the University web site.  Formal training in ethics is not a required element of the master’s program but knowledge of, and adherence to, standards of ethical conduct as defined in the Student Honor Code is required. An Ethics course for neuroscience doctoral program students (offered each summer) is not required but may be taken by Master's degree students to satisfy elective course requirements.