Master's Degree Program

The following sections outline the academic courses, the research experiences, and the oral and written examinations (herein referred to as "milestones") that the student must successfully complete prior to being awarded the master’s degree. These requirements are described in terms of the academic and research accomplishments expected during each year of the student's progress through the program. Deviations from the outlined sequence and time schedule need to be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Overview of Requirements

Students must complete a course in neuroanatomy (either Systems Neurobiology, NROSCI 2102, or Functional Neuroanatomy, NROSCI 2011) and a course in cellular and molecular neuroscience (either Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, NROSCI 2100 and NROSCI 2101, or Neurophysiology, NROSCI 2012, plus Synaptic Transmission, NROSCI 2017). A graduate-level course in statistics also is strongly recommended though not required (see section 5.4). Students must also participate in a journal club every fall and spring term (this could be either a CNUP journal club or a more specialized journal club) and must attend the neuroscience seminar series (NROSCI 2106). A minimum grade of B is required to pass a course, and a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 must be maintained throughout the course of study. Students must complete at least 12 credit hours of formal coursework toward the total of 30 credits required for the master’s degree. Course credits completed before admission to the Department of Neuroscience Master's Degree program cannot be applied to the credit hours required for the master’s degree, although prior coursework may satisfy specific course requirements.

Students are also required to pass two milestones en route to the master’s degree: the Reprint Exam and the Master’s Thesis Defense. Specific details regarding these milestones are provided later in this document.

Students should refer to Regulations Governing Graduate Study at the University of Pittsburgh for additional details concerning University requirements.

Yearly Sequence of Requirements and Expectations

Entering Students

Entering students should schedule an introductory meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies (currently Dr. Susan R. Sesack). The purpose of this meeting is to answer any questions that the student may have and to assist the student in getting settled in the program. Prior to the beginning of the student's first term, the student, with the aid of their research mentor and the Director of Graduate Studies, outlines a complete plan of study leading to the Master's Degree.

First Year

The major objectives of the first year are to become actively engaged in laboratory research, to complete core course requirements, and to obtain sufficient experience to pass the Reprint Exam. Participation in journal clubs, research seminars, and involvement in critical assessment of the literature through readings with the mentor and peers is integral to meeting these objectives.

It is required that students participate in the following activities during the fall and spring terms of their first year: (a) laboratory research, (b) core courses in neuroscience, (c) journal club, and (d) neuroscience seminar series. During the summer term at the end of their first year, students should focus primarily on research, although some course work may be appropriate (e.g., statistics). During the first year, students typically register for 3-9 research credits of Directed Study (NROSCI 2902) per term; students should register for this course pass/fail.

Students are required to submit a research progress report at the end of the first year of study. This report is due by June 15th.

The Reprint Exam (see Section 9.1) must be completed by May 31 of the first year of study.

These dates assume that the student initiated study at the beginning of the fall term. Because admission to the program is considered on a rolling basis, it is not unusual for students to enter the program in the spring or summer terms. In these instances, completion of the reprint examination should take place at the end of the first month following the second term of study. The research progress report will then be due two weeks after the Reprint Exam.

Second Year

After completion of the first year, the only remaining requirements are to finish course requirements and complete a master’s thesis project. A list of elective courses currently offered can be obtained from the administrative office and online. Selection of the coursework that will be used to satisfy the requirements of the program should be made in consultation with the student's mentor and is subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. However, given the time constraints for completing the degree, it is expected that research will be the principal focus of students throughout their program of study.

During each fall and spring term the student is enrolled in the program, the student must participate in (a) research (registered for 6-9 credits of NROSCI 2990, pass/fail), (b) journal club, and (c) neuroscience seminar series (NROSCI 2106).