Program Overview and Admissions

Admission Requirements

Students are admitted based on evidence of intellectual talent, a strong interest in neuroscience, and a commitment to scholarship and research.  The department can accommodate up to six new master’s degree students each year.  All applicants must be sponsored by a Department of Neuroscience faculty (or affiliated faculty) member before submitting their application. Faculty who are eligible to sponsor a master’s degree student include:

Faculty: Cohen, Dong, Grace, Huang, Johnson, Meriney, Runyan, Schlüter, Sesack, Sorrells, Sved.

Affiliated Faculty: (Adjunct faculty and those with primary appointments in other areas) DeFranco (Pharmacology), Fiez (Psychology), Lewis (Psychiatry), Olson (Adjunct), Yates (Otolaryngology), Barth (Adjunct), Gandhi (Otolaryngology), Hastings (Neurology), Lee (Adjunct), and Wagner (Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation). With permission, other members of the CNUP faculty can serve as the sponsor, in conjunction with a departmental faculty member.

Decisions regarding admission to our master’s degree program consider the candidate's statement of interest and goals in the field of neuroscience, past research experience, letters of recommendation, test scores, and grades.  An outstanding record in one of these areas may compensate for poorer performance in another area.  In general, successful applicants have a BS degree in neuroscience or related discipline (e.g. biology, chemistry, psychology) with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.4 (on a 4.0 scale).  After an initial screening, applicants may be evaluated by personal interviews.  Students are admitted on the assumption they will be able to meet all requirements for the MS degree.  The MS degree is not a prerequisite for doctoral training in neuroscience through the CNUP, nor does it guarantee admission to our doctoral training program.

Department Chair:   Stephen Meriney, PhD

Director of Graduate Studies: Oliver Schluter, PhD


The master's degree training program of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh has been designed to:

  • develop an introductory level of competence in conducting laboratory research
  • develop general competence in neuroscience and more in-depth knowledge of one or more sub areas of neuroscience
  • develop a general professional competence in oral and written expression and in the critical analysis of primary scientific articles.


Students should be able to complete the program within two years. Students who have already completed a BS degree in the Department of Neuroscience (as is typical) may complete the program within a year and a half.

Research Advisors

Research advisors are limited to Department of Neuroscience faculty members, including faculty with secondary appointments. Support for admitted students is provided by their faculty sponsor, and so it is essential that an eligible faculty member has agreed to support the student’s application to our master’s degree program, and to support their subsequent training if admitted. With permission, other members of the CNUP faculty can serve as the research advisor, in conjunction with a departmental faculty member.

Coursework and Milestones

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). Graduate-level courses in statistics and research ethics also are strongly recommended though not required. 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 15 credit hours of coursework (12 of which must be formal coursework, while the remaining 3 may be journal clubs or seminars) toward the total of 30 credits required for the master’s degree. 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 must be actively involved in full-time laboratory research during each term they are enrolled. A minimum of four terms of laboratory research is required for a master's degree (fall and spring terms plus two summers is typical). This 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.


All applicants must have an eligible faculty sponsor before submitting an application. Application procedures are available from the Department of Neuroscience Graduate Program Administrator. The Admissions Committee reviews applications when they are complete, and successful applicants may initiate formal studies in the term following acceptance. Any questions regarding specific issues should be directed to the Graduate Program Administrator.