Neuroscience is among the most rapidly-expanding disciplines in biology and medicine. Understanding the basis of normal brain function and the pathological processes that contribute to neurological and neuropsychiatric disease is critical for the development of new and more effective treatments for debilitating conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, stroke, and drug addiction. The neuroscience specialization in the Graduate Program in Biological Sciences at Marquette University brings together researchers from the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Biomedical Sciences to offer quality graduate education in the field of neuroscience with the goal of training students for careers as neuroscience researchers and educators. The specialization is for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree. The rich collaborative and multi-disciplinary neuroscience research environment at Marquette is supported by the Integrative Neuroscience Research Center (INRC), a consortium of multi-disciplinary researchers committed to advancing neuroscience research and education.
The major endeavor of any graduate student is the research that culminates in a dissertation or thesis. This research must be original and meet the highest standards of quality and thoroughness. To help in determining the best fit of student and mentor, first-year students complete three laboratory rotations with selected neuroscience faculty. To review the participating faculty please click here. During the rotations, which are eight weeks in duration, the students are temporary members of the laboratories whose research appears to be of greatest interest to them. Before the end of the student's second semester, an advisor who guides both research and selection of coursework is chosen by mutual agreement between faculty and student. The relatively small size of the research groups in the program allows students to interact closely with the faculty. It is expected that manuscripts arising from dissertation research are published in highly-respected peer reviewed journals.
Course requirements for students in the Neuroscience Specialization include three comprehensive introductory courses and survey course of neuroscience literature. In addition, neuroscience students also take elective courses. To review the neuroscience course curriculum, please click here. Upon joining the program, each student consults with an advisor who considers the student's interests and undergraduate coursework and helps chart the first year of study. Once a student has a formal research advisor, the student's course of study is guided by a Ph.D. advisory committee chosen by the student and the research advisor. In addition to the graduate courses, students may select upper-level undergraduate courses. Important in every student's program are the seminar courses, in which small groups of students and faculty examine in depth the current literature on specific topics of widespread interest.
Undergraduate education is a very important activity of the research faculty at Marquette. Every graduate student gains experience in this endeavor by observing and by participating first-hand as a teaching assistant for at least two semesters. Recognizing that college teaching is often a major activity of Ph.D. graduates, yet traditionally one neglected in graduate training, the Marquette Graduate School developed an innovative instructional program entitled “Preparing Future Faculty” for graduate students interested in teaching careers. Several graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences have been very active participants in this program.
Students participate in one or more journal clubs that meet once a week to critically review an important recent publication. Because of the diverse research interests within the research community, these gatherings and the other informal interactions between members of different laboratories give our graduates a wide breadth of perspectives on biological problems that becomes invaluable as they start research and/or teaching careers. Research seminars sponsored by the Integrative Neuroscience Research Center are required for graduate students in the neuroscience track. In addition, students are strongly encouraged to attend Friday seminars sponsored by the Biological Sciences department. Students will have ample opportunity to engage visiting scientists in individual or group conversation.
Students gain experience in presenting their research before audiences in several settings. Individual research groups have weekly meetings for the purpose of exchanging ideas and results. Some research groups have combined meetings to provide broader input. After the first year, each student presents his/her research problem and findings at a "mini-seminar," a presentation of fifteen to twenty minutes to the entire department. Some faculty and graduate students participate in local scientific interest groups where students present their own research. Each year, many graduate students deliver research presentations at national and international meetings, and the department helps pay for the expenses incurred.
Ph.D. degree requirements include a minimum of 24 credit hours of course work, a Ph.D. qualifying examination, 12 credit hours of dissertation work, and a minimum of one year of teaching. A committee of five faculty members, including the dissertation advisor, guides the student in designing an individualized program. It is expected that the student will finish within four to six years.