Behavioral Neuroscience Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

Program of Study and Research

(66 credits, minimum)

The general aim of the doctoral program is preparation of students to become productive scholars in the psychological sciences through coursework and research experience leading to the doctoral dissertation. It is the aim of this graduate program to provide a course of study which provides a foundation in psychology and to meet individual objectives in an area of specialization.

Departmental Requirements

In the first year of doctoral studies, students take the two-semester sequence of statistics courses, Psy 510 and 511. A student who receives a grade lower than B in Psy 510 or 511 must repeat the course. (Students who earn less than a B in 510 cannot enroll in 511.) First-year students are expected to take at least 12 hours per semester.

Outside-of-Area Courses

Students are expected to gain knowledge of psychological research by taking courses in more than one of the department's specializations. Breadth of knowledge in these areas is accomplished with courses recommended by the student's advisor. Each student is required to take a minimum of two courses outside her or his own specialization. The two courses must be selected from two different areas of specialization within Psychology Ph.D. programs. Each area of specialization may identify particular courses for its students to take.

All graduate students must maintain a B average among the two courses outside their own specialization. If a student earns less than a C in one of these courses, and is still retained in the program, the student will repeat the course regardless of the student's overall average.

Initial Research Project

Graduate students will demonstrate basic research competency in the student’s subfield of Psychology by generating a novel hypothesis, statistically analyzing appropriate data to test the hypothesis, and submitting a manuscript to the faculty advisor to be approved prior to the beginning of the fall semester of the student’s third year.

Research Tool Requirement

Every student must present evidence of the satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement. Only one tool is required. The department defines the following as appropriate for completion of the Research Tool.

  • Pass a foreign language test. Various tests are offered each semester. In accordance with the university rules, foreign students may take the language test in their native language.
  • Take a course. In accordance with the psychology guidelines, students may take courses in computer programming, mathematics, electronics, biochemistry, histological techniques, foreign language, pharmacology, or advanced statistics. A student must earn at least a B in a course intended to satisfy the research tool requirement. Course credits taken in conjunction with completing the Tool Requirement do not count toward credit hours required for the degree. Furthermore, any course used toward the research tool requirement may not be included in the out-of-area courses.
  • Master a technique, statistical or otherwise, in the process of conducting the Initial Research Project or another research project. Structured and supervised projects or experiences are possible (e.g., specific interventions, or assessment technologies). This technique can be self-taught, taught by a faculty member, or taught in a course. However, the research project cannot be part of a course (otherwise, the course cannot be counted towards graduation – see above) but must be independent of a course. The technique should be advanced. Thus, statistical skills taught in the mandatory first year statistics sequence cannot be used to fulfill the tool requirement.

Departmental Examinations

The department qualifying examination consists of a demonstration by graduate students that they are prepared and qualified to perform independently and professionally within their area of specialization.

Before the end of the fourth year of study, a student must have completed the doctoral qualifying examination. All graduate students will be required to complete the Initial Research Project before they may take the qualifying examination. The department qualifying examination consists of a prepared and qualified to perform independently and professionally within their area of specialization. This demonstration will require broad-ranging mastery of conceptual and methodological issues in the area, and is exemplified by a comprehensive test, an integrative review article, or a grant proposal. The specific format will be determined by the student's Qualifying Examination Committee, which must include at least three area faculty. It is the student's responsibility to consult with his or her advisor about examination format, committee membership, and time line. If a student fails the qualifying examination, he/she may take it once more. Failure on the second occasion constitutes a basis for dismissal from the program.


Students must submit an acceptable dissertation which demonstrates that they are capable of doing independent scholarly work and are able to formulate conclusions which should modify or extend previous knowledge. Students must be formally admitted to candidacy before the dissertation proposal can be accepted and approved.

Full Time Study in Residence

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose a student will enroll in full-time study (12 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily, except as indicated here:

  1. Students authorized to register for work on a dissertation may meet this 12 credit per session requirement by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 8 earned course credits and registering for work on the dissertation for load credits that will bring the total to 12 credits for each of two sessions.
  2. Graduate assistants holding a full assistantship may meet the residency requirement by completing one academic year in such a position, including the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 15 registered credits during the year plus satisfactory completion of assigned duties.

Admission to Candidacy

A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the research competency paper;
  2. Satisfactory record in course and seminar study;
  3. Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement;
  4. Completion of university residence requirements;
  5. Satisfactory completion of the doctoral qualifying examination.

Statute of Limitations

All courses used to satisfy degree requirements (other than Psy 899) must have been completed no more than eight years prior to the semester in which the degree is officially granted by the University. This limitation also applies to all courses taken at other institutions for which transfer credit has been granted by the University.

Requirements Specific to Behavioral Neuroscience

Students enrolled in the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program are required to complete the following courses: APSY 601 Behavioral Neuroscience I (3); APSY 713 Behavioral Neuroscience II (3); APSY 735 Neurobiology of Learning & Memory (3); APSY 615 Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (3); APSY 779 Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience (1) (to be taken each semester through the third year for a total of 6 credits) and one of the following courses: APSY 780 Special Topics in Psychology [Behavioral Neuroscience]; APSY 745 Behavioral Neuropharmacology; APSY 723 Behavior-Genetic Analysis.

Students must satisfy departmental requirements for four courses outside the area by completing at least two courses in Psychology, one of which must be APSY 602 Survey of Learning & Conditioning (3). The second of these two would typically be either APSY 640 Survey of Psychopathology (3) or APSY 603 Survey of Cognitive Psychology (3), although other Psychology department course could satisfy this requirement with approval of the advisory/dissertation committee. ABIO 521 Cell & Molecular Developmental Neurobiology (3) and ABIO 541 Molecular Neurobiology (3) are recommended to fulfill the remaining two out of area courses although other courses could be substituted with approval of the advisory/dissertation committee.

Please note: This program offers an internship, field experience, study abroad component, or clinical experience in the course listing as an option to fulfill course requirements. Students who have previously been convicted of a felony are advised that their prior criminal history may impede their ability to complete the requirements of certain academic programs and/or to meet licensure requirements for certain professions. If you have concerns about this matter please contact the Dean’s Office of your intended academic program.