Students in the program are required to complete a set of 7 required courses.

Three of those core courses are required for all students in neuroscience Ph.D. programs:

  • Cellular Neurobiology: This course is concerned with the structure and function of the nervous system at the cellular level. The cellular and subcellular components of neurons and their basic membrane and electrophysiological properties will be described. Cellular and molecular aspects of interactions between neurons will be studied. This will lead to functional analyses of the mechanisms involved in the generation and modulation of behavior in selected model systems.
  • Survey of Sytems Neuroscience: This lab-centered course teaches students the fundamental principles of vertebrate nervous system organization. Students learn the major structures and the basic circuitry of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system. Somatic, visual, auditory, vestibular, and olfactory sensory systems are presented in particular depth. A highlight of this course is that students become practiced at recognizing the nuclear organization and cellular architecture of many regions of the brain in rodents, cats, and primates.
  • Behavioral Neuroscience: This course provides an introduction to neuroethology, examining brain activity relative to behaviors and organisms evaluated from an adaptive and evolutionary perspective. It starts with a brief introduction to classical ethology, and then develops a series of example animal model systems. Both invertebrate and vertebrate models are considered although there is a bias towards the latter. Many of these are "champion" species. There is a heavier demand for reading original data papers than typical in introductory graduate-level courses. An integral part of the course is a series of assignments where you develop grant proposals describing novel science experiments in the animal models, thereby challenging your knowledge of the material and teaching aspects of scientific writing. In recent years there has been more computational material presented. The course is not available to undergraduates without prior approval of the instructor.

There is one required computational neuroscience core course:

  • Methods in Computational Neuroscience: Topics include (but are not limited to): relating neural data to behavior, Signal Detection theory, models of vision and artificial neural networks, Information Theory, Generalized Linear Models, dimensionality reduction, classification, and clustering.

And three computational neuroscience electives chosen from the list below:

  • CPNS 31000 Mathematics Methods for the Biological Sciences I (Kondrashov)*: Autumn Quarter
  • CPNS 31100 Mathematics Methods for the Biological Sciences II (Kondrashov)*: Winter Quarter
    • *(The 2-quarter sequence fulfills one course requirement)
  • CPNS 32610 Theories of Cortical Circuit Dynamics and Computation (Doiron): Winter Quarter
  • CPNS 32111 Signal Analysis and Modeling for Neuroscientists (Van Drongelen): Spring Quarter
  • CPNS 35600 Theoretical Neuroscience: Statistics and Information Theory (Palmer): Spring Quarter

One of the required courses can be substituted by a course in Statistics, Physics, Applied Mathematics, Mathematics, Computer Science, or Data Science chosen in collaboration with the advising committee and/or research advisor (once the student has joined a lab).

Elective courses:

In addition to the required courses, students can take courses related to their interests from any appropriate department within the University or the Department of Biomedical Engineering, IIT.

They should discuss their interests with the Committee Chair or their thesis advisor after they have chosen one. Students wishing to take courses at the Illinois Institute of Technology should contact the cluster administrator to make appropriate arrangements.

Ethics Requirement:

Students are required to take the course in “Responsible, Rigorous, and Reproducible Conduct of Research” offered by the Biological Sciences Division during the winter quarter of their 1st year, and the “senior level” course offered in alternate years by the neuroscience cluster during the Spring of their 4th or 5th year.

Lab Rotations:

Students are required to complete at least two lab rotations during their first year. Such rotations provide hands-on experience and help the students identify the best thesis research laboratory and advisor according to their specific research interests and mentoring needs.


The Biological Sciences Division (BSD) requires all graduate students to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) in two courses for academic credit (without pay) before their Ph.D. degree is awarded. Students particularly interested in teaching can TA for pay in additional courses, with the consent of their thesis advisor. These students are encouraged to pursue certificates and training opportunities offered by the Chicago Center for Teaching and Learning.

  Autumn Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter Summer Quarter 
Year 1

Systems Neuroscience

Faculty Research Talks


Lab Rotation

Cellular Neurobiology

Methods in Comp. Neuroscience

Lab rotation

Ethics (R3R) 

Behavioral Neuroscience

Signal Anal. & Model. for Neuroscientists or Theoretical Neuroscience

Elective/Lab rotation  

Year 2

Elective (any quarter)

TA (any quarter)






Qualifying Exam


Year 3

TA (any quarter)


Research Research Research
Year 4 Research Research


Senior Ethics

Year 5 Research Research Research Defense

Year 3-5

Advanced Topics Course (Electives); Annual Student Talks; Journal Clubs; Professional Development Series