Neuroscience, PhD

Established in 2007, ASU's interdisciplinary neuroscience PhD program recognizes the health burdens that come with brain-related illness. To address these issues, we have set out to uncover fundamental questions about the relationship between the brain and human behavior.

Our program emphasizes approaches that integrate several levels of analysis including molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral and cognitive. This allows you to investigate basic, translational and clinical questions about the relationship between the brain and behavior.

When you join this program, you'll be uniquely positioned to benefit from the expertise of researchers who are working in high-level medical, educational and research-driven organizations. Unlike other neuroscience programs, at ASU you’ll be able to choose a mentor from four different institutions in the Phoenix metro area.

You'll gain real-world experience by collaborating with researchers from ASU, Barrow Neurological Institute, Translational Genomics Research Institute and University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix to translate discovery into clinical practice. Research areas range from basic neuroscience mechanisms to human clinical trials. 

As our students investigate important brain-related health issues impacting individuals and their families, they remain intently focused on the goal of finding treatments and improving preventative health. Most graduates from this program seek an academic career in a teaching or research university or a science career with a biotech or pharmaceutical company.

32 students
5 institutions
50+ faculty

Degree Overview

This program requires 84 credit hours, with 12 dissertation credits. At least 18 credit hours of formal coursework are required.

You will have the flexibility to tailor a study program to meet your specific professional goals. We use an array of animals for understanding how nervous systems adapt to their environments, and as models for human neurological conditions.

How to apply

The neuroscience PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August. Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

To apply, follow the Apply Now link.
You will be asked to:

  • review university standards, degree program timelines and application requirements
  • complete graduate admission application
  • send official transcripts and language tests (international students only)
  • complete academic record form
  • submit a non-refundable application fee

Application deadline
Applications are accepted Sept. 1 - Dec.15, with a preference date of Dec. 1. There is no guarantee that applications received after Dec. 15 will be reviewed.

In January, top applicants will be invited to attend a recruitment event in mid- to late- February. You will be notified of your admissions status by April 15. 

Desired qualifications:

  • Research experience 
  • Undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

We guarantee 5 years of academic-year funding as a teaching or research assistant. This includes stipend, insurance and tuition support to cover the required 84 hours for the degree.

ASU's Neuroscience PhD program provides its students with a network of resources and a multidisciplinary approach to research, to tackle important questions within the field of Neuroscience.

—Lynette Bustos, PhD student


This program requires the completion of 84 credit hours, including at least 18 credits of formal courseworkIn consultation with your committee and your mentor, you may customize your program of study to focus on your interests.


 Credit Hours

Core courses


Additional requirements


Elective courses






Total hours required


Courses and electives

Our core courses are designed for students who already have a background in basic neuroscience.

In these courses, you'll experience advanced, cutting-edge research from all levels of analysis in neuroscience —molecular through systems-level processes — and you'll learn how they affect behavioral and cognitive processes. You'll also learn how to apply basic and practical knowledge in biomedical settings.

This type of exposure provides an overview of major, interdisciplinary projects currently underway at ASU and at our clinical partner institutions. You'll observe firsthand how team-oriented, translational projects can be implemented to help solve problems in biomedicine that have a direct societal impact.

For electives, you may choose courses from a wide variety of schools and departments, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of this degree program. Available elective courses are subject to change and they may not be available each semester or academic year. New courses are being developed and you are encouraged to propose course and seminar topics to participating faculty.

Two lecture courses constitute the core curriculum in the first year:

  • NEU 555 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (6 credit hours)*
    *Course is cross-listed with BIO. Neuroscience students need to register for the NEU prefix. Course is only offered in the fall semesters.
  • NEU 556 Systems Neuroscience (4 credit hours)*
    *Course is cross-listed with BME. Neuroscience students need to register for the NEU prefix. Course is only offered in the spring semesters.

Students must enroll in either Neuroscience Journal Club or Neuroscience Research Seminar each spring and fall semester they are in the program. Both courses can be taken in the same semester, but you must take at least one course every semester.

  • NEU 591 Journal Club Seminar (1) (or)
  • NEU 591 Neuroscience Research Seminar (1)

A minimum of four semesters each of Neuroscience Journal Club and Neuroscience Research Seminar is required for every student. 

Neuroscience Journal Club
This club emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to both basic and clinical neuroscience. You will take a lead role in organizing the clubs. Several speakers each semester will come from local institutions (ASU and clinical partners) to expose you to diverse research programs and foster the translational philosophy of the program.

The journal club meets weekly throughout the fall and spring semesters to discuss recent publications focused on special topics (e.g. aging, auditory processing, circadian rhythms, drug abuse, neuroethology, etc.)

Neuroscience Research Seminar
This seminar allows you to present a research seminar, which is a valuable experience for developing your career. The seminar is open to faculty and students. About once each month, a guest speaker will present a seminar.

Faculty and students will benefit from becoming more informed about the research going on in the diverse and interdisciplinary neuroscience community at Arizona State University, Barrow Neurological Institute, the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix, and the Translational Genomic Research Institute (T-Gen).

Choose from a wide variety of elective courses.


  • BIO 598: Neuroscience, Ethics and the Law (3)
  • BIO 611: Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences (1)
  • Bio 611: Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences (1)

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

  • BME 451 Cell Biotechnology Laboratory (4)
  • BME 520 Bioelectric Phenomena (3)
  • BME 521 Neuromuscular Control Systems (3)
  • BME 524 Fundamentals of Applied Neural Control (3)
  • BME 532 Prosthetic and Rehabilitation Engineering (3)
  • BME 551 Movement Biomechanics (3)
  • BME 568 Medical Imaging (3)
  • BME 598 ST Integrative Neuroscience (3)
  • BME 598 ST Research Ethics/Law (2-3)

School of Life Sciences

  • BIO 451: Cell Biotechnology Laboratory (4)
  • BIO 465: Neurophysiology (3)
  • BIO 467: Neurobiology (3)
  • BIO 508: Scientific Data Presentation (2) 
  • BIO 515: Science, Technology and Public Affairs (3)
  • BIO 550: Advanced Cell Biology (3)
  • BIO 551: Biomembranes (3)
  • BIO 591: Responsible conduct of research (3)
  • BIO 598: Developmental Neurobiology (6)* *Course prefix changed to NEU 557 Fall 2011
  • BIO 569: Cellular Physiology (3)

School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

  • APM 530: Mathematical Cell Physiology (3)
  • APM 531: Mathematical Neuroscience I (3)
  • APM 532: Mathematical Neuroscience II (3)

Department of Psychology

  • PSY 426: Neuroanatomy (4)
  • PSY 425: Biobasis of Behavior (3)
  • PSY 470: Psychopharmacology (3)
  • PSY 512: Advanced Learning (3)
  • PSY 524: Advanced Physiological Psychology (3)
  • PSY 528: Sensation and Perception (3)
  • PSY 573: Psychopathology (3)
  • PSY 591: Neuroanatomy (4) (cross-listed with 426)
  • PSY 591: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (3)
  • PSY 591: Neuropsychopharmacology (3)
  • PSY 591: Grant Writing and Professional Development (3)
  • PSY 624: Clinical Neuroscience (3)
  • PSY 555: Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research (3)

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

  • SHS 513 Neurophysiology of the Auditory System (3)
  • SHS 519 Auditory Pathologies and Disorders (3)
  • SHS 520 Otoneurologic Applications in Audiology (3)
  • SHS 545 Speech Perception by the Hearing Impaired (2)
  • SHS 555: Cochlear Implants
  • SHS 567: Neural Bases of Communication Disorders (3)
  • SHS 575: Aphasia and Related Neurogenic Language Disorders (3)
  • SHS 576: Neuromotor Speech Disorders
  • SHS 581: Right Hemisphere Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Dementia (3)

What are the requirements for international students?
International students are required to submit additional materials, found on the Graduate Education website, in addition to the application and supporting materials required from the program. This includes proof of English proficiency with a TOEFL score of 100 or IELTS score of 7.

I applied last fall, do I have to submit my application again?
Yes. If you previously applied to the program, you must resubmit the required documents, application and application fee to be considered for the upcoming fall semester.

Can I work and be a student in the program?
No. The program is research intensive and requires students to be available to do their coursework and work on their research on a full-time basis.

Does the program require a full-time commitment?
Yes, you must be a full-time student. Due to course offerings and research required, you should maintain full-time status to ensure completion of the program in a timely manner.

What is the timeline for graduating from the program?
Doctoral students must complete all program requirements within a 10-year period. This starts with the semester and year of admission to the doctoral program. Graduate courses taken prior to admission that are included on the Plan of Study must have been completed within three years of the semester and year of admission to the program (previously awarded master's degrees used on the Plan of Study are exempt).

In addition, you must defend your dissertation within five years after passing the comprehensive examinations. Therefore, the maximum time to complete the degree is the shortest of the following:

  • Time period since initial enrollment (10-year time limit).
  • Time after passing the comprehensive exams (5-year time limit).

Any exceptions must be approved by the supervisory committee and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and ordinarily involves repeating the comprehensive examinations. Graduate Education may withdraw students who are unable to complete all degree requirements and graduate within the allowed maximum time limits.

May I visit the campus?
We arrange for some applicants to visit the campus. This is by invitation only. If you are not invited and still wish to do so, you may at your own expense.

Can faculty members in the program be contacted?
We strongly recommended that you contact faculty in whose research you are interested. Go to the faculty list to see which faculty members you might be interested in contacting.

What tests are required?

International students are required to take the TOEFL or the IELTS. The MCAT and the ECFMG certificate are not accepted. If appropriate, have official TOEFL or IELTS scores sent to ASU.

Are fee waivers available?
No, fee waivers cannot be granted at this time.

Do I need to complete the university application and pay the application fee?
Yes. You do need to complete the university application. Check the Graduate Education website for current fees. Your application will not be reviewed unless you complete the application and pay the fee.

When will I know the decision on my application?
We will notify you as soon as possible of our decision. For students admitted to the program, decisions will be made on a rolling basis beginning in late February or early March. Final decisions for all students will be made by the end of April.

What is the deadline for complete applications?
The deadline for complete applications (including all necessary documents) is Dec.15. Priority deadline is Dec. 1.

When can applications be submitted?
Applications are accepted from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. Priority deadline is Dec. 1. All application materials must be submitted by Dec. 15 for the application to be considered complete and ready for review by the committee. Only complete applications will be reviewed.

How do I apply?
Initiate an online ASU Graduate Admissions application through the Graduate Education website

Interdisciplinary Partners
The program’s interdisciplinary faculty consists of people from various schools and departments at ASU, and from outside organizations. Therefore, some faculty members are not physically located on any of the ASU campuses.