Neuroscience, PhD

The ASU PhD program in neuroscience provides interdisciplinary training for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

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

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.

Finally, our program embraces the goals of the New American University at ASU in that it attempts to break free from traditional disciplinary and organizational constraints to allow the university to harness its knowledge to transform society.

This program is interdisciplinary in nature. Therefore, many faculty are from outside Arizona State University. Some faculty are not physically located on any of the ASU campuses. The program’s faculty consists of people from various schools and departments at ASU, and from outside organizations.

The Interdisciplinary Neuroscience PhD program requires the completion of 84 credit hours, including 18 credits of formal course work.

In consultation with your committee and your supervisor/mentor, you may customize your program of study to focus on your particular interests and goals.

The following are required:

  • Complete two core lecture courses in the first year
  • Enroll in Neuroscience Journal Club (NEU 558) and/or Neuroscience Research Seminar (NEU 591) every fall and spring semester
    • You must take at least one of the courses each semester, and have the option to enroll in both. A minimum of 4 semesters of each course is required (e.g. 4 Neuroscience Journal Club and 4 Neuroscience Research Seminar courses).
  • Additional credits are comprised of specialized disciplinary courses chosen in consultation with your mentor and advisory committee.
  • Laboratory rotations: planned by you and your mentors/advisory committee
  • Four hours of professional development courses.

Advancement to Candidacy

You must pass a formal, comprehensive exam that includes both a written proposal of your dissertation research and an oral examination in the broader areas that pertain to your research study. This takes place at the end of your second academic year.

The written portion of this exam will be in the form of an NIH or NSF proposal, complete with expected budget requirements, biosketch, facilities requirements and a training component. Also, we expect the proposal to include the remaining two to three years of research and training, and back up the proposed concepts with preliminary results obtained up to that point.

In the oral exam, you will be questioned about the proposed research and related areas.

Core Lecture Courses

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

NEU 555 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (6 credit hours)*
*Course is crosslisted 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 crosslisted with BME. Neuroscience students need to register for the NEU prefix. 
Course is only offered in the spring semesters.

The core courses are designed for students who already have a background in basic Neuroscience. The course sequence that has two major goals. One is to expose students to advanced, cutting-edge research from all levels of analysis in Neuroscience - that is, from molecular through systems-level processes, including how those processes affect behavioral and cognitive processes. A second goal will be to introduce students to application of basic and practical knowledge in biomedical settings.

The courses consist of modules led by faculty members who specialize in those areas of research. Each module is one to two weeks in length, consisting of both lecture and ‘translational' components. Modules are taught in ASU classrooms and in facilities at our Clinical Partner institutions. In both types of locations, part of each module may consist of tours of laboratories and clinical facilities as well as discussions with clinicians and neurosurgeons. This exposure in particular will help to provide an overview of major interdisciplinary projects that are currently underway at ASU and at the Clinical Partner Institutions. It will also provide an opportunity for students to observe firsthand how team-oriented translational projects can be implemented to help solve problems in biomedicine that have a direct societal impact.


Specialized Disciplinary Neuroscience Electives

This list of ASU courses is subject to change. Courses 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.

Ethics Courses

BIO 598: Neuroscience, Ethics and the Law (3) 
Meets for 15 weeks (full semester). Instructors: Betsy Grey (Law) and Jason Robert (SOLS)

BIO 611: Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences (1)
Meets for 5 weeks. Instructor: Karin Ellison

Bio 611: Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences (1)
Meets for 15 weeks (full semester).  Instructors: Betsy Grey (Law) and Jason Robert (SOLS)

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

BME 451: Cell Biotechnology Laboratory (4)
Mammalian cell culture techniques including mouse embryonic stem cells, the use of biorectors, cell fractionation and digital video imaging.

BME 520: Bioelectric Phenomena (3)
Study of the origin, propagation and interactions of bioelectricity in living things; volume conductor problems, mathematical analysis of bioelectric interactions, and uses in medical diagnostics.

BME 521: Neuromuscular Control Systems (3)
Overview of sensorimotor brain structures. Application of nonlinear, adaptive, optimal and supervisory control theory to eye-head-hand coordination and locomotion.

BME 524: Fundamentals of Applied Neural Control (3)
Fundamental concepts of electrical stimulation and recording in the nervous system with the goal of functional control restoration.

BME 532: Prosthetic and Rehabilitation Engineering (3)
Analysis and critical assessment of design and control strategies for state-of-the-art medical devices used in rehabilitation engineering.

BME 551: Movement Biomechanics (3)
Mechanics applied to the analysis and modeling of physiological movements. Computational modeling of muscles, tendons, joints, and the skeletal system, with application to sports and rehabilitation.

BME 568: Medical Imaging (3)
CT, SPECT, PET and MRI. 3-D in vivo measurements. Instrument design, physiological modeling, clinical protocols, reconstruction algorithms and quantitation issues.

BME 598: ST Integrative Neuroscience (3)

BME 598: ST Research Ethics/Law (2-3)

School of Life Sciences

BIO 451: Cell Biotechnology Laboratory (4)
Mammalian cell culture techniques, including mouse embryonic stem cells, the use of bioreactors, cell fractionation, and digital video imaging.

BIO 465: Neurophysiology (3)
Detailed treatment of cellular and organismal neurophysiology and nervous system function.

BIO 467: Neurobiology (3)
Introduction into basic nervous system anatomy and function.

BIO 508: Scientific Data Presentation (2)
Techniques necessary for presentation of scientific data used in journal publications, grant proposals, and visual presentations.

BIO 515: Science, Technology and Public Affairs (3)
Explores the political, economic, cultural, and moral foundations of science and technology policy and governance in democratic society.

BIO 550: Advanced Cell Biology (3)
Applies contemporary electron microscopic and biochemical/molecular techniques for studying eukaryotic cell functions. Mechanisms of intracellular protein trafficking.

BIO 551: Biomembranes (3)
Structure and function of biological membranes, emphasizing synthesis, fluidity, exocytosis, endocytosis, and cell responses to hormones and neurotransmitters.

BIO 591: Responsible conduct of research (3)
The class is designed to introduce graduate students to ethical issues in the research environment. Topics will include skills needed for success in graduate school and beyond, ethical issues in data handling, authorship, human genetics, conflict of interest, mentoring, experimental animals and human subjects, and other issues. Faculty facilitators will participate in discussing case studies and students will develop case studies based on their own experiences.

BIO 598: Developmental Neurobiology (6)*
*Course prefix will change to NEU 557 beginning Fall 2011
This course is designed to examine the Development of the Nervous System.  The class starts with neural induction, birth order, NS system axis formation, then goes to pathfinding, dendritic growth, synaptogenesis. This is followed by synapse elimination and programmed cell death. Finally, excitability homeostasis, neural circuit development, and Rett and Fragile X will be covered as two examples for neurodevelopmental diseases.

BIO 569: Cellular Physiology (3)
Emphasizes the molecular basis for cell structure and function.

School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

APM 530: Mathematical Cell Physiology (3) — Alternate Fall or Spring
Mathematical modeling of dynamical aspects of cell physiology. Diffusion, membrane transport, intracellular calcium channel kinetics, calcium oscillations and waves.

APM 531: Mathematical Neuroscience I (3) —Fall 
Mathematical modeling of electrochemical processes in nerve cells. Dendritic modeling, dendritic spines and synaptic plasticity, bifurcation analysis of excitable membrane models, deterministic and stochastic methods for threshold dynamics and bursting, relaxation oscillations. You should have taken a previous graduate-level PDE course.

APM 532: Mathematical Neuroscience II (3) — Spring
Mathematical modeling of systems neuroscience. Network dynamics, coupled phase oscillators, central pattern generators, neural coding, learning and memory. You should have taken advanced ordinary differential equations and also taken APM 530 or APM 531 prior to enrolling in this course.

Department of Psychology

PSY 426: Neuroanatomy (4) — fall
Structure and function of mammalian brain, including sheep brain dissection (cross-listed with 591).

PSY 425: Biobasis of Behavior (3) — spring

PSY 470: Psychopharmacology (3) — select semesters

PSY 512: Advanced Learning (3) — select semesters

PSY 524: Advanced Physiological Psychology (3) — select semesters
Contributions of physiological processes and brain function to fundamental behavioral processes.

PSY 528: Sensation and Perception (3) — select semesters
Principles of sensory and perceptual processes, emphasizing research literature.

PSY 573: Psychopathology (3) - fall
Theory and research relating to the contribution of psychological, social, physiological, and genetic factors to the development and persistence of abnormal behavior.

PSY 591: Neuroanatomy (4) — fall
Structure and function of mammalian brain, including sheep brain dissection (cross-listed with 426).

PSY 591: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (3)

PSY 591: Neuropsychopharmacology (3) — select semesters

PSY 591: Grant Writing and Professional Development (3) — select semesters

PSY 624: Clinical Neuroscience (3) — select semesters
Examines the biological underpinnings of psychological disorders at the molecular, cellular, and system levels (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, anxiety). Lecture, pro-seminar.

PSY 555: Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research (3) — select semesters
Reviews research techniques. Analyzes lab and field research; applications to specific topics.

Department of Speech and Hearing Science

SHS 513: Neurophysiology of the Auditory System (3) — fall or spring
Focuses on the neurophysiology of the normal auditory system and on changes associated with hearing loss. Lecture, discussion, demonstrations. Prerequisite: instructor approval.

SHS 519: Auditory Pathologies and Disorders (3)
Familiarizes students with major diseases, pathologies, and disorders of the human auditory system. Lecture, discussion, case studies, demonstrations, field trips, seminar, student.

SHS 520: Otoneurologic Applications in Audiology (3)
Advanced otologic, neurologic, and audiologic approaches in the differential diagnosis of peripheral and central disorders of the auditory system. Lecture, lab, discussion, case studies, seminar, student presentations.

SHS 545: Speech Perception by the Hearing Impaired (2)
Focuses on the perception of speech by normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listeners. Lecture, discussion, case studies, seminar, student presentations. Prerequisite: instructor approval.

SHS 555: Cochlear Implants
The design and function of implantable neural prostheses for the restoration of hearing in adults and children.

SHS 567: Neural Bases of Communication Disorders (3)
Neuroscience and its application to matters of normal and disordered communication.

SHS 575: Aphasia and Related Neurogenic Language Disorders (3)
Assessment and treatment of acquired neurolinguistic impairment.

SHS 576: Neuromotor Speech Disorders
Neurophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of motor speech disorders; theory and models of normal and disordered speech production. 

SHS 581: Right Hemisphere Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Dementia (3)
Studies the nature, characteristics, and clinical management of cognitive and communicative impairments accompanying right hemisphere damage, TBI, and dementia.

Journal Club and Research Seminar

Each semester, you are required to participate in the Neuroscience Journal Club and/or the Neuroscience Research Seminar. You must enroll in at least one of the courses every fall and spring semester (both courses can be taken in the same semester, but you must take at least one course every semester).

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

The Neuroscience Journal 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.)

The Neuroscience Research 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).

Application Deadline

Applications are accepted Oct. 1 - Dec.15, with a preference date of Dec. 1.
The Neuroscience PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August. 

There is no guarantee 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. 

Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

You will be notified of your admissions status by April 15. 

Desired qualifications:

  • Research experience 
  • Undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)
  • GRE scores: 50% Verbal and 70% Quantitative 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

Note: Your application is evaluated based on your entire application package.

To apply, follow the How and When to Apply link below.

 You will be asked to:

  1. Review the university standards, degree program timelines and application requirements
  2. Complete the graduate admission application
  3. Have official transcripts, general GRE scores and language tests (international students only) sent to graduate admissions services
  4. Fill out and upload the academic record form
  5. Submit a non-refundable application fee

The Advisory Committee is selected by the end of your 2nd semester.

  • There will be one chair (your mentor), or two co-chairs on the committee and the balance will be committee members
  • The mentor must be endorsed to chair according to established criteria in place in the Graduate Education (Graduate Education website listing the Neuroscience faculty)
  • You will form your committee in consultation with your mentor by the end of the second semester
  • The committee is to consist of four program faculty members
  • You will meet with your entire advisory committee at least once per academic year
  • The mentor and the advisory committee will submit an annual report of your progress
    • You, your advisor and each committee member will sign the report
    • The report will include:
      • A list of course work completed and grades achieved
      • A list of laboratory rotations (if any)
      • A list of academic milestones achieved in that  year
      • A list of milestones for the coming year
      • Any other information pertinent to your progress (papers published, attendance and presentations at professional meetings, etc.)

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 t10-year period. The 10-year period 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?

It is 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 are the GRE scores the committee is looking for?

The committee is looking for the following scores:

  • Verbal: 50%
  • Quantitative: 70%
  • Writing/Analytical: 5.0

How are the test scores submitted?

Have ETS (Educational Testing Service) provide ASU with official GRE scores. The GRE General Exam is the only standardized test required of all Interdisciplinary Neuroscience PhD Program applicants. The ETS Institutional Code for ASU is 4007. Enter the Department Code as 0000. If appropriate, have official TOEFL or IELTS scores sent to ASU. Most applicants from a country in which the native language is not English must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

What tests are required?

All students must take the general GRE. International students are also required to take the TOEFL or the IELTS. The MCAT and the ECFMG certificate are not accepted.

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 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

Your investment in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience is greatly appreciated! Gifts may be used at the program's discretion for immediate or opportunistic needs that support the program. These funds are vital to assist with our operations and to engage our students in cutting-edge science.

Your gift is an investment in the program’s success both today and in the future. Please consider making a financial contribution, today.

Contribute to Neuroscience Today


You may also mail a check to:

Arizona State University
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience
P.O. Box 874601
Tempe, AZ 85287-4601

Note: All funds will be deposited with the ASU Foundation, a separate non-profit organization that exists to support Arizona State University (ASU). Gifts in support of ASU and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience are subject to foundation policies and fees. Your gift may be considered a charitable contribution. Please consult your tax adviser regarding the deductibility of charitable contributions.

For more information, please contact Linda Raish, Assistant Director of Development, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (480) 727-2767.

Degree Offered

Neuroscience, PhD
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of


Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Application Deadlines

Applications for Fall 2019 accepted:  Oct. 1-Dec. 15, 2018
Priority deadline:  Dec. 1, 2018

Financial Support for Graduate Education

More information on financial support through the School of Life Sciences.


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