What to do before you arrive:
What to do when you arrive:
What to get when you arrive:
Students who will be funded by Rutgers will be registered by Shiva for the first semester. If a student is interested in taking a course at NJMS or NJIT, a CHEN form for cross registration is needed. Student can get those forms from Shiva or the registrars office in Blumenthal Hall. The student must fill out the form and a signature from the Program Director is required. Once the form is filled out and a signature is obtained, you must go to the registrar’s office of school the course is offered to register for the course. They will give you a receipt of the registration transaction that you will take to the Rutgers registrar’s office so they can put you in the system as taking a course at another school.
The curriculum has been developed to meet faculty requirements and students' expectations for a broad-based background in neuroscience. The curriculum includes graduate level basic courses as well as focused, upper-level courses over a wide spectrum of topics. A typical curriculum is outlined below (9 credits per semester is considered full time) and the formal criteria for reappointment as a graduate student can be found in this document. Students need 30 course credits and 30 research credits to graduate.
FIRST YEAR PROGRAM
The first year starts with a 2 week intensive boot camp in which students are introduced to the nuts and bolts of neuroscience through guided readings, computer simulations, lab visits, demonstrations, and hands-on tutorials.
|1st Semester||2nd Semester|
|Foundations in Neuroscience I||4||Foundations in Neuroscience II||4|
|Scientific Computing||3||Critical Thinking||2|
|Research Rotation||2||Research Rotation||3|
The summer semester is devoted to research in one of the laboratories participating in the BNS program (no registration or credits).
Students with a grade below B on any of the Foundations or Critical Thinking courses must pass the comprehensive exam to continue in the program. This one-hour long exam takes place at the end of the first year, typically in May or June.
The Comprehensive Exam tests the student’s general knowledge of Neuroscience. A set of predetermined questions will be posed to the student to test their general comprehension of material within the Foundations courses and their ability to apply critical thinking to neuroscientific discourse. The exam questions will be designed to establish the extent to which the student has integrated information presented during the first year of study.
The Comprehensive examination will be administered by a committee comprised of 4 faculty members who are actively involved in the first year graduate program curriculum. The faculty members will evaluate the students performance on their General Knowledge, Detailed Knowledge, Ability to Field Questions, to determine their strengths and weakness.
SECOND YEAR PROGRAM
|1st Semester||2nd Semester|
|Elective Courses||3-6||Elective Courses||3-6|
|Research Rotation (optional)||3||Colloquium Series||1|
|Independent Research||1+ research credits||Independent Research||1+ research credits|
The summer is devoted to research, most likely in the laboratory in which students plans to complete their PhD research project.
THIRD YEAR PROGRAM
At the start of the Third year, students should have a total of 30 course credits. They take the Candidacy Exam in the first few weeks of the third year and, if successful, proceed to focus on Independent Research (for research credits) for the remainder of the program. The thesis proposal also takes place in year three.
Teaching Requirement.All students, regardless of stipend source, are expected to assist in the teaching of at least one graduate and two undergraduate courses during their training.
Faculty offer in-depth courses in their areas of expertise. These courses change periodically. Some examples from past years are:
Use of Assessment Results
Graduates must have the conceptual and technical skills to conduct neuroscience research. Graduates are expected to:
• Identify a significant research problem or question for investigation
• Formulate valid hypotheses
• Design feasible experiments to test those hypotheses
• Possess the technical skills to perform experiments competently and reproducibly
• Analyze and interpret data rigorously using appropriate statistical methods if necessary.
|Students take two or more one semester research rotations with Program faculty during their first 2 years. These are 3 course-credit courses which require the student to write up a research plan for approval by their mentor and a final report which is graded.For years 3-5, the student works with their mentor on thesis research and is advised and examined by their thesis committee. The thesis committee must be formed in year 3. The Chair of the Thesis Committee must not be the student’s mentor.Thesis-phase students meet with their thesis committees semiannually to present and discuss progress and problems in their thesis research. Thesis committees consist of the mentor and three or more members of the graduate faculty at least two of whom must be from the Behavioral & Neural Sciences Program plus an external examiner. A public thesis proposal seminar is given by the student to the program faculty and students in year 3. It is expected that their public thesis defense will occur in year 5.Two forms of the thesis may be chosen: (a) the “classic” form consisting of an Introduction to the research field and the background to the problem(s) which will be investigated; a detailed Methods and Analysis section; the Results; Discussion: and Bibliography. Or (b) the “compendium” form which consists 3 published or in presspapers, an Introduction to the research field and the background to the problem which will be investigated; an overall Discussion of the three papers: and Bibliography.||It is important that the student is able to demonstrate a propensity for laboratory research during the rotations, to write a cogent research plan and to describe the results obtained, if appropriate. Students must obtain at least a B grade in each rotation. The student submits a self-study report at the end of each rotation to the faculty mentor who also adds their comments. The report is added to the student’s file.The Chair of the Thesis Committee is charged with the duty of insuring that the student is making satisfactory progress and that interactions with the student’s mentor are appropriate. The Chair calls the semiannual meetings to discuss the progress being made and the committee apprises whether progress on the defined Specific Aims is adequate.
The Specific Aims may be modified in light of the experimental results. The Thesis Committee decides when sufficient progress has been made and schedules the thesis defense. The written thesis must be presented to the Committee at least three weeks before the scheduled public defense.
Graduates must possess both general and specific knowledge of neuroscience and related fields. Graduates are expected to:
• Demonstrate a broad general knowledge (at a level equivalent to that of an average working neuroscientist) of the concepts, current hypotheses and key experiments in all areas of neuroscience, including: cellular & molecular neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, neurochemistry, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, and behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.
• Demonstrate detailed knowledge of one or more areas of neuroscience (at a level equivalent to that of an expert in that area).
|Students are expected to complete their degrees within five years. The doctoral program requires a minimum of 30 non-research course credits plus 30 research course credits. The program offers a core curriculum and a wide choice of electives.During year 1 students must takeFoundations of Neuroscience, a 2 semester 8 credit course It begins with molecular and cellular neuroscience and ends with behavior and cognition. It is team-taught by the faculty. The course is divided into 4 sections, each with its own written examination.
At the end of the first year the students take the first part of their qualifying exam – the Comprehensive Exam. This exam is an oral exam of general neuroscience knowledge at the level of the “Foundations" course but with an emphasis on synthesis and integration across domains of their knowledge.
At the end of year 2 the students Advance to Candidacy, by passing an exam consisting of two parts: A) a written component describing research conducted in previous lab rotation(s). The form of the write-up can be either 1) a research paper to be submitted to a journal or 2) an NRSA grant application. B) an oral presentation of the research conducted in the form of a short Powerpoint presentation. The student is expected to defend their work in an oral defense. Questions from an examining committee will be directed to the research methodology, analysis of results and their interpretation. Thus, the goal is to test general knowledge, the ability to plan, execute laboratory research, statistically analyze and draw supportable conclusions communicated in both written and spoken word.
Colloquium: First and second year students are required to attend the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN) colloquium series each month, Each colloquium is preceded by a class in which the speaker’s paper(s) are presented by senior students and discussed with the CMBN faculty member inviting the speaker. The colloquium isfollowed by a meeting of the BNS students with the colloquium speaker to discuss their work and views. Students who help review the papers are invited to dinner with faculty and the speaker. The CMBN invites outstanding national and international neuroscientists. Thus, students are exposed to prominent outside neuroscientists throughout their training. Naturally, faculty of the program may also participate in the colloquium series.
|As the Foundations course forms the basis for their future graduate studies, each student must pass each section of Foundations with a grade of B or better.If one section receives a grade of less than B, the student may retake the section the following year, if they pass their oral exam at the end of their first year. If the student receives grades of less than B on two sections or more they may not continue in the program.The Comprehensive Exam committee is formed by a rotating roster of 4 BNS faculty plus the Director (who maintains quality control and historical memory of previous students’ performances). The exam usually lasts for one hour. The students who are examined each year are given the same starting questions but depending on their answers the exploration of the student’s knowledge and ability to entertain scientific discourse may lead in different directions. Unsatisfactory performance in the exam leads to dismissal.
The Qualifying Exam committee is formed by a rotating roster of 4 BNS faculty plus the Director (who maintains quality control and historical memory of previous students’ performances). The faculty member who directed the research project may also be present as a non-voting observer. After the student’s presentation and defense, the committee meets and can seek advice from the research mentor as to the student’s abilities. If the student does not show an aptitude to be a successful researcher, they may be awarded a terminal MS degree as long as they have a final B average in their course work.
Students are graded by the CMBN faculty member inviting the speaker based on the participation of the student in the discussion of the speaker’s paper(s).
Graduates must be able to appraise scientific data, and to evaluate their individual activities in order to grow professionally. Graduates are expected to:
• Critically appraise scientific papers in the neurosciences
• Draw conclusions on the balance of evidence from multiple sources
• Use information technology to conduct literature searches and manage information to support their life-long intellectual enrichment
• Identify emerging areas of research on the basis of their literature reviews
• Self-assess their progress as a research scientist
|Course - Critical Thinking : For one semester in each of the first and second years, students meet to discuss journal articles and write papers defending their criticisms and/or support of published research findings. The ability to read and analyze research papers is critical to the development of a researcher in neuroscience. This course hones skills necessary for in-depth journal reading and writing of critiques.||Students are graded on their participation in the course and their analytical abilities as expressed both orally and in writing.|
Graduates must demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills. Graduates are expected to:
• Write, edit and submit scientific manuscripts for publication
• Present well organized research seminars that contain effective graphics
• Work effectively as a member of a research team
• Provide and receive constructive criticism in a professional manner
• Participate in teaching undergraduate and graduate students
• Communicate neuroscience effectively to a non-scientific audience
|All students TA one graduate course and two undergraduate courses in neuroscience or related areas as an academic requirement.Students are expected to participate in the annual Neuroscience Minisymposium and present a poster or oral presentation. Students are encouraged to attend the annual Society of Neuroscience meeting or other appropriate conferences to present their research as a poster or an oral presentation.
Students participate in regular lab meetings.
Students and postdoctoral fellows meet over dinner at Rutgers to hear presentations of each other’s ongoing work. These meetings occur in the absence of faculty to insure an informal atmosphere, promote active discussion, and enhance camaraderie. The schedule and administrative details are managed by the pre- and postdoctoral representatives.
Enlightening Postdoctoral and Predoctoral Seminars: Intermittently, on a Friday afternoon with pizza and soda, one postdoc and one graduate student present their research to attending faculty and students. These presentations serve to inform faculty, postdocs and students about recent discoveries being made by their colleagues, to provide feedback to the presenters, and to create a friendly forum for pre- and postdoctoral fellows to hone their presentation skills.
|Appropriate student performance is insured by the faculty member in charge of the course. Course reports are reviewed by the Director and the faculty member in charge of the course.Students are observed by the faculty and input is given to encourage and improve the student’s communication skills.|
Graduates must demonstrate a commitment to professional responsibilities, adherence to ethical principles and a respect for individuals. Graduates are expected to:
• Demonstrate knowledge of, and commitment to the principles of responsible conduct in research (RCR)
• Evaluate a situation involving unethical or unprofessional conduct.
• Demonstrate effective conflict management skills
• Possess management tools required to supervise a scientific laboratory
|Students must take the Graduate School orientation on entry into the program which includes sections on academic ethics and ethical research with both humans and animals.Course - Ethics in Science, Research and Scholarship: This semester-long course culminates in a written paper and is required of all graduate students.||Students are held to the highest ethical standards through out their participation in the program. Any lapses are referred immediately to the Director who may then invoke University procedures if appropriate.|
Graduates must demonstrate an understanding of the external structures that govern biomedical research and the career pathways available to graduates. Graduates are expected to:
• Demonstrate knowledge of external agencies funding biomedical research
• Understand the grant review process of the National Institutes of Health
• Evaluate career opportunities and pathways, from an informed perspective
|Course - Professional Skills: The goal of this course is to teach our graduate students the skill-set that they will require to excel in their careers upon graduating from our program. These skills include the ability to write, present and critique scientific material; to efficiently manage time, manage information and personnel; to secure employment, to master the process of writing and submitting grants, and to know how to conduct oneself at meetings and seminars||A passing grade of B must be obtained in the course.Students are encouraged to write NSF/NIH predoctoral grants and travel grant applications for attendance at conferences.|
All students (irrespective of funding source) are required to teach in 3 courses (2 undergraduate and one graduate) during their training. They can choose from undergraduate, and graduate courses at Rutgers.
After completing the first year curriculum, and before the Qualifying Examination may be attempted, students are required to complete an Early Research Project. Typically the project should be started no later than the beginning of the Spring semester of the second year. The Early Research Project is an independently performed research project approved by the faculty member in whose laboratory the research is performed.
The purpose of the Candidacy Exam is to establish that the student has acquired sufficient proficiency in the discipline of Neuroscience for admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree.
The candidacy exam is taken at the beginning of the 3rd year. It consists of both a written exam (in journal format or as a grant proposal) with an oral presentation and oral defense of the written document to be based upon the subject of the Early Research Project.
The Early Research Project is an independent piece of research conducted under the auspices of one of the faculty members of the BNS program during one or more of the required research rotations. As the Early Research Project is often conducted under time constraints, latitude will be granted as to the amount of data required and/or the success of the experiments, which in practice might be insufficient for an actual publication or fellowship proposal.
The Written Exam
The written component of the Candidacy exam will be examined for the level of critical thought and analysis, the logical development of ideas, the persuasiveness of arguments, the relevance, quality and scope of the citations and the use of correct spelling and grammar.
The Committee recognizes that even the best manuscripts/proposals may need revision, just as almost all manuscripts that are actually submitted for publication require some revisions before final acceptance by a journal. Manuscripts of this type may be deemed acceptable by the Committee, even if they require revision and re-submission.
Candidates must provide a single PDF document of their proposal to the Committee Chair no later than 5:00 pm on the first Friday of September in their 3rd year in the program. If the written exam is deemed acceptable, the Committee Chair will schedule an oral examination and defense of the document, typically during the 3rd week of September.
Grant Proposal format
The grant proposal is to be written in the format of an NIH F31 Predoctoral Research Proposal, following the organizational outline, formatting and page limitations. Only the Research Proposal section and the section on Respective Contributions are to be completed. Proposals that have been previously submitted to a granting agency may not be submitted for the qualifying exam. In such situations the student should use the journal format described below.
Journal Article Format
The journal article must be written to meet all formal requirements of submission to the Journal of Neuroscience (as can be found in the Instructions for Authors on the web pages of the Journal of Neuroscience). The sole exception to this rule is that figures (and captions) should be included in the text where they should appear in a final published article.
The Oral Exam
Since one of the purposes of the exam is to identify areas of weakness or deficits that need to be rectified before graduation, faculty advisors are encouraged to attend their student’s oral presentations as silent, non-participating members.
The examination will consist of a 20 minute presentation of the Early Research Project by the candidate, during which the candidate will be questioned by the Committee. These questions may encompass any technical, methodological, analytical, or conceptual aspects of the Early Research Project and manuscript, as well as the literature related to the project.
For the oral examination, the evaluators will asses the student’s general knowledge of the field, detailed knowledge of the literature, familiarity with techniques, level of critical thought and analysis, logical development of ideas, persuasiveness of arguments and ability to field questions.
Role of the Advisor
The experiments forming the basis for the paper, the analysis of the data, and their interpretation should can and should be carried out in close collaboration with the advisor. However, the student must demonstrate intellectual ownership of the organization, presentation, and interpretation of data and text of the article/proposal submitted for the Candidacy Examination.
A written statement must be provided to the committee disclosing the respective contributions of the student and advisor towards the preparation of the article/proposal.
As further guidance for the respective role of the advisor and the student, the following scenario is recommended. First, the advisor and student meet to discuss an outline of the paper (or grant proposal). The student then writes a first, complete draft and submits it to the advisor for comments. The advisor provides comments at a similar level of detail as one would receive on submission to a journal. The student corrects the manuscript in light of those comments and submits the article/proposal to the committee..
Notification of Results
Successful completion of the Candidacy Examination requires approval by at least a 2/3 majority of the Qualifying Examination Committee.
No more than 3 weeks after completing the examination, all candidates will be informed of the results of their examination in writing. This letter, which becomes part of the students’ permanent academic file, will also detail strengths and weaknesses identified by the examination and, if necessary, make specific recommendations for remediation.
All BNS students must form a thesis committee that is comprised of their adviser, a Chair of the committee (not the adviser) and at least 2 other BNS faculty members and an outside member within 6 months of passing their Candidacy Exams. The outside member of the thesis committee must not be the student’s future postdoctoral fellowship sponsor. The committee should meet formally with the student every 6 months to offer advice and monitor progress. All BNS students also must develop a thesis proposal for public presentation to the BNS faculty and students in their third year. Formulating a thesis proposal early in the thesis research phase allows the student to obtain valuable input from the thesis committee towards developing a rigorous research plan and a defined thesis project. The thesis committee will be responsible for providing the student with advice during their dissertation research phase of the program. The written thesis should be presented to the thesis committee at least one month before the thesis defense. The written thesis may be presented in one of two forms: 1) the "classic" form consisting of an introductory chapter, method and analysis section, detailed experiments -results and conclusions, overall conclusion or 2) the "compendium" form consisting of an introduction, three or more published full length papers, general discussion. General instructions concerning the Graduate School timetables and instructions can be found on their appropriate web pages.
If you are considering publishing your PhD Thesis as a monograph, be sure to read this article..
Please check the web site of the Graduate School Newark for the regulations that apply to all Rutgers-Newark PhD programs, including BNS. Search for a document about "Doctoral Degree Requirements". That site has information on the application process and on the formatting guidelines for a thesis. Please note that the application process should be started at least 3 months before your planned graduation date.
International graduate students, three months prior to your defense date, must submit OPT application package to the OISS. You must attend at least one of the OISS seminars for OPT. These seminars happen 2-3 times a semester and OISS notifies students via email .
On the day of your thesis defense, please bring:
If you are continuing as a postdoc at Rutgers after your defense:
The BNS Program provides financial support for travel to scientific meetings to present research, or for attendance at training courses.
Rules & Eligibility
Flights (lowest economy fare)
Registration and abstract fees
Per diem food allowance (compatible with Rutgers reimbursement policy)
If you are sure you are eligible (i.e. this is a routine SFN visit where you are presenting your work and you have not yet received any awards this year), then you should provide the following information on a single piece of paper, together with your travel reimbursement form (TABER) after the meeting.
If you want to make sure you are eligible beforehand, then please send this same information to Marisela Gonzalez (firstname.lastname@example.org) when planning your trip. If there are any issues concerning the suitability of your planned travel that cannot be resolved by Marisela please contact Dr. Elizabeth Abercrombie (email@example.com).