PhD in Psychology: Neuroscience Program

What is Neuroscience?

Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field devoted to the study of the nervous system. Research in this area can be broken down into many sub-categories including Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience, etc. Many of these categories involve overlapping interests and use common resources and tools. In our department, we have explicitly chosen to avoid such labels so as to encourage a breadth of graduate level training focused on the field of Psychology, the science of behavior. Thus, the faculty who are part of our Neuroscience doctoral program all measure or manipulate the functions of the nervous system to study the neural basis of behavior.

How are Neuroscientists trained in our doctoral program?

The goal of our Neuroscience doctoral program in Psychology is to produce scholar-scientists of the highest caliber who value both the creation and dissemination of knowledge. To this end, we employ an apprenticeship model in which graduate students are admitted to work in the lab of their chosen major professor (you are asked to rank your top 3 advisor matches in our application). Major professors may be any faculty member listed as a core or affiliate member of the Neuroscience faculty on the Psychology website. The major professor is responsible for the research training that will help you become an independent research scientist, coupled with a set of highly-specialized graduate level courses relevant to your lab work. These specialized courses may be from either inside Psychology or outside, and many of our students take courses from partner institutions in Milwaukee (including the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Marquette University, etc). In addition, as part of their curricular requirements, all of our students are required to take a set of 4 core neuroscience graduate courses that provide a common central breadth of knowledge, augmented by a series of professional development seminars and scientific journal clubs. When coursework is complete and after the thesis-based masters degree has been earned, students demonstrate their comprehensive neuroscience training in the form of a Preliminary Examination which, once passed, moves the student to Dissertator Status during which time they form their dissertation committee and ultimately propose & defend a dissertation.

In which specific areas of research are our faculty engaged?

A small sampling of current research topics of our Neuroscience faculty include: cellular and molecular mechanisms of learning and memory; measuring the neural mechanisms involved in memory and emotion in humans and rodents using fMRI; using neuroimaging to elucidate the role of attention in “chemobrain”; effects of exercise on cerebral blood flow; mechanisms of recovery from brain damage; effects of aging on learning and memory; network dynamics of visual and auditory perception. Neuroscience faculty conduct research using a wide range of techniques working with laboratory animals and human subjects. These include, but are not limited to, psychophysical testing and analysis, neurophysiology, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulation, magnetoencephalography (MEG), quantitative protein and mRNA assays, computational modeling, immunohistochemistry, diffusion-weighted imaging (DTI/DSI), eye-tracking, electroencephalography (EEG), & transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Our partnerships with local institutions provide access to an extensive array of resources (both physical/technological & human) where many of our faculty hold adjunct appointments.

Can you tell me more about the admissions process?

The application deadline for the Neuroscience doctoral program in Psychology is December 1. At that point, applications are reviewed internally from which a list of the top prospective students is generated. From this list, a subset of students are invited to visit Milwaukee for our Neuroscience Interview Day which typically takes place in early February. The goal of the Interview Day is to simultaneously (a) evaluate your fit within our program/labs, and (b) give you a sense of what it’s like to be a graduate student, living and learning in Milwaukee. Shortly thereafter, offers of admission are extended to the very best prospective students.

How about funding; are stipends provided for students?