About Stanford Neurosciences

The Stanford Neurosciences Interdisciplinary Program uses rigorous training in fundamental principles of neuroscience research to develop leaders at every level of our society. The signature feature of the Stanford Neurosciences Program is the combination of outstanding faculty researchers and exceedingly bright, energetic students in a community that shares a firm and longstanding commitment to understanding the nervous system at all its levels of function.

The Ph.D. program is one of 14 Biosciences Home Programs in the Stanford School of Medicine.


Program History

There has been an interdepartmental Ph.D. program in the neurosciences at Stanford since 1962. The ongoing philosophy has been for Stanford to offer a single program to train future leaders in neuroscience rather than several small competing departments. No single department was to control the program; directors and faculty were to be from all relevant departments.

From 1963-1972, the program supported three students per year through departmental training grants in Psychology, Biological Sciences, and Genetics, along with individual faculty research grants. In 1972 a significant number of students were funded through the NIMH training grant in the Department of Psychiatry and formal admissions procedures were begun. When Dr. David Hamburg resigned as chairman to assume the Presidency of the National Academy of Medicine in 1975, the department dropped the predoctoral slots from its training grant support in order to concentrate on clinical aspects of graduate education and the Ph.D. program once again relied on faculty research grants as the primary source of funding for students.

In 1975, the Medical School established the Department of Neurobiology which has made a substantial contribution to graduate teaching and has become an important  component of the program. By design, the Department of Neurobiology does not offer its own Ph.D. but rather cooperates with all the other neuroscience groups in the interdepartmental Ph.D. program, which was officially  named the Neurosciences Ph.D. Program in 1981.

In 1982 the program  was awarded its own training grant by NIMH, and an additional training grant from NIGMS in 1989 in recognition of its increased size and strength in neuroscience. 

In 1992, Director Schulman and the Program Committee instituted a system by which students would enter the program without committing themselves to a given faculty member;  support is provided by the training grant rather than being dependent on availability of faculty research funds. This system is still in place today.


Program Directors

2019-present: Nirao Shah (Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and of Neurobiology)

2013-2019: Tony Ricci (Professor of Otolaryngology and, by courtesy, of Molecular and Cellular Physiology)

2006-2013: John Huguenard (Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and, by courtesy, of Molecular and Cellular Physiology)

2001-2005: William Newsome (Professor of Neurobiology and, by courtesy, of Psychology)

1999-2001: Eric Knudsen (Professor Emeritus of Neurobiology)

1992-1999: Howard Schulman (then Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Neurobiology)

1986-1992: U.J. McMahan (then Professor & Chairman of Neurobiology)

1982-1986: Stephen Waxman (then Professor of Neurology)

1972-1982: Eric Shooter (then Professor of Genetics and of Biochemistry)

1968-1972: K.L. Chow (then Professor of Neurology)

1962-1968: Frank Morrell (then Professor & Chairman. Division of Neurology)