About the Program

Learn about the Neurosciences program

About Us

The Stanford Neurosciences Graduate 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.


Message from the Director

The Neurosciences graduate program at Stanford provides unique opportunities for graduate students to work with an elite group of faculty on cutting edge questions using state of the art technology. The program provides a personalized training plan for each student that is meant to develop their unique talents and interests. 

History of the Program

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 rather than several small competing departments. that jointly trains future leaders in neuroscience. No single department was to control the program; directors and faculty were to be from all relevant departments.

This training program, now the Neurosciences Ph.D. Program, has undergone several phases. During the first nine years of its existence (1963-1972) the program was limited to support from departmental training grants in Psychology, Biological Sciences and Genetics, and individual faculty research grants, and only able to support three students per year. In 1972 the opportunity arose to fund a significant number of students through the NIMH training grant in the Department of Psychiatry (Drs. Seymour Levine and David Hamburg) and formal admissions procedures were begun. When Dr. Hamburg resigned as chairman to assume the Presidency of the National Academy of Medicine, .his former department dropped the predoctoral slots from its training grant support in order to concentrate on clinical aspects of graduate education. Thus, in 1975 the Ph.D. program reverted to its previous mode of funding students primarily from faculty research grants.

In 1975, the Medical School established the Department of Neurobiology which now consists of 8 faculty members. It has made a substantial contribution to graduate teaching and has become an important new component of the Program based on the number of faculty and courses it provides. It should be emphasized that, 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. The latter was named the Neurosciences Ph.D. Program in 1981. In 1982 the Program sought and was awarded its own training grant by NIMH. Most students were still supported by research grants and individual fellowships because the number of trainee positions awarded (five) were small compared to the size of the faculty (35).

In recognition of its increased size and strength in basic neuroscience, the Program sought and was awarded a training grant from NIGMS in 1989. Although it was approved for 8 trainee positions, the number of funded slots have incremented annually up to only 6 positions. Despite the low number of training slots relative to the capacity of the Program, the two training grants have made ·an enormous change in the ability of the Program to attract students.

In 1992, when Dr. Schulman became Director, he and the Program Committee instituted a system by which students would enter the Program without committing themselves to a given faculty member; their support is provided by the training grant rather than being dependent on availability of faculty research funds. The Program now covers students for their first two years, with the third year of training grant support dependent on availability of trainee positions. Preference is given to support of incoming students as long as they are equal or better in potential to our current students.


Program Directors

2013-Present: 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)