Prospective Students

Why Stanford Neuroscience?

Program Overview and Milestones


The goal of the Neurosciences Program is to teach students how to approach and solve research problems in Neuroscience. We do this by developing students' skills in modern methods of neuroscience research, their ability to appraise the scientific literature and make scientific judgements, to be self-confident and skillful in communicating research results and ultimately to function as independent creative neuroscientists. Students work closely with faculty, postdoctoral fellows and other students to achieve these goals.


Year 1

  • Incoming students attend a two-week boot camp in early September. Comprised of lectures and labs, students learn a host of techniques in cellular and molecular aspects of neuroscience.
  • Students enroll in Core courses and Journal Club, complete additional course requirements, and attend Superfriends talks given by senior Neuroscience students.
  • Weekly faculty talks are hosted so students may learn about ongoing research in Neuroscience program labs. 
  • Students complete at least 3 laboratory rotations to gain hands-on experience in a variety of approaches and methods, get to know faculty members and their laboratory groups, and gain information about the research area for their thesis.
  • Students apply for extramural fellowships and grants for which they are eligible (e.g., NSF GRFP, HHMI)
  • Students join a thesis lab at the end of the first year.

Year 2

  • The second year is occupied by the initiation of a thesis project. The Qualifying Examination is taken by the end of the second year in the program.
  • Students continue to enroll in coursework to fulfill degree requirements, participate in Journal Club, and attend Superfriends talks.
  • Students apply for extramural grants and fellowships for which they are eligible (e.g., NSF GRFP, NDSEG)
  • Second year students also take on leadership roles in the program by serving as Student Representatives for Admissions, Community activites, Student Speaker events, the SNI Speaker Series, and Website/Communications.

Year 3

  • Students meet at least annually with their Thesis Advisory Committee to ensure progress towards successful completion thesis research.
  • Students apply for fellowships and grants for which they are eligible (e.g., NIH NRSA, HHMI)
  • Students continue to participate in Journal Club and attend Superfriends to gain experience reviewing scientific publications and giving public presentations.
  • Students use the Individual Development Plan to create a roadmap to complete their degree and pursue their chosen career path.

Years 4+

  • Students continue to meet regularly with the Thesis Advisory Committee to ensure progress towards successful completion of thesis research.   
  • Students apply for fellowships and grants for which they are eligible.
  • Senior students in Years 4+ talk about their own research and graduate student experiences at Superfriends gatherings.
  • Students give their Thesis Defense, a public seminar presenting the student's research findings followed by an oral examination of the candidate by the Thesis Committee.
  • Students publish a first-authored article and submit a written dissertation prior to being conferred the Ph.D. degree.
  • The Ph.D. program typically takes approximately five years to complete.