Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements:

  • A minimum of 135 units 
  • Complete all required courses with a grade of B or better
  • Pass a Qualifying Exam
  • Publish a minimum of one first author publication in a peer-reviewed journal on the topic of the dissertation
  • Pass the University Oral Exam (thesis defense)
  • Submit a Written Dissertation that is approved by the thesis committee


Please review the doctoral degree requirements in the Stanford Bulletin

For additional information about minimum residency requirements for PhD students, please see the Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook, Section 3.2

Ph.D Program Overview and Degree Timeline

The Neurosciences Program teaches students how to approach and solve research problems by developing skills in modern methods of neuroscience research, the 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.

  • Stanford Immersive Neuroscience: Incoming students attend the two-week Stanford Immersive Neuroscience course in early September. Comprised of lectures and labs, students learn a host of techniques in cellular and moledular aspects of neuroscience while getting to know and work with their classmates. 
  • Lab Rotations: 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.
  • Coursework in the first year is:
    • Neuroscience Core Modules: These eight 3-week modules cover genetics, anatomy, development, molecular, cellular, cognitive, computational, and systems neuroscience.
    • NEPR 212: Responsible Conduct of Neuroscience
    • NEPR 209: Introduction to Mathematical Tools for Neuroscience
    • NEPR 280: Neuroscience Journal Club and Professional Development Series
    • BIOS 217: Foundations of Statistics and Reproducible Research
  • Meet the Faculty: The program hosts weekly talks with faculty as an introduction to research in program labs and explore options for rotations and thesis work. 
  • Fellowship Applications: Students may apply for extramural fellowships and grants for which they are eligible (e.g., NSF GRFP, HHMI)
  • Thesis Lab Selection: Students join a thesis lab at the end of the first year.
  • Individual Development Plan (IDP) Meeting: After joining a lab, students meet with their mentor to complete the Individual Development Plan (IDP), a roadmap to complete their degree and pursue their chosen career path.