The theme-based UAB Neuroscience Graduate Program seeks to equip and train students to become tomorrow's innovative neuroscientists by
  • teaching basic neuroscience ideas that become stepping stones to more in-depth research
  • providing unique professional and scientific avenues through which they can develop their presentation skills, learn critical thinking and how to design experiments
  • offering students the opportunity to choose neuroscience research from a multitude of options available through labs all over campus, not limiting students to a department but, rather, a discipline
  • providing opportunities for informal interaction with other students to discuss research, scientific writing, as well as a social network of peers to assist students in staying grounded

Neuroscience theme students follow the neuroscience curriculum and do not join a departmental graduate program nor follow a departmental graduate program curriculum. The student becomes affiliated with the department in which the mentor holds his/her primary appointment for the purpose of the awarding of the degree.

Some of the affiliated departments:

  • Neurobiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Pediatrics
  • Pathology
  • Physiology & Biophysics
  • Vision Sciences

Admission to the Program

Admission to our program is highly competitive. We generally admit only 6-7 students each year. Students admitted to our program meet and usually exceed general requirements of:

  • 3.0 or above undergraduate GPA
  • GRE scores of 550 or better on each section for a minimum composite score of 1100
  • Strong background in biology, chemistry and/or mathematics
  • TOEFL (for international students) of greater than 600 on paper-based test and greater than 173 on internet-based test (scores are good for 2 years)
All students accepted into the program receive
  • free tuition
  • free health insurance
  • $29,00/year stipend.


All first year students follow the same curriculum, designed to provide them with the foundations they will need as they move into permanent labs and begin their own research projects. Students begin their year attending the Intro to Neurobiology course at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico. While there, the student is exposed to a variety of learning opportunities, including lectures, hands-on experiments, and going out into the Gulf to "fish" for marine life. Students live at Dauphin Island, dorm style, for 2 1/2 weeks in late summer, working hard with UAB faculty and teaching assistants and playing hard during their downtime. This course provides a very unique opportunity for neuroscience students.

General Academic Requirements for Ph.D.

  • Students are required to successfully complete 3 electives prior to their last semester.
  • Registration for the Student Summer Seminar Series (GBS 737) is required for each student each summer semester. Participation includes attendance, completion of an evaluation form for each speaker, and the presentation of a 20 minute PowerPoint talk and 10 minute Q-A session. Students will present once each summer. First year students are excluded from presenting.
  • Students must register for and attend a seminar series of their choosing (with advice from their mentor) each semester until graduation.
  • A biostatistics course and an ethics course are required and will be offered either during the first year or in the first semester of the second year.
  • Students must register for a journal club of their choosing (with advice from their mentor) each semester until graduation.
  • Two first-authored papers accepted to an appropriate journal are required unless the student's committee recommends/approves differently.
  • Students must be registered for 9 hours during the Fall semester, 9 hours during the Spring semester, and 9 hours during the Summer semester each year.
  • 18 credit hours of dissertation research are required before graduation. This means you must have a minimum of two semesters between the semester of your Qualifying Exam and your final defense semester.
  • You must be registered for at least 3 credit hours during the semester in which you plan to graduate, 9 hours if student wishes to retain his/her fellowship status.

Additional Theme-Specific Requirements

  • In the summer of the first year, theme students take the Year End Assessment (YEA) exam.  The exam consists of 2 parts: 1-a written, take home exam, and 2-an oral component.  For the written, students receive the exam via email on a Friday morning and have until 3pm the following Friday to complete. Students can use references but cannot discuss the exam in any way with fellow students or faculty.  Usually, there are 6 questions, and students choose 4 out of the 6 to answer.  For the oral part, students meet with the members of the YEA committee, who will have a copy of the student's graded written exam, and will be expected to answer questions from the committee, based upon his/her exam.  The YEA is merely an assessment tool so faculty can gauge at what level the student has arrived after the first year and to see where the student might need extra instruction or support. Students can pass the YEA the first time; however, students may also be required to learn specific techniques, meet one-on-one with a faculty member for further study, or read and review certain scientific papers to bring the student to the level expected by the Theme.  Students may be asked to retake the oral portion, which will bolster confidence in presentation.
  • The Neuroscience Theme has theme business meetings, usually every other month, and students are expected to attend.
  • Students are required to respond to all emails within 24 hours of receipt. This teaches an expected level of professionalism for all UAB faculty, staff, and students, something students are expected to carry with them throughout their career.
  • When scheduling a thesis committee meeting, Qualifying Exam, and defense, the student is required to include both theme directors on the emails to set up such meetings. Although the theme director(s) may not be an official member of the student's thesis committee, the director attends as a student advocate, if needed.  Students must also email the theme manager of the date/time/location of each committee meeting, QE, defense.
  • Students must participate in the new Individual Development Plan (IDP) initiative.  The theme will have a meeting specific to this topic.