Neurobiology (Ph.D.)

View PDF of Neurobiology Admissions Checklist
Prospective students should use this checklist to obtain specific admissions requirements on how to apply to Graduate School.

View PDF version of the Neurobiology catalog description

Degree Offered: Ph.D.
Director: Dr. Anne Theibert
Phone: (205) 934-7278
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site:

Primary Faculty

Michael Brenner, Associate Professor; Molecular Control of Transcription in Astrocytes; Protein Aggregate Disease; Spinal Cord Injury

Lynn E. Dobrunz, Assistant Professor; Synaptic Transmission; Presynaptic Properties of Single Synapses

John J. Hablitz, Professor and Vice-Chair of Neurobiology; Development of Ion Channel Gating and Synaptic Transmission by Excitatory Amino Acids in the Mammalian Forebrain

Robin A. J. Lester, Associate Professor; Molecular Pharmacology of Ligand- and Voltage-Gated Ion Channels in the Central Nervous System

Lucas D. Pozzo-Miller, Assistant Professor; Micro-Compartmentalization of Calcium in Synaptic Function and Plasticity; Role of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor

Gavin Rumbaugh, Assistant Professor; Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Plasticity with a Focus on Signaling Pathways Downstream of the NMDA Receptor

Harald W. Sontheimer, Professor and Director of the Civitan International Research Center and of the Center for Glial Biology in Medicine; Regulation and Function of Ion Channels in Glia; Pathology of Gliomas

J. David Sweatt, Professor and Chair of Neurobiology and Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Research Institute; Genetic and Epigenetic Mechanisms Involved in Memory Formation, Disruption of these Processes in Cognitive Disorders

Anne B. Theibert, Associate Professor; Molecular Mechanisms of the PI 3-Kinase Cascade in Neuronal Development

Linda O. Wadiche, Assistant Professor; Maturation of Adult Neural Stem Cells into Functional Neurons; GABAergic Synaptic Transmission

Jacques Wadiche, Assistant Professor; Synaptic Transmission and Neurotransmitter Uptake in the CNS.

Scott M. Wilson, Assistant Professor; The Role of the Ubiquitin-Proteosome Pathway in the Nervous System.

Yi Zhou, Assistant Professor; Modulation of Ion Channels, Regulation of Neuronal Excitability and Synaptic Transmission

Secondary Faculty

Franklin R. Amthor, Professor, Psychology

Monica Beneyto, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology

Dale Benos, Professor and Chair, Physiology & Biophysics

Etty Benveniste, Professor and Chair, Cell Biology

Gautam Bijur, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology

J. Edwin Blalock, Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

William J. Britt, Professor, Pediatrics

Steven L. Carroll, Associate Professor, Pathology

Victor Darley-Usmar, Professor, Pathology

Peter J. Detloff, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

Leon S. Dure, Associate Professor, Pediatrics and Neurology

Candace L. Floyd, Assistant Professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Paul D. R. Gamlin, Professor and Chair, Vision Science

Timothy J. Gawne, Associate Professor, Optometry

Candece L. Gladson, Professor, Pathology

Thomas Van Groen, Associate Professor, cell Biology

Gail V. W. Johnson, Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology

Kent T.Keyser, Professor, Physiological Optics

Kevin L. Kirk, Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

Timothy W. Kraft, Associate Professor, Physiological Optics

Ling Li, Assistant Professor, Medicine

Xiaohua Li, Associate Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology

Michael S. Loop, Associate Professor, Physiological Optics

Richard B. Marchase, Professor of Cell Biology and Vice President of Research

Guillermo Marques, Assistant Professor, Cell Biology

Robert E. McCullumsmith, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology

Lori L. McMahon, Assistant Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

James Meador-Woodruff, Professor and Chair, Psychiatry

Anthony P. Nicholas, Assistant Professor, Neurology

Alan K. Percy, Professor, Pediatrics and Neurology

Kevin A. Roth, Professor and Director of Neuropathology, Clinical Pathology

Douglas M. Ruden, Professor, Environmental Health Sciences

David G. Standaert, Professor and Director of the Center for Neurodegeneration and Experimental Therapeutics and of the Division of Movement Disorders, Neurology

Qin Wang, Assistant Professor, Physiology and Biophycis

J. Michael Wyss, Professor, Cell Biology

Jianhua Zhang, Assistant Professor, Pathology

Program Information


The mission of the Neurobiology Graduate Program is to train a new generation of neuroscientists to become leading contributors in basic and health-related research and instruction. Students receive a breadth of knowledge of the fundamentals of modern neuroscience research, from molecular and cellular to integrative and systems approaches, through course-work, seminars, discussions and hands-on research. Research training involves a focus in a specific area, with topics ranging from understanding the development, structure and function of the normal nervous system to disease mechanisms and treatment. In addition to interfacing with other basic science departments at UAB, students have the opportunity to receive training in clinical topics from Neurology, Neurosurgery, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Rehabilitation Medicine. An individual student’s program is tailored to meet his/her interests and training needs through instruction and guidance by faculty mentors, and through formal and informal interactions with faculty, research staff, postdoctoral fellows and other graduate students. Thus, the goal of the Neurobiology Graduate Program is to provide students with a firm foundation for fundamental neuroscience research and teaching careers at academic health science centers, research institutions and industry.

Admission Requirements

Most students enter the Neurobiology Graduate Program with an undergraduate background in biology, chemistry, neuroscience, physics, engineering or psychology. The two avenues for entry into the Neurobiology Graduate Program are through a UAB interdisciplinary graduate program or by direct admission. Neurobiology participates in six interdisciplinary graduate programs, including the Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) Program, Neuroscience Program, Behavioral Neuroscience (BN) Program, Vision Science (VS) Program, Integrative Biomedical Science (IBS) Program and the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Each of these interdisciplinary programs provides a specific first-year curriculum and requires students to be involved in laboratory research rotations. At the end of the first year in the interdisciplinary program, a student chooses a mentor and departmental graduate program. Students interested in training in Neurobiology join the Neurobiology Graduate Program at the end of the first year and participate in the program until completion of the Ph.D.  Alternatively, students can apply for direct admission to the Neurobiology Graduate Program. Direct applications are reviewed based on Graduate School admissions criteria and, when possible, a personal interview. The requirements and deadlines for the CMB, Neuroscience, BN, VS, IBS and MSTP programs are posted on their websites. The Neurobiology Program considers direct admission applications until the class is filled.

Doctoral students will receive financial aid in the form of a stipend/fellowship plus full payment of tuition, fees, and their insurance premium. Current stipend/fellowships are $23,000 per year for 2006-2007 entering students.

Overview of the Program

It is expected that most students will complete the entire program in four or five years. In the first year, students participate in the core curriculum that is defined by the interdisciplinary program through which they enter. In addition, each student obtains research experience and identifies potential mentors through three laboratory rotations. At the end of the first year, students choose a mentor and laboratory for their dissertation research. Neurobiology Program students are expected to take a set of courses during the first or second year of the graduate program that provides a fundamental understanding of cellular and molecular neuroscience.

In their second year students conduct laboratory research and participate in the advanced graduate course-Graduate Neuroscience: From Molecules to Mind. This course serves to broaden an understanding of advanced concepts in molecular, cellular, integrative, systems and medical neuroscience; and also serves as the departmental qualifying exam; its content is listed under Course Descriptions below.

The next step for students following completion of the Graduate Neuroscience course is admission to candidacy for the Ph.D., which should occur in the third year.  This involves writing a proposal for their dissertation research and successfully presenting it to their graduate committee for approval. In the third and fourth years, students perform dissertation research and may participate in an advanced graduate course such as Biophysics of Membrane Excitability, Neurobiology of Disease, and Synaptic Dynamic. All Neurobiology students attend the Neurobiology Seminar Series and a journal club colloquium throughout their graduate studies. To further develop presentation and teaching skills, students give research seminars in the Neurobiology Student/Fellow Seminar Series and at the Neurobiology Retreat. Students also participate in a teaching practicum that can take the form of didactic lectures, running a journal club, or assisting in a lab course or discussion group.

Additional Information

Deadline for Entry Term(s): Consult Program Director for information
Deadline for All Application Materials to be in the Graduate School Office: Deadlines for CMB, Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Vision Science, Integrative Biomedical Science, and MSTP interdisciplinary programs are posted on their websites. Deadline for direct admission is June 1 or until the class is filled.
Number of Evaluation Forms Required: Three
Entrance Tests GRE or MCAT
Comments None
Graduate Catalog Description

For detailed information, contact Dr. Anne B. Theibert, Program Director, UAB Department of Neurobiology, SHEL 910, 1825 University Blvd., Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0021.

Telephone (205)934-7278

Fax (205)975-7394

E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Course Descriptions

Neurobiology (NBL)

703. Neurobiology Seminar. This weekly research seminar series features prominent outside speakers and UAB faculty. Thursdays at 1, September through May. 1 hour.

711. Medical Neuroscience. Introduction to the structure and function of the normal developing and mature nervous system from the molecular level to the behavioral level; provides a basic science introduction to clinical neuroscience. 5 hours.

713. Graduate Neuroscience: From Molecules to Mind: This course is required for all Neurobiology graduate students, and serves as their Ph.D. qualifying exam.  This course combines lecture material in the Medical Neuroscience course described above with an advanced graduate component of research article presentation and discussion. Five areas are covered: 1-Genesis of the nervous system and its internal environment, 2-Electrical properties of cells in the nervous system, 3-Chemical signaling in the nervous system including synaptic transmission and signal transduction, 4-Information processing and functional circuitry of sensory and motor systems and 5- Higher level processing in the brain –recognition, categorization, learning, memory, reward, motivation and reasoning. 10 hours.

715-718. Laboratory Rotation I-IV. Research in neurobiology as applied to specific problems in areas of faculty interest. 1-6 hours.

720. Biophysics of Membrane Excitability. Selected topics in ion permeation across biological membranes via ion channels, transporters, and pumps. 4 hours.

729. Mechanisms of Signal Transduction (CB 729). Molecular mechanisms involved in transduction of neural signals via cell-surface receptors, targets of intracellular second messengers, and production and outcome of cellular responses. 4 hours.

730. Neurobiology of Disease. Investigations into diseases of the nervous system at the cellular and molecular level. 4 hours.

742. Synaptic Dynamics. Mechanisms underlying the control of neurotransmitter release, the time course of the synaptic response, and modulation of synaptic signaling. 4 hours.

751. Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (CMB 754/Neur 702). An introduction to the principles of molecular and cellular neurobiology, including the properties of membranes, synaptic transmission, structure and function of ion channels, and mechanisms of neuromodulation. 5 hours.

752. Developmental Neuroscience (CMB 763/Neur 720). Birth, migration, growth, and differentiation of neurons; establishment of synaptic connections; regulation and plasticity. 4 hours.

778, 784-788. Neurobiology Journal Club I-II. Students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty critically evaluate recently published work from specific areas of neurobiology. Separate sections focus on autism/developmental disorders (778), ion channels (784), synaptic plasticity (785), signal transduction 786), neurodegenerative diseases 787), and biology of glial cells (788). 1 hour.

798. Nondissertation Research. Laboratory research performed prior to admission to candidacy. 1-12 hours.

799. Dissertation Research. Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy. 1-12 hours.