The PhD program with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience is designed to be completed in five years of full-time studies. We only admit students who can commit to full-time studies through the duration of the program.


Core Curriculum

All students take a first-year core curriculum that includes foundations of behavioral neuroscience, statistics, and psychology electives. It is intended to both build on undergraduate training and provide initial advanced training in behavioral neuroscience. Students also complete research rotations.

In the second year, students select an additional four courses that are germane to their own research interests in conjunction with advice from their faculty mentor. A weekly behavioral neuroscience graduate seminar, taught by the program director, is required during every semester in residence. Students participate in professional development activities, develop formal presentations, and discuss the published literature. The seminar is intended to develop students’ ability to evaluate and present research, address an audience, answer challenging questions, and critically discuss issues with their peers. UAB faculty from other departments speak in order to facilitate choice of first-year research mentors and potential Ph.D. mentors. The seminar has also been used as a full-semester course in grant writing where the basics of grant writing are taught and students participate in NIH-style reviews of grants.

Students also engage in active seminar programs at UAB. This gives students a solid foundation in the history, methods, theory, and current research in behavioral neuroscience. As the program is interdisciplinary in nature, additional coursework is often completed in other departments, e.g. Neurobiology and Vision Sciences. Students must fulfill a second year research requirement and pass a qualifying examination. Once these requirements are satisfied students advance to candidacy for dissertation research. The Ph.D. is awarded upon successful defense of the dissertation.

Research Rotations

Our first-year students perform two to three research rotations in their first year with potential Ph.D. mentors. These laboratory rotations teach valuable research skills and allow students to make an informed decision about their future research direction and mentorship. Students are able to explore potential areas of research interests and potential research mentors prior to making a firm commitment in their second year of study.

The ability to complete first-year laboratory rotations is one of the primary reasons students select our graduate program over others. Students can choose any research rotation mentor at the university as long as their research interests lie within the domain of Behavioral Neuroscience. During the research rotation students learn valuable research skills and often obtain authorship on a presentation or research paper that derives from their work.

Choosing a Faculty Mentor

A critical feature in our program is that each student has a faculty mentor who is responsible for both funding and guiding them through the program and teaching them how to function as a behavioral neuroscientist. The faculty mentor-doctoral student relationship is formed by mutual consent in the second year of training. Our full-time students are actively engaged in research every semester, including summers.

It is important that students identify a faculty member whose research is of significant interest to them at the time they apply to our program. Consult the faculty profiles and our research section for more information about current research. Students will develop a systematic line of research in collaboration with one (or more) faculty mentors, and in the process complete the research requirements for the Ph.D.

After students choose a research Ph.D. mentor, they will take a minimum of four courses to complete their didactic training. These courses are chosen by student and their mentor in order to achieve greater training flexibility. Most students also continue to take additional courses and attend seminars and journal clubs within the department of their mentor.


We encourage our students to teach undergraduate courses in the Department of Psychology. Typically students teach research labs in statistics prior to teaching more comprehensive courses. Supplementary pay is given for this effort.

Student Support

Graduate students in the PhD program with a concentration in Behavioral Neuroscience are supported by university fellowships in their first year of training. Thereafter, students must obtain support from their research mentor. This typically occurs in the form of training grant fellowships, funds from research grants, and research assistantships.


Students may apply for travel funds available through the Psychology Department and the Graduate School to present findings at scientific meetings. Learn more on the Psychology Financial Support page and the Graduate School website.