does the department/program help students develop as researchers and
scholars? What strategies are used? What elements of the program
contribute to students' ability to conduct research?
To Develop Students as Researchers:Up to 4 first-year lab rotationsLaboratory experience in required courseworkQuarterly neuroscience seminar series: student and faculty research presentations, journal club, and peer reviewCandidacy exam: writing a research grantCheckpoints for student research throughout their careerBrown bag professional development lunchesStudents are financially encouraged to attend and present at the Society for Neuroscience conference
Strategies for Developing Researchers:
include setting high expectations for the students, learning by
observation and advice from a variety of peers and faculty, and
learning from practice.
To Develop Students as Scholars:
Enhance Depth of Knowledge:Seminar series: requires students to present their own research in detail and research described in specific journal articlesDoctoral exam: requires students to present and defend their dissertation research to a panel of experts
Enhance Breadth of Knowledge:5 core courses required: from electrophysiology to behavioral neuroscience (as well as other electives)Neuroscience seminar series: ensures that students are exposed to and actively learning about various fields of researchFirst-year laboratory rotations: exposes students to literature from various fields of research Students
are supported to participate in the Society for Neuroscience conference
that covers a very broad range of research topics
Strategies for Developing Scholars:
The main strategy for developing scholars is to encourage growth of both depth and breadth of the students' knowledge.
Candidacy Exam Philosophy and Guidlines
Suggested Questions for Potential Advisors
Goals for Students
By the time students complete the PhD how should they have developed in their ability to conduct research?
should have demonstrated the ability to design, organize, and complete
research experiments. They should also be able to communicate and
discuss their findings at professional meetings and talks. They should
be able to write up their experiments and complete the peer review
process in order to publish their work. They should also have training
in the ethical considerations of research.
What should they know? What should they be able to do? How should they be able to think?
should have both depth and breadth to their knowledge base. They should
be able to follow the scientific process for research as well as
techniques in their field. Students should be able to think critically
1). Historical/ Inertia
Many of the practices we use in conducting research training are (not
necessarily bad) remnants from the past. Traditionally, the 'root'
disciplines of neuroscience (e.g. anatomy, biochemistry, physiological
psychology, physiology, pharmacology) stressed individual laboratory
bench work and an apprentice-like approach to one-on-one teaching of
2) Focus on funding
Our candidacy exam was changed from a comprehensive four day written
exercise to a 'take home' exam consisting of writing an NIH-style (R01)
grant proposal. This was thought to reflect the reality of the world
outside of graduate school. The usefulness of this exercise as a
research training tool now seems clear. However, the lack of a
comprehensive exam means that the breadth of training in the core
discipline may not be emphasized enough.
Hands on research training in the laboratory remains a core of the
program, but there is some disconnect between this and the coursework.
We do have a small laboratory component in one of the core courses (NS
725), but this is not as comprehensive as, for example, our
institution's Integrated Biomedical Graduate Program (IBGP), which
stresses core competence in cellular/molecular biology.
We do put an emphasis on synthesizing and presenting research results
by encouraging (and requiring) seminar presentations by students at
several levels in their training. Attendance at national meetings
(large and small) and poster presentations are encouraged and supported
by the program. These skills relate not only to generating publications
and grants, but to presenting research data in the context of a job
interview or a report to peers and the public.
How Do We Know?
How do you know students have met your goals? How do you know if they have not?
have been formalized. For example, students must pass their candidacy
exams before the end of their second year. Also, students must receive
at least a B grade in all core classes to get credit for them towards
Are students evaluated? What tools do you use?
have an annual review in which a panel from the program's
administrative body meets with the student and discusses their progress
in the program. Students submit up-to-date information on classwork,
research, and progress towards their degree ahead of time.
are working on adding a form to be filled out by the advisor for the
student's annual review to make sure both student and advisor are on
the same page regarding student's progress.
Students are also evaluated yearly by peers and faculty on their oral research presentation skills.
Annual Review Form
Draft of Advisor Form for Student Annual Review
What questions remain for you? What will your department be discussing? In what areas would you like feedback or input?
We are interested in improving the training of our students in:
TeachingNon-academic career opportunities
Our program is interested in improving:
The evaluation of our students' progressThe evaluation of our students' breadth of knowledgeThe cohesiveness of our large program (possibly by a program-wide research seminar and our new website)
Contact person(s): Leah Pyter, Michael Beattie
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com