Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN)

University of Minnesota

and its work with the CID

About Our Program

In 1987 the GPN was established as a doctoral degree program. Its strengths include an innovative curriculum (e.g., introductory laboratory course at the Lake Itasca Biological Station and two-year curriculum in career skills), research across the breadth of neuroscience (genes to behavior) and training in experimental approaches to studying the nervous system (confocal microscopy to computer modeling).

The GPN is currently regarded as an exemplary interdisciplinary graduate training program of the University. Although it is housed administratively within the Medical School, the faculty who constitute the program have appointments in 25 departments across 8 colleges. Members of this diverse intellectual community meet weekly to learn about research conducted by faculty and students in the program. Continuous financial commitments from the Graduate School, the Academic Health Center, the School of Medicine, and the Department of Neuroscience (formed in 1999) are indicators of the high regard that the academic units within the University hold for our program.

Commonalities PowerPoint
PowerPoint created for January 2003 meeting at Carnegie, describing our doctoral program.

Key Ideas PowerPoint
PowerPoint created for January 2003 meeting at Carnegie, describing the Key Ideas we want to explore.

Exemplary Element: Neurobiology at Lake Itasca
This snapshot describes the laboratory course at the Biological Station "up North" that introduces our students to graduate education in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota

Exemplary Element: Colloquium
This snapshot describes the weekly research discussion hosted by the GPN.

Who Are We?

The partnership of the GPN with the CID is led by a coordinating committee. This committee includes one faculty member and one student from each sub-committee that addresses issues related to training, faculty, or student recruitment and retention.

Coordinating Committee Members


Bill Engeland, Director of Graduate Studies

Glenn Giesler (chair) - faculty subcommittee

Paul Mermelstain (co-chair) - student recruitment and retention subcommittee

Ginger Seybold (chair) - training subcommittee

John Soechting (co-chair)-student recruitment and retention sub-committee


Terence Burns - training subcomittee

Katherine Himes - faculty sub-committee

Ex Officio:

Tim Ebner, Head, Department of Neuroscience

What we want to accomplish in the CID?

In 17 years, the GPN has grown to more than 100 faculty and a current enrollment of 60-65 students. The maturity of the program is reflected in the increasing number of our graduates being recruited to tenure-track faculty positions at doctorate-granting institutions. Since the structure of our program and the intent of our faculty has been to attain this goal, we will continue to focus on this endpoint.

However, as partners in the CID, it will be important to reflect on our effectiveness in training neuroscientists for a variety of careers. For example, some of our graduates have assumed roles as educators in teaching institutions, coordinators in research labs and leaders in biotech companies. In addition, how should we factor the range of outcomes in evaluation of the sucessfulness of the program?

We are also training an increasing number of M.D.-PhD. students. It is important to determine how our program prepares M.D.-Ph.D. students to contribute as academic leaders in clinical neuroscience, physician-scientists or practicing physicians.

Thus, the goal of participation in the CID is to support an effort by our faculty and students to examine critically the structure of our program in order to better accomplish our mission: to train highly productive neuroscientists.


Graduate program in Neuroscience Web Page
This is a link to the web page for the graduate program.

Graduate Program in Neursocience's CID Web Page
This is a link to the program's pages related to the CID.

What are we doing?

Our reflections at the beginning of our partnership with the CID focus on the relationship of the fundamental elements of our program to the training of neuroscientists:


  • What is the goal of the oral preliminary exam? How can the structure of the exam be changed to facilitate progress in the program?
  • What is the goal of the written preliminary exam? Does the current exam meet these goals? How can it be changed to better align the exam with the intended goals?
  • Faculty

  • Why do faculty want to be part of graduate program in neuroscience?
  • What criteria should be used to confer an appointment on the graduate faculty in neuroscience?
  • How can common expectations in education in neuroscience be instilled among a large faculty from diverse disciplines?
  • Innovation: Student Board
    This snapshot describes an innovation in the doctoral program, initiated by a student after attending the 2004 summer convening.

    Innovation: Oral Preliminary Exam
    This snapshot describes changes in the process of the oral preliminary exam in response to discussions stimulated by interactions around the CID


    Oral preliminary exam (see oral prelim innovation snapshot)

    Discussion of the structure of the oral preliminary exam occurred in 2004. Proposed changes in the exam were approved in the summer of 2004 and will be implemented with students who matriculated in July of 2003.

    Written prelimary exam

    Discussion of the purpose and structure of the written preliminary exam began in the fall of 2004. The goal is to present a proopsal to the steering committee in January of 2005 for implementation in July of 2005.

    Appointment standards

    A survey of faculty roles and participation in the graduate program was conducted in the summer of 2004. Results of the survey contributed to revision of the standards and process for making appointments and reappointments to the faculty. The proposed revisions will be presented to the steering committee in January of 2005.

    Faculty Handbook

    A draft of a faculty handbook will be completed for discussion by the steering committee in January, 2005.

    This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
    developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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