Ph.D. and M.S. in Neuroscience

Program overview

We are a highly interactive and exciting Neuroscience community that offers training towards a Ph.D. or M.S. degree in many areas of neuroscience. The Neuroscience graduate program is a multidisciplinary program with over 60 faculty and courses from many campus units, including the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Science, and Engineering, and the School of Medicine. Study programs lead to the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The program provides training in the core foundations of neuroscience, ranging from cellular mechanisms to cognition and behavior, with a wide range of options for advanced training and specialization within specific subdisciplines. Students develop their critical thinking and research skills in preparation for a wide range of possible career avenues, either in academia or the public or private sectors.

The program trains students to possess three key abilities:

  1. A comprehensive understanding and ability to critically evaluate current knowledge and theories in neuroscience
  2. Research skills to effectively identify, design and conduct independent research in the field
  3. Enhanced professional development skills in areas including communication, teaching, grant writing and ethics


Curriculum overview

Neuroscience faculty members at the University of Nevada, Reno encourage the academic and professional development of students as independent researchers. Working closely with advisors and program directors, students develop a specialized, independent program of study in neuroscience research methodologies. The curriculum is designed to expose all students to core concepts and methods in the first years while allowing them to focus on research and training with specific sub-disciplines in subsequent years.

Possible elective course subjects

Students completing their Ph.D. or M.S. degree tailor their curriculum to meet their research interests and professional goals. They may select from a diverse variety of courses within the program, including offerings in biology, computer science, electrical and biomedical engineering, microbiology and immunology, pharmacology, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, physiology and more.

  • Genes, brain and behavior
  • Principles of animal behavior
  • Genomic conflict, epigenetics
  • Developmental biology
  • Current topics in cell and molecular biology
  • Advanced cellular biology
  • Molecular pharmacology
  • Computer applications
  • Comparative sensory neuroscience
  • Perception
  • Memory
  • Molecular cell biology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Functional genomics
  • Introduction to bioinformatics

Program requirements for the Ph.D. and the M.S. in Neuroscience

Ph.D. program overview

For the Ph.D. degree, students may choose to do research rotations in the first year without a designated dissertation faculty advisor, or may enter the program with an initial faculty advisor and begin their dissertation in that lab. Near the end of the first year, students take a written and oral examination which will be based on a research/rotation project conducted in the first year. Next, students establish a dissertation committee who advise and guide them through their graduate studies. During the third year, students will prepare a dissertation proposal in the form of a fellowship or grant application outlining their planned research for their dissertation. Students are expected to give a seminar on the proposed research and will then hold an oral defense with their committee. Approval of the proposal by the committee will advance the student to candidacy as a Ph.D. student. In the final year, students must write and defend their dissertation research in a seminar, which will be open to the general public, followed by a final oral examination by the committee in a closed session.

  • The Ph.D. in Neuroscience requires 72 credits comprising of 48 credits of coursework and 24 credits of dissertation research.
  • View the program timeline and the course requirements in our handbook.

M.S. program overview

For the M.S. degree, students do not do research rotations and they generally enter the program with an initial faculty advisor and begin their thesis research in that lab. Students have the option of earning elective credits for additional research in the first year, or substituting these credits with elective courses. Students are required to complete a thesis on an independent research project, which must be defended orally before their thesis examination committee.

  • The M.S. in Neuroscience requires 30 graduate credits comprising of 24 credits of course work and 6 credits for thesis research.
  • View the program timeline and the course requirements in our handbook.

Graduate program admission requirements

The program offers training in many areas of neuroscience leading to a Ph.D. (preferred) or M.S. degree. The M.S. is not required prior to the Ph.D. but can be completed en route to the doctorate as an option. Students interested in the doctoral program should apply directly to the Ph.D. program in their application.

Application deadline: December 15 for Fall semester

In addition to the general requirements required by the Graduate School, the Neuroscience graduate program requires the following:

  • GPA 3.0 or higher
  • Recent GRE scores are recommended but not required
  • For international students, TOEFL or IELTS scores
  • Transcripts of your undergraduate degree
  • Statement of purpose – Describe your current goals, and how the program is able help you in achieving them. Discuss your research interests and identify potential faculty advisors from among the program faculty whose interests fit your own. How do your previous experiences and previous training qualify you for our program?
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Minimum of two letters of recommendation – Three letters are preferred

Getting started 

  • Check out our list of program areas, our Gradventure recruitment weekend and Neurolecture speaker series for a snapshot of events and happenings in our program and within the Institute.
  • Visit faculty websites, read some of their papers, and find an advisor with interests that really excites you.
  • Sending your CV and short statement of interest during initial email contacts is a great way to help faculty understand who you are and how you might fit into their labs.

Funding your degree program

Students entering the program in fall semester are guaranteed funding for their first year by teaching or research assistantships available through the university or individual faculty grants, with continued support contingent on maintaining good standing and progress in the program. Students applying to the spring semester can only enter the program through funding support by individual faculty grants. Your GPA, undergraduate transcript, CV, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation are all factors when awarding assistantships.

When you are awarded an assistantship, your degree is heavily subsidized. You will benefit from tuition waivers, based on the hourly level of your assistantship, plus the program, department or faculty will cover significant additional costs, such as your health care. Check out the grad school tuition and fees tables for details on the cost benefits with an assistantship.

Students on a teaching assistantship perform a variety of duties and assignments, from teaching classes to conducting their dissertation research, analyzing data in the lab, and contributing to conference and journal papers under the direction of a faculty advisor. Some students will work as a grader for one or several courses, and others will teach lab sections. For a full-time assistantship, you can expect to spend 20 hours a week on your grading/teaching work. Most students find the teaching experience very rewarding, plus it looks great on your resume.

Students on a research assistantship conduct mainly dissertation research in the lab under the direction of a faculty advisor. You can expect to participate in conducting studies, analyzing data and contributing to conference and journal papers. The experience is valuable for developing your research methodology and your critical thinking skills and learning to work with equipment and testing systems.

Funding resources from the Graduate School

The Graduate School maintains lists of additional funding opportunities from both University and external sources

Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association provides various financial support opportunities to graduate students such as scholarships, awards, and loans. 

Funding resources for international students

Information about scholarships and financial aid for international students is also available on the Office of International Students and Scholars website.

Connect with a faculty advisor and learn more about our campus

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Find a faculty advisor

Your faculty advisor plays a key role in your graduate education. Visit our faculty websites, read some of their papers, and find an advisor with interests that really excite you. Contact faculty to express interest, and inquire if they are planning to accept students in the near future.

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Your Gradventure awaits

Prospective students who meet criteria for program admission will be invited to visit the Neuroscience graduate program at the University for a personal interview and to meet faculty, students and postdocs in our program. Invited students will visit our campus and program early in the Spring semester.

How to apply

You can start your application through The Graduate School website, which provides detailed instructions on the application process.


Graduate program directors

Our program directors are active Neuroscience research professors working with faculty and students across campus. Contact the program directors or use the form above to connect with our faculty.

Headshot of Dennis Mathew

Dennis Mathew

Associate Professor and Co-Program Director
Phone: (775) 784-6052

Headshot of Michael Webster

Michael Webster

Foundation Professor and Co-Program Director
Phone: (775) 682-8691


Graduate student resources

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Program handbook

The program handbook is a critical piece of understanding the requirements and timeline of your graduate program.

Certificate of Commendation to a Integrative Neuroscience Student for earning a Dean's Merit Scholarship

Course catalog

View all information on fees, curriculum requirements, descriptions of graduate course offerings, and a listing of faculty members.

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Course schedule search

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Graduate School

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