Neuroscience Graduate Curriculum

Program curriculum is flexible and coursework is completed during the first two years of the doctoral program to allow for maximum time spent working on research in the student's selected advisor's laboratory.

Students are accepted into the graduate program for admission during fall terms and typically arrive in Missoula during July and August. Those arriving early can take advantage of the beautiful Missoula summer and can carry out one or more laboratory rotations.

Courses start at the end of August each year, with general coursework and research rotations the focus in year one. Prior to selection of a research advisor, the Graduate Education Committee will advise first year students. At the end of the first year, students are expected to select an advisor in whose lab they will work to conduct independent research towards a dissertation throughout their tenure in the program. The Research Advisor serves as a mentor to the student and assists the student in assuring that all deadlines and procedures are followed.

Graduate students typically register for 10 to 14 credits per semester during the first two years of the program when they are enrolled in academic courses. (A special exception is allowed for students who wish to obtain residency in Montana: please contact the Graduate School.) In later years, students register for a maximum of 9 credits of research, thesis, or dissertation each semester. Graduate students must enroll for at least 9 credits in the Fall and Spring semesters in order to receive stipend support. Graduate students should not enroll for more than 9 credits in any semester in which they are enrolled in Research/Thesis/Dissertation courses (597, 599, 697, or 699).

Students do not need to enroll during Summer session except if they expect to defend during that session. Students who complete the requirements for the Ph.D. during summer session must enroll for 1-3 credits of Dissertation during summer session. Students who miss the deadline for completion of degree requirements at the end of a semester and will defend early in the next semester may register for 3 credits of Dissertation for that semester. If the student continues to receive a stipend, this requires prior approval of the Graduate School. Students on stipend who defend later in the term must enroll for 9 credits.

Before the start of the third semester, students must select an advisory committee. Through discussion and mutual agreement, the student and research advisor select an area of interest and other faculty members to serve on the advisory committee. The advisory committee is comprised of a minimum of five members, at least four of who are full time faculty or adjuncts in the Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP), and one from outside the NGP. The student is responsible for approaching these faculty members to request service on the Advisory Committee. After completing the Advisory Committee Form, the student submits the form to the Graduate Education Committee, who forwards it to the Associate Dean’s Office in the Division of Biological Sciences. Once approved, by the college, the form is submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies for the University of Montana for final approval. In addition to selection of the Advisory Committee, students must prepare a plan of study that includes all courses to be taken. The plan of study must subsequently be endorsed by the Advisory Committee. Any changes in the plan of study, once approved, require approval of the Advisor and Advisory Committee.

At the beginning of the third year, students must complete the comprehensive qualifying exam as described above. This exam includes both a written component and an oral portion that evaluates the candidate’s general knowledge of neuroscience and related disciplines, and their ability to apply that knowledge in the research setting and in written and oral communication of research and scientific ideas. Details about this and other program requirements can be found in the Neuroscience Graduate Program Regulations.

A dissertation research proposal should be completed and endorsed by the Advisory Committee no later than the middle of the fifth semester in attendance. A research progress seminar should also be presented during the third year. Students will spend their remaining time in the program conducting research to assemble a written doctoral dissertation, completing the program with the doctoral dissertation defense

Required Courses

  • NEUR 661: Neurosciences I (4 cr.)
  • NEUR 662: Neurosciences II (4 cr.)
  • BCH 600: Cell Organization and Mechanisms (3 cr.)
  • BMED 609: Biomedical Statistics (3 cr.)
  • NEUR 582: Research Seminar Neuroscience (1 cr.)
  • BCH 547: Exptl Mol/Cell/Chem Biol (1 cr.; Data Club)
  • BIOB 594: Professional Seminar (1 cr.)
  • BMED 605: Biomedical Research Ethics (1 cr.)
  • BCH 570: Intro to Research (Research Laboratory Rotations; 3 cr.)
  • BIOB 597: Research (variable credits during research under chosen advisor) *
  • BIOB 599: Thesis (for graduating M.S. students)
  • BIOB 699: Dissertation (for graduating Ph.D. students)

Students without preparation in biochemistry must take BIOC 480/482 as a pre-requisite to BMED 600.

* A minimum of 20 credits is required by the Department for the Ph.D. degree.
A maximum of 30 credits may be applied toward the 60-credit requirement for the Ph.D.


Ph.D. students will take at least three of the following courses, according to research interest.

Neuroscience Courses

  • NEUR 610: Neuropharmacology (3 cr.)
  • NEUR 646: Neurotoxicology (3 cr.)
  • BMED 667: Topics in Neurobiology (3 cr.)

Other Elective Courses

  • BMED 615: Molecular Pharmacology (3 cr.)
  • BCH 581: Physical Biochemistry (3 cr.)
  • BCH 582: Proteins and Enzymes (3 cr.)
  • BIOM 535: Advanced Virology (3 cr.)
  • BIOM 502: Advanced Immunology (3 cr.)
  • BIOB 509: Principles of Light Microscopy (3 cr.)
  • BIOB 567: Molecular Mechanisms of Development
  • BCH 694: Biochemistry & Biophysics Seminar

Additional Courses

Additional Courses are available through other departments. Use the Course Search, choosing term and subject (e.g., BCH, BIOB, BIOM, BMED, NEUR) and consulting the Course Descriptions of The University of Montana Catalog.

Graduate Academic Courses

Many graduate academic courses are offered every other year.  

Courses offered Autumn Semester (odd years)

  • BCH 584: Nucleic Acids (3 cr.)

Courses offered Autumn Semester (even years)

  • BCH 582: Proteins and Enzymes (3 cr.)

Courses offered Spring Semester (odd years)

  • BCH 581: Physical Biochemistry (3 cr.)
  • BIOB 509: Principles of Light Microscopy (3 cr.)

Courses offered Spring Semester (even years)

  • BIOM 502: Advanced Immunology (3 cr.)
  • BCH 600: Cell Organization and Mechanisms (3 cr.)
  • BIOB 567: Molecular Mechanisms of Development

Graduate School Requirements

Degree Guidelines may be found on the Graduate School Page.