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Washington State University Factsheets

Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience

Faculty working with Students: 51
Students: 33
Students receiving assistantships or scholarships: 100%
Priority deadline:
  • Fall December 1
Campus:
  • Pullman: Yes
Tests required:
  • 600 TOEFL Minimum score
  • 100 TOEFLI Minimum score

Degree Description:

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system from elementary molecular events to integrative outputs such as behavior and autonomic control. The PhD program in Neuroscience at WSU includes classroom discussions of primary neuroscience literature, courses designed specifically to teach students scientific reasoning and training in proposal writing and oral presentation skills. However, the bulk of the program is spent pursuing a scientific question that includes the design and completion of an original investigation. Students develop their project under the expert guidance of well-funded and renowned neuroscientists on the faculty at WSU. Members of the graduate faculty in the Program in Neuroscience come from multiple departments, colleges, and campuses from across the University, thus giving students a broad selection of mentors and potential topics for their thesis research.

Students in the graduate Program in Neuroscience participate in the activities sponsored by the Integrated Program in Biomedical Sciences (iPBS). All programs that participate in iPBS have a common core curriculum in the first semester (rotations, professional development, and classes in scientific reasoning and quantitative analysis). After completion of the first semester of study, students have the option to change programs and complete their degree in anyone of the participating programs. Participating programs include Neuroscience, Molecular Bioscience, Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Combined Residency PhD Programs (Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Microbiology).

Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, CVM and the Graduate School are committed to providing equal opportunity in its services, programs, and employment for individuals with disabilities. Academically qualified students with disabilities are provided with access to the individualized assistance that is consistent with the student’s needs and the essential requirements of the program or course of study in which the student is enrolled. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability.

Admission Requirements:

Students wishing to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience need to have a strong math and science background with a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (a Master’s degree is not required). Applicants need to submit an application on the WSU Graduate School website to be considered. Application documents must include:

  • College transcripts (unofficial acceptable for initial review–upon admittance official transcripts are required)
  • Three (3) letters of reference
  • Resume or curriculum vita
  • Personal statement describing why you are interested in studying neuroscience (clearly define which faculty mentor (minimum of 3) you are interested in working with and explain why). If admitted to WSU you will have the ability to refine your choice of faculty mentors while doing lab rotations.  Included in the personal statement describe an achievement that you are proud of and discuss how you reached your goal, and any obstacles you had to overcome to reach it.  Conversely, tell us about a time when you didn’t achieve a goal and what you learned from the experience (maximum word length is 350 words).
  • Writing Statement:  Describe a major finding in neuroscience and/or biomedicine over the past five (5) years, and explain why you think it was important (maximum word length of 350 words).  Please cite your work at the end.  Citations do not count in the 350 word length count.  Writing statements over the maximum word length may disqualify your application.

Application review begins December 1 each year.  Only complete applications with all accompanying documents will be reviewed. Applications are reviewed until all available slots are filled.

Student Learning Outcomes:

All graduates will be able to:

  1.  To enable students to develop as successful professionals for highly competitive positions in academia, industry, and government, the program aims to provide a variety of  experiences that help students to:
    •  Develop expertise in appropriate concepts, theories, and emerging methodologies in neurobiology to fully understand how the brain and nervous system functions  through studies ranging from the molecular (small molecules, peptides, proteins, and other molecules important to the function of the nervous system), through the  cellular (especially neuronal and glial cells), to the systems level (neural regulation of key physiological processes).
    •  Present research to local, regional, national, and international audiences through publications in professional journals and conference papers given in a range of  venues, from graduate seminars to professional meetings.
    •  Participate in professional organizations, becoming members, attending meetings, and, where appropriate, taking leadership roles.
    •  Broaden their professional foundations through activities such as teaching, outreach, fellowships, and grant applications.
  2.  To prepare students to be effective researchers in the field of neurobiology, the program aims to provide a variety of experiences that help students to:
    •  Become independent, self-motivated researchers with the ability to recognize problems in their field of expertise and formulate solutions to the problems.
    •  Develop comprehensive knowledge of previous and current research in their field of expertise and be able to demonstrate that knowledge capability in a review of  the literature.
    •  Generate viable questions within their field of expertise and pose problems or hypotheses related to those questions.
    •  Apply sound research methods to problems in neuroscience and describe the methods effectively.
    •  Perform statistical analyses of research data and present the results in a way that makes clear sense of the data.
    •  Discuss the solution to the research problem or the support or lack of support for the hypothesis in a way that effectively documents the contribution of the  research to the area of study.
    •  Communicate their research clearly and professionally in both written and oral forms appropriate to the field.
  3.  To enhance visibility of the doctoral program in neuroscience nationally and internationally.
    • Attract, secure, and retain high-quality students.
    • Enhance doctoral education by creating advanced courses, providing more support – resources for fellowships, research, travel to conferences, etc. – for doctoral  students, and providing effective mentoring that encourages students to graduate in a timely manner.
    • Place graduates in positions in academics and industry.
    • Attract, retain and support a nationally recognized research-active faculty.

Student Opportunities:

In addition to developing expertise in several advanced technical approaches used in neuroscience research, students are also trained in the process of scientific research from experimental design, to statistical analysis, to writing both research manuscripts and proposals. Further, students will have opportunities to engage in teaching both in the laboratory and classroom setting. Finally, students will be exposed to a professional development series administered through iPBS that cover not only research ethics and exploration of multiple career pathways, but also focuses on additional leadership skills that are important for success in any professional field.

Career Opportunities:

Graduates can enter a variety of careers that utilize a deep understanding of the scientific process in general, and neuroscience in specific. Such options include basic research in a government, academic, or industry lab, participation in clinical development of therapeutic devices and drugs, business opportunities in the biotech industry, as well as a background for further work in medicine, law, journalism, or teaching.

Career Placements:

Most graduates enter directly into post-doctoral research, often times in some of the most prestigious labs and institutions in the world. On the other hand, numerous graduates have entered directly into the biotech industry, teaching positions, or professional school. Almost all our graduates remain in the general biomedical arena and can be found as tenured professors in research intensive academic institutions, career research scientists in industry, teachers in colleges and secondary schools, business related positions in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, or in the practice of some aspect of clinical medicine.

Faculty Members:

Brown, R Lane, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Brown, Travis, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Neuroscience with focus on synaptic transmission, stress and drugs of abuse.

Burgoyne, Claude F, M.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Pathophysiology of glaucomatous optic nerve head damage
Optic nerve head biomechanics
Optic nerve head imaging
Optic nerve head aging
Optic nerve head blood flow
Ocular device development

Catena, Robert, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Balance and gait to reduce incidence of accident.

Chandra, Murali, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Regulation of the contractile machinery of heart muscle cells, and how myofilament remodeling is linked to pathogenesis of heart diseases.

Coffin, Allison, Ph.D.

Location: Vancouver

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

We study sensory hair cells: polarized epithelial-type cells that converts acoustic signals in the environment to electrochemical signals in the nervous system. These cells are exquisitely sensitive to sound and unfortunately to damage from a variety of sources including noise and some classes of medications. Research in the Coffin Lab uses cellular, molecular, bioinformatics, and electrophysiological approaches to understand the cellular events underlying hearing loss and develop drug candidates to preserve hearing.

Davis, Christopher John, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Investigates neurobehavioral and neuromolecular regulation of sleep, wake and plasticity. Employs rodent models to demonstrate the consequences of sleep loss on cognitive performance, brain chemistry and slice electrophysiology. A central focus of his work is characterizing the role of microRNAs on the electroencephalograph and vigilance states.

Delevich, Kristen, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Identify key cell types and neuronal circuits that undergo changes in structure and function during adolescence, determine whether these processes differ in males and females, and review how changes in neural circuits relate to behaviors that are relevant to core symptoms of psychiatric disease and substance use disorders, and decision-making more broadly.

Demirel, Shaban M, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Diseases of the eye

Dimitrov, Alexander, Ph.D.

Location: Vancouver

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Information-theoretic and probabilistic approaches to neural computing and cognitive processes, non-linear neuronal models, chaotic dynamical systems, non-linear signal processing and prediction, systems identification, neural-based intelligent agents. Bioinspired engineering.

Dong, Wenji, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Cardiac Muscle Biology and Mechanics, Protein Chemistry and Engineering, Fluorescence Techniques, Computer Modeling, Nanoscale Biosensor Design and Engineering

Dongen, Hans Van, PhD

Location: Spokane

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Sleep Deprivation, Sleepiness, Cognitive Performance, Fatigue Modeling, Fatigue Risk Management, Sleep Physiology, Homeostatic and Circadian Mechanisms, Individual Differences

Fortune, Brad, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Diseases of the eye

Frank, Marcos, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

The regulation and function of sleep in developing and adult animals. The role of experience and offline processes in brain plasticity. The role of glia in sleep regulation and function.

Fuchs, Rita A, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023.

Addiction/Drugs of Abuse, Diseases of the Brain, Neuropharmacology

Gerstner, Jason, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Research interest focus on how the molecular mechanisms involved in the generation of circadian rhythms and sleep interact with learning and memory.

Giannotti, Giuseppe, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Current research as system neuroscientist focuses on investigating the neuronal circuits driving motivated behaviors including opioid use disorder and, in particular, those that overlap with aversion. Recent work revolves around the paraventricular thalamus (PVT) and its projection to the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc), an important area for converting motivation to action. One of the most interesting roles of the PVT→NAc pathway is its ability to drive the aversive somatic states experienced during opioid withdrawal, which in turn can drive relapse. However, a causal connection between aversive withdrawal states and heroin seeking has yet to be proven. Thus, the ultimate goal is to gain insight into the neuronal circuits controlling opioid withdrawal syndrome and heroin seeking, such that novel therapeutic strategies can be identified for the treatment of opioid addiction. To this end, the lab uses cutting-edge technologies including optogenetics, chemogenetics, fiber photometry, and slice electrophysiology, along with self-administration addiction models.

Gizerian, Samantha, Ph.D.

Serves as: member only of graduate committee

Research Interests

The goal of my research is to look at discrete changes in the environment (both internal and external) during brain development and evaluate their relevance to altered structural and functional outcome, such as in mental illness, autism, or developmental delay.

Henricks, Angela, Ph.D.

Location: Pullman

Research Interests

Work in my lab focuses on understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of substance use disorder. We use translational approaches to identify neural circuits associated with addictive behavior and addiction development, often in the context of co-occurring mental illness. Since females have historically been understudied in preclinical addiction research, my lab is particularly focused on characterizing sex differences in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying addiction, with the aim of enhancing our ability to translate preclinical findings to clinical populations. Our ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of personalized, effective therapies for substance use disorder and mental illness in women and men.

Hentges, Shane, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Research in the Hentges lab aims to improve physical and emotional health. We believe we can make strides by adding insight into why food intake is sometimes inconsistent with caloric need and learning about the neuronal changes that happen in response to altered food intake and prolonged drug exposure. Rewarding food and drugs are initially consumed for pleasure and relief from discomfort. However, reinforcement is often fleeting and met with physiologic adaptions that lead to things like obesity and substance use disorder.

Hinson, John M, PhD

Location: Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Cognition, Affect, Decision Making, Sleep

Honn, Kimberly, PhD

Location: Spokane

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Sleep deprivation; cognitive performance; shiftwork

Ingermann, Barbara Sorg, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

The main projects in my lab focus on how to prevent relapse to cocaine in rats. Other studies focus on using these same models of drug addiction, exploring the underlying role of circadian rhythms in relapse.

Publishes under Barbara Sorg

Jackson, Darrell, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Jansen, Heiko, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research focuses on the role of biological rhythms in the expression of motivated behaviors, endocrine physiology and metabolism.

Kapas, Levente S, M.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Sleep Research

Krueger, James, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Biochemical regulation of sleep, sleep and inflammation, sleep function, brain organization of sleep.

Layton, Matthew E, MD/PhD

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Psychological and physiological changes in smokers during the first few days after they quit smoking.

Lin, David, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Integrated mechanical properties of skeletal muscle and spinal reflexes. Multiscale modeling of muscle contractile properties.

McLaughlin, Ryan, PhD

Location: Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

We employ a systems-level neuroanatomical approach to understand the effects of exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids on stress, emotional behavior, and cognitive functioning, and the extent to which this is altered following exposure to chronic stress, alcohol, and/or other drugs of abuse.

McPherson, Sterling, Ph.D.

Research Interests

1) Development of evidence-based drug/alcohol use disorder treatments, including the use of experimental technologies and medicines; 2) Innovative analytical methods to answer novel research questions in psychopharmacology and genetics of drug/alcohol use; and 3) Drug/alcohol use disorders as a co-morbidity in high risk populations (e.g., severely mentally ill adults, and methadone maintained patients).

Meighan, Peter Conklin, Ph.D.

Serves as: member only of graduate committee

Research Interests

Investigate the molecular mechanisms of ion channels that are directly activated by intracellular cyclic nucleotides.

Morgan, Michael Monte, PhD

Location: Vancouver

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Neural Mechanisms of Morphine Tolerance

Peixoto, Lucia, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Genomic and molecular biology approaches to understand interaction between genes and experience in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Peters, James Henry, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research investigates the peripheral and central neurocircuitry that provides critical controls of food intake and energy homeostasis.

Portfors, Christine, Ph.D.

Location: Vancouver

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Hearing and Communication

Qualls-Creekmore, Emily, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

To better understand the regulation and integration of complex behaviors involving feeding, stress, and emotion.

Quock, Raymond, PhD

Location: Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Pharmacology of Medical Gases in Suppression of Chronic Pain and Opiate Withdrawal
Role of Nitric Oxide in Drug-Induced Analgesia and Anxiolysis

Rossi, David, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Addiction/Drugs of Abuse, Electrophysiology, Diseases of the Brain, Developmental Neurobiology, Neural/Synaptic Plasticity

Satterfield, Brieann, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Studies the complex phenotype-genotype between sleep and cognition.

Schmitter-Edgecombe, Maureen, PhD

Location: Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Clinical and Cognitive Neuropsychology, Everyday Functioning, Gerontechnology, Cognitive and Health Interventions

Shen, Haiying, PhD/MD

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research on the anti-convulsive and neuroprotectant efforts of adenosine and the adenosine system. These translate into findings into novel therapeutic approaches for epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke and schizophrenia.

Stenkamp, Deborah L, Ph.D.

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research interests center on the examination of cellular and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate retinal development and regeneration, with a specific focus on photoreceptor differentiation, using zebrafish as the primary experimental model.

Szentirmai, Eva, M.D./PhD

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research is on neuronal circuits that are involved in regulating sleep-wake activity, feeding and metabolism.

Tanner, Bertrand, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Research focus on normal, mutated, and diseased proteins that influence muscle contraction and relaxation dynamics. We often integrate mathematical modeling, computational simulations, biochemical assays, and biophysical system-analysis to investigate complex network behavior among muscle proteins.

Varnum, Michael, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Research focus is to investigate the molecular mechanisms of ion channels that are directly activated by intracellular cyclic nucleotides.

Vasavada, Anita, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Biomechanics and neural control of the musculoskeletal system, focusing on the human head and neck system.

Wayman, Gary Allen, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023

Molecular and cellular mechanism by which synaptic activity and neurotrophic factors influence neuronal development.

Wayman, Suzanne Appleyard, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Accepting Graduate Students for Fall 2023.

Research in the field of energy homeostasis, using both mouse genetic and electrophysiological approaches. Other areas of interest are behavioral techniques to investigate food intake and related behaviors.

Publishes under Suzanne Appleyard

Whitney, Paul Michael, PhD

Location: Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Wisor, Jonathan, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

The purpose of my research program is to identify functional consequences of sleep and sleep loss within the nervous system.

Contact Information:

Becky Morton
Pullman, WA 99164-7620
509-335-6624