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Washington State University Factsheets

Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience

Faculty working with Students: 61
Students: 27
Students receiving assistantships or scholarships: 100%
Priority deadline:
  • Fall December 15
  • 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, a resume or curriculum vita, a 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), a writing sample (3-5 pages in length on scientific subject matter. It could be a senior research project or a sole author science-based published paper), and official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (WSU code 4705). Include the % below as well as the raw score. Application review begins December 15th each year. Only complete applications with all accompanying documents will be reviewed. Applications are reviewed until all available slots are filled.

Student Learning Outcome:

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:
        1.  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).
        2.  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.
        3.  Participate in professional organizations, becoming members, attending meetings, and, where appropriate, taking leadership roles.
        4.  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:
        1.  Become independent, self-motivated researchers with the ability to recognize problems in their field of expertise and formulate solutions to the problems.
        2.  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.
        3.  Generate viable questions within their field of expertise and pose problems or hypotheses related to those questions.
        4.  Apply sound research methods to problems in neuroscience and describe the methods effectively.
        5.  Perform statistical analyses of research data and present the results in a way that makes clear sense of the data.
        6.  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.
        7.  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.
        1.  Attract, secure, and retain high-quality students.
        2.  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.
        3.  Place graduates in positions in academics and industry.
        4.  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 in 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:

Becker, Bruce E

Belenky, Gregory, M.D.

Boison, Detlev, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Neural/Synaptic Plasticity, Neuropharmacology, Energy Homeostasis/Feeding

Brown, R Lane, Ph.D.

Burgoyne, Claude F, M.D.

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.

Research Interests

Balance and gait to reduce incidence of accident.

Chandra, Murali, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Churchill, Lynn, Ph.D.

Coffin, Allison, Ph.D.

Research Interests

We study hair cells – not the hair cells on your head, but the hair cells in your inner ears. Hearing is one of our basic senses – it allows us to communicate and to perceive the world around us. At the heart of hearing is the sensory hair cell: a polarized epithelial-type cell 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. This damage causes hearing loss, cutting us off from the outside world. Research in the Coffin Lab seeks to understand the cellular events underlying hearing loss so that we may prevent these events and preserve hearing. We primary study zebrafish, but also use other fishes as model systems for this research.

Our research examines two major questions:

1) What cellular and molecular events trigger hair cell death following a toxic insult?

2) How do endogenous hormones influence hair cell death and proliferation?

In addition, we are interested in more fisheries-related questions, specifically the way the hatchery rearing environment affects development and function of the lateral line in juvenile salmonids.

Craft, Rebecca Miriam, Ph.D.

Davis, Christopher John, Ph.D.

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.

Davis, Jon Franklin, Ph.D.

Demirel, Shaban M, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Diseases of the eye

Dimitrov, Alexander, Ph.D.

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.

Research Interests

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

Dongen, Hans Van, Ph.D.

Dyck, Dennis G, Ph.D.

Fortune, Brad, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Diseases of the eye

Frank, Marcos, Ph.D.

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.

Gizerian, Samantha, Ph.D.

Harding, Joseph W, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Develop peptide- and peptidomimetic-pharmaceuticals for the treatment of dementia, cancer, and deficits in wound healing.

Hinson, John M, Ph.D.

Ingermann, Barbara Sorg, Ph.D.

Jansen, Heiko, Ph.D.

Kapas, Levente S, M.D.

Karatsoreos, Ilia, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Biological rhythms, gonadal hormones, and neural plasticity.

Krueger, James, Ph.D.

Lamb, Richard L, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Use of video games in the education for measurement of student cognition, and computational modeling of student cognitive processes related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Layton, Matthew E, PhD/MD

Research Interests

Layton’s current research focuses on the psychological and physiological changes in smokers during the first few days after they quit smoking.

Lin, David, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Lokensgard, Rita A Fuchs, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

McLaughlin, Ryan, Ph.D.

Meighan, Peter Conklin, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Meighan, Starla Elizabeth, Ph.D.

Morgan, Michael Monte, Ph.D.

Panksepp, Jaak, Ph.D.

Peixoto, Lucia, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Peters, James Henry, Ph.D.

Portfors, Christine, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Neurophysiology/ bat biology

Quock, Raymond, Ph.D.

Ritter, Robert C, Ph.D.

Ritter, W Sue, Ph.D.

Roll, John Michael, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Human behavioral pharmacology, the development and refinement of behavioral interventions for addiction and other psychiatric disorders, as well as technology transfer issues.

Rossi, David, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Schmitter-Edgecombe, Maureen, Ph.D.

Shen, Haiying, PhD/MD

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.

Simasko, Steve, Ph.D.

Slinker, Bryan Keith, Ph.D.

Sprunger, Leslie Karen, Ph.D.

Stenkamp, Deborah L, Ph.D.

Szentirmai, Eva, M.D.

Tanner, Bertrand, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Computational and experimental studies of striated muscle mechanics.

Varnum, Michael, Ph.D.

Vasavada, Anita, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Walker, Brendan, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Molecular, genetic and epigenetic contributors to maladaptive behavioral dysregulation in alcohol dependence and neuropsychiatric disorders

Wang, Lin, PhD/MD

Research Interests

Wayman, Gary Allen, Ph.D.

Research Interests

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

Wayman, Suzanne Appleyard, Ph.D.

Whitney, Paul Michael, Ph.D.

Wisor, Jonathan, Ph.D.

Xu, Jun, Ph.D.

Research Interests

The study of cognition and emotion in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. mental retardation, autism, and mood disorder).

Contact Information:

Becky Morton
Pullman, WA 99164-7620