Courses & Requirements

Courses required for the Ph.D. degree in Neuroscience include: Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (NBIO 722), Systems and Transitional Neuroscience (NBIO 723), Communicating Scientific Results (NBIO 850), Statistics for Lab Scientists (BBSP 710) and Neuroscience Seminar Series (NBIO 893).  Students are also required to choose and complete two electives most relevant to their thesis work. The Courses menu lists descriptions of these core courses of the Neuroscience Curriculum, as well as popular elective topics taken by students. Additional elective courses in Biochemistry, Statistics, Molecular Biology, Physiology, etc., are available to compensate specific deficiencies or enhance training. It is the current philosophy of the Curriculum faculty that students should receive a broad exposure to as many aspects of Neuroscience as reasonable, from molecules and genetics, through systems, behavior and human diseases of the nervous system.

First year students (BBSP) planning to join Neuroscience typically enroll in NBIO 722 and 723. Also in year one, students take formal instruction in statistics and scientific ethics. Occasionally, BBSP students take courses in cell biology, genetics, or pharmacology and decide to enroll in Neuroscience. In this case students are still required to take NBIO 722 and 723 in year two of the program. Elective requirements are waved for these students. MD/ PhD students joining NBIO will take NBIO 722 and 723 when they begin PhD work after the 2nd year of medical school. Block 5 and 6 of 723 and elective requirements are waived for MD/PhD students.  

NBIO 722/723 Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience & Systems and Translational Neuroscience

Course Director: Garret Stuber, PhD

The purpose of this year-long course is to present the experimental and theoretical basis for our current understanding of nervous system function and disease.  The course fosters an understanding of how we accumulate knowledge and test hypotheses in neuroscience.  The course runs as a series of three blocks in the fall and three blocks in the spring.  It is team-taught by NBIO faculty who teach sections in their particular areas of expertise, in order to assure students gain optimal understanding of the information. Fall and Spring: Stuber and staff.

During their first year, all BBSP are required to perform 3 research rotations, in different labs of the Curriculum.

NBIO 850 Communication of Scientific Results
(Cross-listed: PHYI 705/706)

Course Director: Spencer Smith, PhD

Also known as PClass, this course is focused on the principles for effective scientific communication. The major component is focused on developing and giving scientific talks. The course also covers how to introduce speakers, prepare slides, and speak with the public about science. Finally, a written component is focused on preparation of specific aims for fellowship and grant application. Spencer Smith currently directs the course, with additional faculty participating. The class is limited to Neurobiology Curriculum students. Students prepare talks, refine them in small groups (3-4 students), and then present them in class. The in-class talk is videotaped, and these tapes are reviewed by the students in a session with their peers. After another round of refining with their small group, the students give their polished talks to the department in a formal setting. Writing is critiqued in class, with peers and guest faculty all offering input. Together, these components help the students develop their own effective speaking and writing methods, and prepare students for the next stage in their scientific careers.  Fall semester.

BBSP 610 Statistics for Lab Scientists

Course Director: Eric Bair, PhD

BBSP 610 introduces the basic concepts and methods of statistics with emphasis on applications in the experimental biological sciences.  Students should have a basic understanding of algebra and arithmetic.  No previous background in probability or statistics is required, nor is experience with statistical computing. The objectives of this course are to provide graduate students in biomedical research programs familiarity with basic experimental design and elementary statistical methods.  By the end of the course, students should understand the principles of experimental design, be familiar with basic statistical methods (and how they are implemented in R), and know which methods are appropriate in a given circumstance. Fall semester.

NBIO 890 Neuroscience Seminar Series

Course Director: Garret Stuber, PhD

Diverse but current topics in all aspects of neuroscience. Relates new techniques and current research of notables in the field of neuroscience. Content focuses on presentations by invited, non-UNC faculty, UNC faculty and mini-series presentations from current Neuroscience students.  Topics vary from week to week. Students in the Curriculum are expected to attend and participate in the Neuroscience Seminar series.  Students will be enrolled in NBIO 893 each semester, for which their attendance and participation in seminars and dissertation defenses is tracked and graded. Fall and Spring.