University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Neuroscience PhD Program at UC Berkeley is a unique, diverse PhD training program that offers intensive, integrated training in multiple areas of neuroscience research.

The program includes approximately 65 training faculty from different campus departments, with expertise ranging from molecular and cellular neuroscience to systems and computational neuroscience to human cognitive neuroscience.

We provide a highly interdisciplinary, intellectually dynamic training environment of coursework, research training, professional development, and mentoring, within a strong research program that produces fundamental advances in knowledge and novel techniques.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Applicants to the program should have a bachelor's degree from a four-year college and at least one year of laboratory experience. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is optional. For more information on our program requirements go to:

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement

Normative time to advancement is 2 years.

Step I: Lab Rotations and Presentations, First Year Classes

During the first year of graduate study, each neuroscience graduate student spends three 10-week periods performing research projects in different faculty laboratories. Rotations allow students to identify the laboratory in which their thesis research will be performed. The goal is also to expose students to different techniques and approaches in neuroscience and to provide training in experimental design, critical analysis of data, and presentation of research findings. Rotation research is graded and receives academic credit. This is accomplished by enrolling in NEU 291A/B, a year-long course, during the rotation year. Also during the first-year students take NEU 210A/B Methods & Career Skills Classes which introduce a broad range of modern neuroscience research methods in didactic lectures and provide advising in initial career skills.  NEU 210A (Fall) includes a survey of cutting-edge research methods, advising on how to choose a thesis mentor, training in scientific rigor and reproducibility, and an introduction to the use and misuse of statistics in neuroscience research. NEU 210B (Spring) includes in-depth training on how to give a top-notch scientific talk, advising on how to write effective research papers, and on scientific project management. Additional classes taken during the first year in the program include: at least 2 Foundational Requirement courses, NEU 294 our "Brain Lunch" seminar (more on these below), as well as MCELLBI 293C "Responsible Conduct in Research". MCELLBI 293C is taken during the spring of their first year to ensure that research trainees receive ample training in Responsible Conduct in Research, and to gain an understanding of federal, state, and UC Berkeley policies and resources available to further support their research endeavors.

Step II: Second Year Classes, QUALIFYING EXAM

Students in the second year of study have been placed in a thesis lab and begin enrolling in NEU 292 Neuroscience Graduate Research and NEU 295 Neuroscience Research Review under their research mentor each semester. They additionally complete their Foundational Requirement courses and enroll in NEU 294 our "Brain Lunch" seminar (more on these below). In the Fall of their second year, students begin their professional development in teaching Neuroscience courses which includes enrolling in a one semester 300-level pedagogy course (more on teaching below). 

During the spring semester of Year 2, students complete an oral qualifying exam. The examination has three parts: Research Proposal, Related Research Areas, and Foundational Questions in Neuroscience. The research proposal is in the form of a written, NIH-style grant proposal, which is turned in to the committee, and then defended orally. Related Research Areas are identified cooperatively by the student and his/her committee prior to the exam, and are chosen to be complementary to the main research proposal subject. These areas are examined orally. The Foundational Questions in Neuroscience are designed to test broad knowledge in Neuroscience. These are a published list of questions, the same for all students, that are available upon entry to the program. These questions are designed to test basic common knowledge of neuroscience facts and principles, and a subset of them are examined orally during the qualifying exam. During the exam, students must demonstrate the ability to recognize fundamentally important research problems, propose relevant experimental approaches, and display comprehensive knowledge of appropriate disciplinary areas and related subjects. Students must pass the qualifying examination before advancing to doctoral candidacy.

Normative Time in Candidacy

Normative time in candidacy is 3 years. 

Step III: Dissertation

Students undertake research for the PhD dissertation under a four-person committee in charge of their research and dissertation. Students do original research using a wide variety of cutting-edge neuroscience methods. During this time, students must meet at least annually with their thesis committee to discuss dissertation progress, review experimental results, set goals, and ensure students are adhering to appropriate timelines to completion. The students then write a dissertation based on the results of their research. 

During their time in candidacy, students continue to enroll in NEU 292 Neuroscience Graduate Research and NEU 295 Neuroscience Research Review under their research mentor each semester and complete any remaining course requirements.

STEP IV: Dissertation Presentation/Formal Exit Seminar

There is no formal defense of the completed dissertation. However, Neuroscience students are required to publicly present a thesis seminar about their dissertation research in their final year. On completion of the research and approval of the dissertation by the committee, the students are awarded the doctorate.

Total Normative Time

Total normative time is 5 years.


Pedagogy, Rotations, Ethics, & Seminar Courses 

Students must take all of the following courses. Pedagogy, Rotations, and Ethics courses are taken in year 1. Brain Lunch Seminar is taken in Years 1, 2, and 4.

Pedagogy courses
NEU 210ANeuroscience Research Design and Analysis1
NEU 210BNeuroscience Career Skills1
NEU 291ANeuroscience Introduction to Research4-12
NEU 291BNeuroscience Introduction to Research4-12
Ethics in Research
MCELLBI 293CResponsible Conduct in Research1
Brain Lunch Seminar
NEU 294Neuroscience Graduate Student Presentation Seminar1
All students are required to enroll in the Brain Lunch seminar for 1 semester in each of Years 1 and 2, and again in Year 4 (see "Presentations" under "Required Professional Development" below)
Graduate Research and Research Review

Beginning in the second year after placement in a faculty research lab, students enroll in the following two courses under their research mentor each semester until they graduate.

NEU 292Course Not Available (Neuroscience Graduate Research)3-12
NEU 295Neuroscience Research Review2
Foundational courses: One Graduate Course in Each category

Students can either take one graduate-level course from each category, or three graduate level courses from two areas, plus a selected advanced undergraduate course from a third area. Graduate level courses are numbered 200 and above. Advanced undergraduate courses are numbered 100-199. They are taken in years 1–2.  Courses offered will vary depending on the semester.  The courses below are samples of courses that fulfill the area requirements.

1. Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Neuroscience
Choose one:
MCELLBI 160Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology4
MCELLBI 166Biophysical Neurobiology3
MCELLBI 230Advanced Cell and Developmental Biology4
MCELLBI 231Advanced Developmental and Stem Cell Biology4
MCELLBI 240Advanced Genetic Analysis4
NEU 260/MCELLBI C261Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology3
2. Circuits, Systems, and Computational Neuroscience 
Choose one:
INTEGBI 139The Neurobiology of Stress4
MCELLBI 236Advanced Mammalian Physiology5
NEU 250Circuit and Systems Neuroscience3
PSYCH 210BProseminar: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior3
VIS SCI 260CIntroduction to Visual Neuroscience3
VIS SCI 265Neural Computation3
3. Cognition, Brain, and  Behavior 
Choose one:
PSYCH 117Human Neuropsychology3
PSYCH/COG SCI C127Cognitive Neuroscience3
PSYCH C210A/NEU C241Proseminar: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior3
PSYCH 240AProseminar: Biological, Cognitive, and Language Development3
PB HLTH C217DBiological and Public Health Aspects of Alzheimer's Disease3
PB HLTH 290Health Issues Seminars (Neuroepidemiology)1-4
VIS SCI 262Visual Cognitive Neuroscience3
One course on statistical analysis or quantitative methods

Students must complete a 1-semester course in Applied Statistics in Neuroscience, or an equivalent approved course in statistics or quantitative analysis methods. This can be completed at any time prior to the semester of graduation, but is typically taken in years one-three. Students with prior appropriate coursework or whose thesis research uses substantial quantitative methods can use that prior experience to fulfill this requirement, subject to approval by the Head Graduate Adviser.

NEU 273Seminars (Applied Statistics for Neuroscience)2
One Graduate Elective Course

Students must take one additional elective course. This can be either a graduate-level seminar or graduate-level lecture course, and can be 1 unit or more. This is typically taken in years three-four. You may also select a foundation course as an elective. Consult your thesis adviser and thesis committee to select the most appropriate course for you.

NEU 242Reinforcement Learning and Decision-making (Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making)3
NEU C272/MCELLBI C205/PHYSICS C218Modern Optical Microscopy for the Modern Biologist3
NEU 273Seminars (Applied Statistics for Neuroscience)2
NEU 290Seminars1-3
Neuro-Related Seminar Courses
EL ENG 290Advanced Topics in Electrical Engineering (Advanced Brain Imaging Methods)1-4
LINGUIS 290ATopics in Linguistic Theory: Syntax3
LINGUIS 290BTopics in Linguistic Theory: Semantics3
LINGUIS 290DTopics in Linguistic Theory: Pragmatics3
LINGUIS 290ETopics in Linguistic Theory: Phonology3
LINGUIS 290FTopics in Linguistic Theory: Diachronic Linguistics3
LINGUIS 290HTopics in Linguistic Theory: Linguistic Reconstruction3
LINGUIS 290LAdditional Seminar on Special Topics to Be Announced3
LINGUIS 290MTopics in Linguistic Theory: Psycholinguistics3
MCELLBI 290Graduate Seminar1
PSYCH 290ESeminars: Perception2
PSYCH 290HSeminars: Developmental2
PSYCH 290ISeminars: Personality2
PSYCH 290JSeminars: Social2
PSYCH 290KSeminars: Clinical2
PSYCH 290QSeminars: Cognition2
PSYCH 290ZSeminars1-3
PSYCH 102Methods for Research in Psychological Sciences4
PSYCH 111Human Neuroanatomy3
PSYCH 114Biology of Learning3
PSYCH 115Introduction to Brain Imaging Analysis Methods3
PSYCH 125The Developing Brain3
PSYCH 205Data Analysis3
PSYCH 208Methods in Computational Modeling for Cognitive Science3
STAT 150Stochastic Processes3
STAT 151ALinear Modelling: Theory and Applications4
STAT 153Introduction to Time Series4
STAT 154Modern Statistical Prediction and Machine Learning4
STAT 158Experimental Design4
STAT 230ALinear Models4
STAT C241AStatistical Learning Theory3
STAT C241BAdvanced Topics in Learning and Decision Making3
STAT 248Analysis of Time Series4
MATH 118Fourier Analysis, Wavelets, and Signal Processing4
Computer Science and Programming
COMPSCI/VIS SCI C280Computer Vision3
Data Science
DATASCI 281Computer Vision3
Electrical Engineering
EL ENG 120Signals and Systems4
EL ENG 123Digital Signal Processing4
EL ENG 126Probability and Random Processes4
EL ENG 221ALinear System Theory4
EL ENG 226ARandom Processes in Systems4
EL ENG 227BTConvex Optimization4
EL ENG 229AInformation Theory and Coding3
BIO ENG 231Introduction to Computational Molecular and Cellular Biology4
BIO ENG C265/EL ENG C225EPrinciples of Magnetic Resonance Imaging4
Vision Science
VIS SCI 260AOptical and Neural Limits to Vision3
VIS SCI 260DSeeing in Time, Space and Color3
Public Health
PB HLTH 245Introduction to Multivariate Statistics4

Required Professional Development


During their fourth year of study, students are required to make a presentation on the progress of their thesis work while enrolling in NEU 294 (Neuroscience Graduate Student Presentation Seminar, also known as "Brain Lunch"), a journal club, for a letter grade.


Neuroscience students are required to serve as graduate student instructors (GSIs) within the Neuroscience department for two semesters. Whenever possible, GSI assignments are determined with an eye toward student research interests. Teaching occurs during one semester of the second year and one semester of the third year. Teaching affords students supervised experience in a variety of educational situations, including labs, discussion sections, and demonstrations. GSIs also participate in record-keeping, grading, advising, and student consultations.

To help prepare students to GSI, students participate in a one day teaching conference and take an online teaching ethics course prior to teaching their first course. In addition, students enroll in a one semester pedagogy course to provide them with an orientation to the teaching strategies and methods of their discipline and to support them throughout their first semester of teaching.  GSIs are evaluated by both supervising faculty and the students they teach. These evaluations become a permanent part of the student file. Deserving GSIs are nominated for the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award.



Contact Information

Department of Neuroscience

134 Barker Hall

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Department Chair

Dan Feldman

130 Barker Hall

Program Director/Head Graduate Advisor

Frédéric Theunissen

Graduate Program Manager/Advisor

Leleña Avila

Graduate Program Coordinator/Advisor

Peony Yu

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