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The Program's philosophy is based on the balanced combination of mentoring, general curriculum and frontier collaborative research to teach students essential theoretical, research, teaching, writing and presentation skills to prepare students for the competitive environment of academia and industry.

The program reflects the structure of contemporary neuroscience which has become a diverse and inter-disciplinary field. Students of diverse educational, ethnic and national backgrounds are encouraged to apply to the program.

Work is offered for the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees with a major in neuroscience.  Cooperating departments include Animal Science; Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology; Biomedical Sciences; Chemical and Biological Engineering; Chemistry; Computer Science; Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology; Genetics, Development and Cell Biology; Kinesiology; Psychology; Veterinary Clinical Sciences; Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine; and Veterinary Pathology.

The diversity of faculty in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience major provides students with a variety of research opportunities and reflects the structure of contemporary neuroscience which has become a diverse and inter-disciplinary field.  Facilities and faculty are committed to research in the following areas: neuronal membrane functions, signal transduction, neuroanatomy, neurodegenerative diseases, neuroendocrinology, neurotoxicology, neuropathology, developmental neurobiology, neurogenetics, computational neuroscience, neural networks, behavioral neuroscience, tissue engineering, neuroregeneration and brain repair.

Prospective students are admitted by the Neuroscience program following receipt of a complete application and after review by the Neuroscience Admissions Committee.  Students are admitted either to participate in research rotations with several faculty before deciding on a major professor and laboratory, or by direct admission into a specific lab and department.  Ph.D. students typically enter via rotation and M.S. students typically enter via a direct admit.   Those students admitted via rotations are required to complete a minimum of three research lab rotations with faculty of interest during the first several months in the program.  At the end of rotations, students on rotation must select a major professor from the faculty participating in the program.  Current ISU graduate students may be admitted as a co-major or minor with Neuroscience.

Ph.D. candidates majoring in Neuroscience must take at least 72 graduate credits.  These 72 credits include the core course requirements (below) and applicable research credits earned.  Credits taken during a student's M.S. program in Neuroscience at Iowa State University may count towards their Ph.D. in MCDB.

Additional coursework for both Ph.D. and M.S. degrees may be selected by the student in consultation with his/her Program of Study (POS) Committee to meet departmental requirements and to satisfactorily prepare the student for their research project.

Graduate credits of B or better earned at another institution may be transferred at the discretion of the POS Committee and with the approval of the Neuroscience Program and the ISU Graduate College.

Neuroscience Core Curriculum requirements include:

Neuroscience PhD Students Take All of the Below
NEURO 556 Cellular, Molecular & Developmental Neuroscience 3 credits Alt. Fall,
Odd Years
NEURO 557 Advanced Neuroscience Techniques 3 credits Alt. Spring,
Odd Years
NEURO 661 Current Topics in Neuroscience 2-3 credits

Alt. Spring,
Even Years Repeatable


Journal Club in Neuroscience*See Footnote

1 credit Fall & Spring
NEURO 696 Neuroscience Seminar*See Footnote 1 credit Fall & Spring
NEURO 699 Research Variable Fall, Spring & Summer
BBMB 404 Biochemistry I 3 credits Fall
BMS 537 Neuroanatomy 3 credits Spring
STAT 401 Statistical Methods for Research Workers 4 credits Fall, Spring & Summer
MANDATORY ETHICS TRAINING: All Neuroscience students are also required to complete 1 credit hour of ethics training. 

*Footnote: NEURO 690 & NEURO 696 are taken each Fall & Spring semester in which the student is enrolled in the program.

In addition to the above coursework, all Neuroscience PhD students are required to take a minimum of six credits of approved elective courses. 

Pre-approved Neuroscience Electives (Minimum of 6 credits)
A ECL 551 Behavioral Ecology 3 credits Alt. Spring, Even Years
AN S 670 Molecular Biology of Muscle 3 credits Alt. Fall,
Even Years
BIOL 354 Animal Behavior 3 credits Fall
BIOL 436 Neurobiology 3 credits Fall
B M S 354 General Pharmacology 3 credits Spring
KIN 572 Neural Basis of Human Movement 3 credits  
PSYCH 410 Behavioral Neurology 3 credits Fall
PSYCH 519 Cognitive Neuropsychology 3 credits  
PSYCH 598C Seminar in Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive Neuroscience Credit Fall & Spring

Non-native English speakers must pass the English Requirement as established by the university.  Depending on the results of this exam additional courses may be required to meet English proficiency standards. 

Neuroscience graduate students are required to teach one semester as part of their training for an advanced degree.   Students whose first language is not English must take and pass the Oral English Certification Test (OECT) test to be eligible to teach.

A four-year university degree (the equivalent of a bachelor's degree) is required. Applicants should have an undergraduate or advanced degree in one of the basic or applied sciences. Typical program disciplines include majors in biochemistry, biology, human medicine, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, veterinary medicine, or zoology. Appropriate undergraduate coursework includes mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biological sciences.

The program accepts applications for graduate study year-round; however, most assistantship and fellowship decisions are made by the end of April. To have the best chance of qualifying for financial support, your complete application (including transcripts and letters of recommendation) must be received by January 1 for admission for the fall semester. Application files will NOT be reviewed by the admissions committee until all of the required materials have been submitted to the Neuroscience program office.

  1. Complete and submit the Neuroscience Program application online.  There is no application fee associated with this submission.
  2. In addition, please submit the following materials in ONE packet and mail to the address provided below.
    • Official academic records/transcripts from each previous institution attended, regardless of whether or not a degree was earned.  Official transcripts should be in sealed envelopes from the individual college or university.  Transcript data must be in English.  Iowa State transcripts will be provided at no cost.
    • Three letters of recommendation.  Letters should include the signature of the recommender and be provided in sealed envelopes with the recommender's signature across the seal.  The following confidential report form (pdf) needs to accompany each letter of recommendation.  You as the applicant need to complete parts 1-3 of this form and then provide this to each of your recommenders for their evaluation.  At this time we do NOT accept electronic letters of recommendation.
    • Examination Results.  Please include a photocopy of each examination result in your pre-application packet.  Exam results should include both raw scores and percentile information.  If an offer is made to you, official test scores will need to be sent directly from ETS to Iowa State, but only if an offer is made.  It is of note that photocopies are still requested even if you have sent official scores to ISU.  The exams required are:
      • Graduate Records Examination (GRE).  Subject tests are not required but can be submitted if desired.
      • English Proficiency Exam Scores for non-native English speakers only.  Acceptable exams include:
        • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or
        • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
    • Statement of Purpose, Goals, and Research Interests
    • Resume or Curriculum Vitae


Neuroscience students receive a stipend to help cover living expenses.  Depending on the degree track, and provided that the student remains in good academic standing, the assistantship provides partial or full tuition scholarship.  Graduate students receiving an assistantship will also receive paid single coverage health insurance.  Additional information about student health insurance can be found on the Students & Scholar Health Insurance Program (SSHIP) website. 


Current Neuroscience graduate students are supported by graduate assistantships.  Graduate assistantships can be research, teaching or a combination of the two.  Annual stipend rates typically range from $22,000 to $25,000 depending on the assistantship or fellowship received.  Neuroscience first year, PhD students who enter via rotation receive their first several months of support from the program.  The current rotation assistantship provides a stipend of $1,834 per month.  It is expected that rotation students will choose a Major Professor who will pick up their financial assistantship by the end of their initial graduate assistantship award.  Thereafter financial support continues through the research grant(s) of the Major Professor and may vary in amount from that during rotations.  MS students or PhD students who are admitted directly are supported by their Major Professor from the start.  When choosing rotations and a major professor it is important to discuss available funding.


Additional fellowship opportunities are available to Neuroscience applicants.  Applicants are automatically considered for the following competitive Iowa State University fellowships.  Each awarding office has its own selection and eligibility criteria. It is of note that the program must nominate those who qualify and applicants are not able to nominate themselves.  

  • Diane Brandt Fellowship for Women: Provides one year of $5,000 in stipend support to an outstanding female graduate student.  Nomination eligibility is limited to women enrolled as a first semester, full-time student in a PhD program in science, mathematics, agriculture, or engineering. 
  • Graduate College Miller Fellowship: This is a multi-year fellowship awarded on a competitive basis to doctoral graduate students without regard to the area of research interest.  Domestic and international applicants may qualify for this award.
  • Graduate Disability Assistantship Program (GDAP): GDAP offers financial assistance to disabled graduate students who are pursuing either a MS or PhD degree within any discipline.  Nominees must have a disability (physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities) under the Americans with Disabilities Act and confirmed through the ISU Student Disability Office.  Only students admitted as full or provisional are eligible for nomination.  Please note that you do not have disclose your specific disability to the Neuroscience Graduate Program.  For more information about the GDAP program and how it works, please contact Thelma Harding at (866) 478-4723 or   
  • Office of Biotechnology Graduate Student Fellowship: A competitive fellowship awarded to graduate students with research interests related to Biotechnology.  Domestic and international applicants may qualify per eligibility standards.  
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