Entering graduate students will follow the core curriculum of their home departments in either Biology or Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS). Each program provides ample elective course choices, giving students flexibility in designing a personalized curriculum to meet their educational goals. A brief summary of the major features of each program is provided below, followed by available elective coursework.
Biology Graduate Program
The Biology Graduate program is designed to teach students the research and communication skills required for a successful career as an independent scientist. A typical curriculum for a 4-6 year Ph.D would include:
Year 1 – The 1st year curriculum is divided into a Fall and Spring semester. During the fall, students exclusively take classwork and will not begin research rotations until the spring semester. The 1st year fall curriculum includes three required courses, Method & Logic in Molecular Biology (7.50), Biochemistry (7.51) and Genetics (7.52), together with 1 or 2 electives of the Student's choosing. The 1st year spring semester includes an introduction to the research labs at MIT, the beginning of research rotations, and typically 2-3 elective courses and a course in quantitative biology/statistics. Three 4-week laboratory rotations in the spring semester allow graduate students to sample lab environments and styles. Students choose a lab and begin full-time research after completing the third rotation in May of their first year, though they may complete a 4th rotation if desired. The first-year courses are designed to strengthen backgrounds, to train students broadly in the principles of modern biology, and to expose them to contemporary thinking in specific fields so they have the freedom to choose research labs based on their interests. Descriptions of many of the offered courses can be found at:
Year 2 – Students form thesis committees composed of three faculty members during their 2nd year. These committees monitor their progress during subsequent years and administer the required oral qualifying exam with a written research proposal at the end of their 2nd year or beginning of the 3rd year. Most students are now engaged in full-time research, though the option to take additional classwork is there if needed. 2nd year students also serve one semester as a teaching assistant. Learning to communicate effectively is an essential element of success in any career. Graduate students have a great opportunity to improve their communication and interaction skills by serving as teaching assistants for two semesters (typically once in year 2 and once in year 4).
Years 3 and beyond – Students continue their research, TA one additional class, and finish up with the defense of a thesis of original research.
Additional details of the Biology graduate program can be found at:
BCS Graduate Program
The BCS doctoral program is designed to prepare a select group of scientists for research careers in the brain and cognitive sciences. Graduates are expected to be competent experimenters and to be able to interpret their work to others, to write well, and to teach effectively. Advanced training of this sort demands much time devoted to basic research. Course requirements are therefore limited to 7-8 subjects generally taken in the first two years. The remaining time is devoted primarily to laboratory work, although students are encouraged to take advanced seminars throughout their stay.
Year 1 – During the first year, students are encouraged to do three rotations in research labs. These rotations will help provide students broad exposure to neurobiology research and will be used to select a lab for their thesis research by the end of the first year. In addition to rotations, the BCS curriculum requires 8 classes to complete their PhD coursework training . Three required courses included Statistical Methods, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and System Neuroscience. 4-5 additional electives are also required to be taken during the 1st or 2nd year. Before the end of the first year, students form advisory committees composed of two to four faculty members. These committees monitor their progress during subsequent years and, with membership changing as necessary, eventually evolve into thesis committees.
Year 2 – Students take an oral and written qualifying exam during their 2nd year. Most students are now engaged in full-time research, with students finishing up any additional coursework. 2nd year students also serve one semester as a teaching assistant. Learning to communicate effectively is an essential element of success in any career. Graduate students have a great opportunity to improve their communication and interaction skills by serving as teaching assistants during their graduate career.
Year 3 and beyond – Students continue their research, TA one to two additional class, and finish up with the defense of a thesis of original research.
Additional details of the BCS graduate program can be found at:
MCN Core Courses
Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience Core I, Graduate (Fall), 7.65/9.015
Survey course and primary literature review of major topic areas in molecular and cellular neurobiology. Covers neurogenomics, nervous system formation, axonal pathfinding, cytoskeletal regulation, synapse formation, neurotransmitter release, and cellular neurophysiology. Includes lectures with student presentations and discussion of primary literature.
Molecular & Cellular Neuroscience Core II, Graduate (Spring), 7.68/9.013
Survey course and primary literature review of major areas of cellular and molecular neurobiology. Covers neurotrophin signaling and cell survival, neuronal and homeostatic plasticity, basic circuit formation, molecular features of sensory processing, and neurological/psychiatric disease mechanisms. Includes lectures with student presentations and discussion of primary literature.
Students in both departments have access to a broad palate of elective coursework, including coursework in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Genetic Neurobiology, Developmental Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Neurobiology of Disease, Neural Plasticity, Neuroanatomy, Biochemistry, Genetics, Neurotechnology, Neuro-pharmacology, Neurobiology of Aging, Cellular Neurophysiology, Cell Biology, and Development & Evolution.
A full listing of courses offered through the BCS department can be found at:
A full listing of courses offered through the Biology department can be found at:
Additional neuroscience courses are often offered in other departments as well - the full listing of MIT courses can be found at: