About the Neuroscience PhD Program
The Neuroscience PhD program at UTSA is a diverse, dynamic and growing community of scientists. Our students take an active role in shaping the program, setting the agenda for the weekly student-run Neuro Colloquium, hosting seminar speakers for an informal post-seminar lunch, and selecting and hosting one seminar speaker per year.
UTSA offers a rich scientific environment, with support from the Biology Department; the Neurosciences Institute, which sponsors a yearly Research Symposium and public lecture; and the Brain Health Consortium, which runs workshops, brown bags, and a happy hour.
The central event is the Neuroscience seminar series (over 200 podcasts with previous speakers are here). Afterward, students host the seminar speaker for lunch. Students also attend the student-led Neuro Colloquium, and the faculty-led Neuro Friday meetings where members of the Neuroscience community at all levels get rigorous, constructive feedback on grants, papers, and works in progress. These activities provide excellent opportunities to develop scientific networks and gain first-hand experience with the personal interactions at the heart of doing science.
UTSA has a number of core facilities to support state-of-the-art research:
Neuroscience PhD students learn core scientific proficiencies such as lab and data science techniques, oral and written communication skills, experience in synthesizing large amounts of information, project and time management skills, and experience working in teams. The program supports a culture of interaction and students have many opportunities to present and critique each other's work. These include presenting research rotation talks, participating in the Neuro Colloquium and Neuro Friday meetings, and presenting at and attending the Biology Department PhD symposium held jointly with the PhD program in Cell and Molecular Biology. Students go on to present at national meetings like the Society for Neuroscience (SFN), with multiple sources available to obtain travel support.
The program also promotes a culture of grant and fellowship writing. Students take a course in Scientific Writing, are encouraged to apply to early stage fellowships such as the NSF GFRP and Ford Foundation Fellowship, and must submit their thesis proposal to a federal institution like the NIH or to a private foundation. Finally, students also take a course in Scientific Teaching where they learn modern approaches to scientific pedagogy and apply these in the classroom. Additional training is provided by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Success.
The program offers structured mentoring to help students lauch successful scientific careers. In the first year, the core course instructors help students adjust to life as a graduate student and meet weekly with PhD students to help them prepare for the written qualifying exam. At the end of the first year, students match with the Principle Investigator (PI) of a research lab. The PI serves as a student’s primary mentor and works closely with the student to develop the range of skills to obtain the PhD. Second year students enroll in a workshop course in Scientific Writing to develop their research plan and mold it into a formal fellowship proposal. After defending their proposal and passing the oral qualifying exam, students form a dissertation committee of UTSA faculty and an outside member, generally a distinguished scientist in the student’s field of specialization. This committee provides professional and scientific advice as students progress toward their dissertation defense.
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