Master of Science in Neuroscience Course Curriculum

MSNS Course Curriculum Chart

*Qualifying Exam

Summary of Courses

The Essentials in Neuroscience Series

Essentials in Neuroscience I - This course imparts to the student a basic, but in depth understanding of the major concepts of signal transduction within the nervous system works from a physiological and pharmacological perspective. The physiological perspective covers basic mechanisms of the membrane potential and how these changes are generated by activation of ionotropic and metabotropic receptors. Synaptic transmission and its short and long-term modulation are covered in depth. Experimental methods on how to isolate complex electrical activity into its components through pharmacology and genetic techniques are covered as well as how emerging techniques in Neuroscience are used to investigate the connection between circuitry and behavior.

Essentials in Neuroscience II - This course gives the student an in depth understanding of the functional connections in different parts of the nervous system with a focus on input, modulation and output of local circuits as well as neurodevelopment. The course takes the principles of cellular and molecular neurobiology taught In Essentials I into a broader context where complex networks of neurons and systems dynamically interact to produce sensation and control. Examples of the visual system, hippocampus, cortex, hypothalamus, cerebellum and motor systems are used to show how unique signal transduction in the nervous system occurs. Development will cover embryonic differentiation into neural tissue, migration, synapse formation and elimination and gene expression involved in neural and glial ontogeny. The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are also covered. Each week, there is also a journal club component lead by faculty to introduce students to seminal papers in Neuroscience literature as well as sharpen their skills in critical analysis of findings.

Essentials of Neuroscience III - This course is designed to give the student an overview of different diseases of the nervous system and explore ways to investigate their mechanism of action, or mechanisms by which drugs combat disease or reduce symptoms. Some topics that will be covered are epilepsy, sleep disorders, stroke and traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Other Core Courses

Methods in Neuroscience - This course is designed to give MSNS students exposure to common laboratory techniques used in many biological laboratories today. Basic techniques dealing with DNA, RNA and protein will be covered such as running gels, PCR, immunoprecipitation and western blotting. In addition, students will be exposed to techniques specific to neurobiology such as electrophysiological recording, simulations of electrical signaling, pharmacologic effects of agonists and antagonists, and practical exposure to human brain anatomy. The course will combine lecture and practical laboratory experience and include compulsory components for biohazard safety and animal handling and care.

Scientific Integrity - Students in the MSNS program will participate in yearlong laboratory research. Therefore, it is important to learn about the ethics and integrity of research. Students will participate in the class already offered in the GEBS program.

Research Data Analysis - Students in the MSNS program will participate in the same basic statistics course as the MSBR and 2nd year Ph.D. students in the GEBS program.

Critical Thinking and Scientific Communication I - Students in the MSNS program will take the first semester of the course already offered to other students in the graduate school. This course focuses on analysis and synthesis of scientific presentation. Students will analyze journal articles and practice scientific writing in a variety of biology disciplines. In the second semester, MSNS students will take a companion course specifically designed to study papers in the field of Neuroscience (Critical Thinking and Scientific Communication in Neuroscience).

Critical Thinking and Scientific Communication in Neuroscience - This course will focus on careful analysis of articles from the Neuroscience literature.  Students will be expected to prepare ahead for an active discussion with classmates and faculty a selected paper each week.  Each week, a different student will present a pre-assigned paper. Articles will cover a range of Neuroscience literature. Students will be expected to apply concepts learned in the companion course, Critical Thinking and Scientific Communication I.

Other Requirements

Qualifying Exam - There is one qualifying exam given at the end of the first year of study. The material covered will integrate concepts learned from Essentials of Neuroscience I and II and will focus on utilization of their body of knowledge gained in those courses with problem solving and experimental design.

Neuroscience Institute Discussions - The Neuroscience Institute holds weekly seminars throughout the academic year.  All academic members of the Institute including students are expected to attend this weekly event. These weekly seminars allow students to learn about the different scientific activities within the institute as well as presentations by scientists invited to the institute.  This gives students a focus in fields of Neuroscience while providing breadth since the interests of inviting faculty within the Institute are varied.

Biomedical Sciences Presentation - During their Master year, all M.S. in Neuroscience students are required to present their work in a research conference type forum.  This requirement may be satisfied by participating in the MSM’s Annual Curtis Parker Student Research Day, through a poster or oral presentation.  All Students are required to complete a minimum of one professional scientific presentation to qualify to graduate.

Thesis Proposal, Research and Defense - Students are required to choose a research advisor, research project and thesis advisory committee. Mentors and laboratories for students to choose from will be from faculty of the Neuroscience Institute. If a student wishes to choose a faculty member from outside the Neuroscience Institute as mentor, this is possible with approval of the director of the MSNS program. The student must select, with the aid of their research advisor, a thesis advisory committee and a thesis research project. That committee must include the advisor and at least two additional professional scientists with relevant expertise, at least one of who must be a member of the Neuroscience Institute and the MSM graduate faculty. The Thesis Proposal involves a number of stages, all of which lead to the approval of the thesis proposal by the thesis advisory committee of the student. The content and format of the thesis proposal are to be determined by the thesis advisory committee of the student.  

The student should expect to go through several drafts of the proposal with the advisor before formally submitting the proposal to the thesis advisory committee. Once the proposal is submitted to the committee, the student should be prepared within one-to-two weeks to present and defend the proposal to the committee. The presentation should last thirty (30) to sixty (60) minutes and include visual aids as appropriate. The student should expect to receive, and be prepared to answer, specific questions on, and criticisms of, various aspects of the proposal including the rationale for the work, basic scientific and biologic principles, methodology, and the background literature.  

Once the thesis research is completed to the thesis advisory committee's satisfaction, the student must prepare a written thesis following the institution’s published thesis guidelines describing the background, approach, and results of the work, including a discussion of the significance of the findings in advancing scientific knowledge. Successful thesis research must constitute an original contribution to scientific knowledge. Once the written thesis has reached its final stages, the student must, with the approval of the thesis advisory committee, schedule a public presentation and defense of the work. The student’s committee will determine whether the student has successfully defended his or her thesis. All members of the student’s thesis advisory committee must be present at the defense and approval of the defense must be unanimous.