Neuroscience Graduate Program Curriculum

Course of Study for the Neuroscience Graduate Program

    A. Course Requirements

    Students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program will take the integrated first-year Basic Biomedical Sciences Curriculum (BBSC). In addition, a series of required and elective courses specific to the NGP are taken in the first and subsequent years. These include the course Integrative Neuroscience (NEUR 6403) and any combination of available electives for a minimum of 6 credit hours. Students are required to take a minimum of 9 credit-hours per term (The second number in each 4-number course identification code represents the credit hours for the course). Course evaluations by students are required for all didactic courses in the program. Grades will not be released for any course until all evaluations are received.

    B. Minimal Performance Criteria

    Students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program should maintain a grade of B or higher in all required courses of the program. Students who fail to do so will be required to make up the deficiency by a variety of means, including but not limited to, retaking examinations, taking a readings or special topics course, or repeating the course the next time it is offered. The remedial action to be utilized will be determined by the Advisory Committee and Program Director. Rules and requirements regarding probation and dismissal from the graduate school may be found in section 4.57 of the Academic Policies of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

    C. Elective Courses

    1. Students may choose elective courses to strengthen special areas of interest or weakness, or to provide background for research skills. A minimum of 6 credit hours of elective courses is required in any combination. Students may take additional hours if appropriate.

    2. The elective courses available include any of the courses shown on the chart. Courses offered by other graduate programs may be taken in lieu of the electives listed, but approval of the Program Director is required for the substitution.

    D. Laboratory Rotations

    1. New students will meet with the NGP Program Director and Advisory Committee, who will introduce them to the research activities of our Program.

    2. Each student will rotate through at least 2 laboratories of his/her choice during the first (BBSC) year, beginning with the fall term. Registration is for BBSC 6042 Lab Rotations. NGP students then register for lab rotation in the neuroscience program (NEUR 6042) in the lab they chose to join by the end of the BBSC year and continue to register for NEUR 6042 each term until they pass the written qualifying examination and enter into “Research”. Credit hours depend on the time commitment of the student and faculty member but may not be for less than 3 credit hours (9 contact hours per week) per term. 

    E. Seminars

    Each student is required to register for Seminar each term for the duration of his/her tenure in the graduate school. All students registered for the NGP seminar course (NEUR 6195) must attend at least 80% of fourteen Program-recommended seminars in each term (approximately one seminar per week). Regular and student seminars count toward satisfying the 14-seminar requirement. “Regular” seminars are those presented by non-students (local or visiting faculty, scientists, etc.). “Student” seminars are those presented by any NGP student and include conventional seminars or progress reports as well as defenses of dissertation proposals and dissertations.

    In addition to the seminar attendance requirements, each student must write a brief statement about the seminar, summarizing in the style of NIH reviews (1) Overall impact of the work described in the seminar, and (2) Innovation. Students are graded S/U for the written summary (Form E in our Program Policies).  Summaries will be reviewed/graded by the Director of the NGP seminar course (NEUR 6195).

    Each student will also present one seminar each year of the neuroscience program, typically in the summer term, including the dissertation proposal, the dissertation defense, and other annual presentations. The Advisory Committee is responsible for running the seminar program for students. Two successful seminar series, the Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases Seminars and the Neuroscience & Cell Biology Departmental Seminars are offered, which provide our students with exciting opportunities to interact with external speakers and UTMB faculty and enjoy important presentations by students and postdoctoral fellows as well.

    In addition to regular seminars, we are fortunate to be able to offer the James E. Beall II Memorial Lecture, which is co-sponsored by the Neuroscience Graduate Program and the Department of Neuroscience & Cell Biology and is given annually by distinguished investigators in the neurosciences.  

Curricular Schedule of the Neuroscience Graduate Program

  • YEAR 1

    Term I

  • Required:

    Biochemistry I, II (BBSC 6401)

    Cell Biology (BBSC 6302)

    Ethics of Scientific Research (MEHU 6101, 2 day course)

    Citation/Plagiarism Workshop (2 day course)

    Laboratory Rotation (BBSC 6301) [2nd 8-wks]

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Recommended:

    Laboratory Biosafety (BSC 6217)

    Term II

    Required:

    Molecular Biology and Genetics (BBSC 6403)

    Laboratory Rotation (BBSC 6301)

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Neuronal Excitability (BBSC 6207)  [1st 8-wks]

    Neuronal Transmission (BBSC 6126)  [2nd 8-wks]

    Recommended:

    Principles of Drug Action, Pharmacokinetics and Biotransformation (BBSC 6208)

    Term III

    Required:

    Introduction to Biostatistics & Experimental Design in Basic Sciences (BBSC 6122) [2nd 8 wks]

    Laboratory Rotation (NEUR 6042)

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Integrative Neuroscience (NEUR 6403)

    Recommended:

    Synapses and Neurodegeneration

    Principles of CNS Sensory-Motor Integration (BBSC 6214)

    Biochemical & molecular Neuroscience (NEUR 6202)

    Neurobiology of Disease I-V (NEUR 6181-6185)

  • YEAR 2

    Term I 

  • Required:

    Laboratory Rotation (NEUR 6042)

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Electives:

    Behavioral Neurobiology (NER 6325)

    Developmental Neurobiology (NEUR 6104)

    Neurobiology of Disease I-V (NEUR 6181-6185)

    Advanced Electrophysiology-Potentials and Channel Physiology (NEUR 6203)

    Advanced Topics in Neuropharmacology (PHTO 6223)

    Critical Readings in Neural Injury and Disease (NEUR 6103)

    Current Topics in Neuronal Cell Death (NEUR 6225)

    Term II 

    Required:

    Research (NEUR 6097)

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Electives:

    Neurobiology of Disease I-V (NEUR 6181-6185)

    Critical Readings in Neural Injury and Disease (NEUR 6103)

    Teaching in Neuroscience (NEUR 6220)

    Term III

    Required:

    Research (NEUR 6097)

    NGP Seminar (NEUR 6195)

    Electives:

    Neurobiology of Disease I-V (NEUR 6181-6185)

    Critical Readings in Neural Injury and Disease (NEUR 6103)

    Grant Writing Skills (NEUR 6496)

    Teaching in Neuroscience (NEUR 6220)

  • LATER YEARS

    Seminar (NEUR 6195) and Research (NEUR 6097) each term until admission to candidacy, which must occur by the end of term I of the 3rd year

    Dissertation (NEUR 6099) each term after admission to candidacy

Neuroscience Graduate Program Course Descriptions

    NEUR 6042
    Laboratory Rotations

    The objectives of this required course are to provide students an opportunity to become familiar with the faculty and their research efforts in the Neuroscience Program by participating in the activities of the laboratory (gaining supervised, hands-on experience with techniques and experimental protocols) and by becoming acquainted with the laboratory staff and the goals of the research project. Students will be taught by discussions with the instructor, by reading relevant literature and by active participation in laboratory procedures. The long-term goal of this course is to provide exposure to a variety of experimental approaches and to help in the identification of a supervisory professor and dissertation project. Neuroscience Program students are required to spend at least 3 credit hours in each of three different laboratories (that is, do three different rotations), and must complete the three rotations before the end of their fifth term in the program. Grading is, B, C, F and based on participation in lab discussions and experiments.

    3-8 credits
    Term offered: I, II, III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Laboratory, 9-24 (variable)
    Instructors: Staff

    NEUR 6097
    Research

    Formal research directed toward development of the dissertation research for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Grading will be based upon the student's level of performance as reported by the student's research supervisor and will be assigned as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

    1-8 credits

    NEUR 6099
    Dissertation

    Formal research and writing leading to the preparation and completion of the dissertation for the Doctor of Philosophy degree under the direction of the student's supervisory committee. Grading will be based upon the student's level of performance as reported by the chairperson of the student's supervisory committee and will be assigned as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

    3-9 credits
    Prerequisite: Admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree
    Term offered: I, II, III
    Year offered: Annually

    Students registering for Dissertation are expected to register for a full-time course load.

    NEUR 6210
    Ion Channel Structure & Function

    This course focuses on the role of membrane ion channels in signaling in excitable and nonexcitable cells.  Over the last 20 years fast gated membrane ion channels have been shown to be critical in axonal and synaptic transmission, various sensory transductions as well as basic cellular functions including cell proliferation, volume regulation and migration.  The objective of this course is to become familiar with the basic mechanism that determine ion channel selectivity, gating and energy transduction.  The course will be comprehensive and cover the many variety of channel classes.  The activities will focus on addressing different controversies that presently exist in the channel field.  The grading criteria will be focused on the ability of the student to judge and critically discuss different sides of the controversies.

    2 credit
    Term offered: I (Spring)
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Lecture, 2; Conference and discussion, 0.5;
    Instructor: Dr. Owen Hamill

    NEUR 6181
    Neurobiology of Disease I

    This elective course will explore the nature and basic mechanisms of neurobiological diseases related to dementias and drug abuse. Other courses in this sequence will address other diseases of the nervous system. The course will meet once per week at the noon hour and will consist of faculty-led discussions of recent literature related to the disease entities. An introductory lecture will initiate each disease topic, but successive classes will consist of student-generated discussion of assigned papers from the literature. Students will be graded based on the quality of their preparation and their ability to lead and contribute to classroom discussions. This sequence of Neurobiology of Disease (NOD) courses is designed for students in the Neurobiology of Disease track of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, for MD-PhD students in neuroscience, and for any other graduate student interested in neurobiological diseases, from their clinical manifestations to the basic science underpinnings of their etiology and expression.

    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Graduate Level Neuroscience Course
    Term offered: I, II or III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Jose Barral

    NEUR 6182
    Neurobiology of Disease II

    This elective course will explore the nature and basic mechanisms of neurobiological diseases related to spinal cord injury, CNS trauma and stroke. Other courses in this sequence will address other diseases of the nervous system. The course will meet once per week at the noon hour and will consist of faculty-lead discussions of recent literature related to the injury models and disease entities. An introductory lecture will initiate each disease topic, but successive classes will consist of student-generated discussion of assigned papers from the literature. Grades will be assigned based on student participation. This sequence of Neurobiology of Disease (NOD) courses is designed for students in the Neurobiology of Disease track of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, for MD-PhD students in neuroscience, and for any other graduate student interested in neurobiological diseases, from their clinical manifestations to the basic science underpinnings of their etiology and expression.

    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Graduate Level Neuroscience Course
    Term offered: I, II or III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Jose Barral

    NEUR 6183
    Neurobiology of Disease III

    This elective course will explore the nature and basic mechanisms of neurobiological diseases related to muscle and to the phenomenon of pain. Other courses in this sequence will address other diseases of the nervous system. The course will meet once per week at the noon hour and will consist of faculty-lead discussions of recent literature related to the disease entities. An introductory lecture will initiate each disease topic, but successive classes will consist of student-generated discussion of assigned papers from the literature. Grades will be assigned based on student participation. This sequence of Neurobiology of Disease (NOD) courses is designed for students in the Neurobiology of Disease track of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, for MD-PhD students in neuroscience, and for any other graduate student interested in neurobiological diseases, from their clinical manifestations to the basic science underpinnings of their etiology and expression.

    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Graduate Level Neuroscience Course
    Term offered: I, II or III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Jose Barral

    NEUR 6184
    Neurobiology of Disease IV

    This elective course will explore the nature and basic mechanisms of neurobiological diseases related to sleep disorders, disorders/diseases involving the auditory/vestibular and olfactory systems, anxiety-related disorders, and genetic disorders related to locomotion. Other courses in this sequence will address other diseases of the nervous system. The course will meet once per week at the noon hour and will consist of faculty-lead discussions of recent literature related to the disease entities. An introductory lecture will initiate each disease topic, but successive classes will consist of student-generated discussion of assigned papers from the literature. Grades will be assigned based on student participation. This sequence of Neurobiology of Disease (NOD) courses is designed for students in the Neurobiology of Disease track of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, for MD-PhD students in neuroscience, and for any other graduate student interested in neurobiological diseases, from their clinical manifestations to the basic science underpinnings of their etiology and expression.

    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Graduate Level Neuroscience Course
    Term offered: I, II or III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Jose Barral

    NEUR 6185
    Neurobiology of Disease V

    This course will explore the nature of the processes underlying the development of the nervous system and the mechanisms responsible for neuronal plasticity.  Emphasis will be placed on how derangements among these processes result in human neurological disease. Additional courses in this sequence will address various other diseases of the nervous system. The course will meet once per week and will consist of faculty-lead discussions of recent literature related to these entities. An introductory lecture will typically initiate each topic successive classes will consist of student-generated discussion of assigned published papers. Grades will be assigned based on student participation. This sequence of Neurobiology of Disease (NOD) courses is designed for students in the Neurobiology of Disease track of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, for MD-PhD students in neuroscience, and for any other graduate student interested in neurobiological processes and diseases, from their clinical manifestations to the basic science underpinnings of their etiology and expression.

    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Graduate Level Neuroscience Course
    Term offered: I, II or III
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Jose Barral

    NEUR 6195
    Seminar

    The objectives of this course are to: 1) expose the students to a wide range of current topics in neuroscience and 2) provide the students with experience in organizing and presenting seminars. Exposure to current topics in neuroscience will be accomplished by required attendance at seminars presented by local and visiting scientists. Experience in organizing and presenting seminars will be obtained by requiring the students to organize and present a seminar each year until students are admitted to candidacy. Their performance will be evaluated by the program faculty. Entry-level students present seminars based on original literature in a selected topic area. Advanced students will be expected to present literature and experimental data related to their research experiences. Grading when enrolled for attendance only will be S/U. Grading when presenting will be A, B, C, F based on performance and continued attendance at other seminars.

    1 credit
    Term offered: I, II, III (Required every term student is enrolled)
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Seminar, 1
    Instructor: Dr. Sue Carlton (organized and administered by program Advisory Committee)

    NEUR 6202
    Biochemical and Molecular Neuroscience

    The biochemical and molecular bases of neuronal and glial function at the molecular and cellular levels will be introduced in this elective course. Through lectures and readings in texts and original literature, the following topics will be covered: cellular phenotypes of the nervous system, axon transport and neural repair, neuronal guidance, transmitter release, developmental neuroscience, amino acid metabolism and transport, oxidative processes, neuroimmunology and neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, gene delivery, and genomics. Grading will be determined from a midterm exam and a final exam.

    2 credits
    Prerequisite: BBSC 6101-6104, 6305, 6106
    Term offered: I
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Laboratory: 1, Lecture 1
    Instructor: Dr. Perez-Polo

    NEUR 6203
    Advanced Electrophysiology: Potential and Channel Physiology

    This is an 8-week elective course that begins at the start of the fall term annually. The content of the course will include theory, instrumentation, methodologies and experimental applications of intracellular (sharp microelectrodes), whole-cell patch current- and voltage-clamp, and single-channel patch-clamp analysis of gated channels. There will be three hours of lecture in each of the first two weeks. In each of the successive 5 weeks, students will spend 9 hours per week in a different laboratory, observing and participating in experiments utilizing these techniques as they apply to slice preparations of brain and spinal cord, to dissociated cells, or to channel expression in oocytes or cultured cells. Grading will be based on either a written examination or a research paper.

    2 credits
    Prerequisite: BBSC 6107 or consent of instructor
    Term offered: I
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Laboratory, 1; Lecture 1
    Instructor: Dr. Owen Hamill

    NEUR 6220
    Teaching in Neuroscience

    The objectives of this elective course are to provide students with an opportunity to gain experience in how to teach and to enhance their knowledge of neuroscience. Students will participate in teaching and discussion in the laboratories of the Neuroscience and Human Behavior course (NEUR 6503), which is offered to graduate students and medical students. The students have two one-hour discussion session with faculty lab instructors each week to review the material to be covered in lab and to practice teaching skills. They will then assist in two two-hour laboratory sessions each week. Students will be expected to review material in a group session in the lab, answer questions, point out and explain structures and functional relationships of laboratory specimens, assist with demonstrations and examinations, and assist in setting up and organizing lab materials. Grading will be based on knowledge of material (20%), ability to present reviews to class clearly (40%), ability to interact effectively with small groups in lab (20%), and participation in preparatory sessions and demonstrations (20%).

    2 credits
    Prerequisite: NEUR 6503, NEUR 6403, or consent of instructor
    Term offered: II
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference or discussion, 1, Laboratory, 4
    Instructor:  Dr. Volker Neugebauer

    NEUR 6225
    Current Topics in Neuronal Cell Death

    The objective of this elective course is to introduce students to the molecular basis of neuronal cell death in disease through a combination of lectures and current literature. The first 5 classes will examine the molecular basis of excitotoxicity and ischemic cell death. The remaining 11 classes will examine the mechanisms mediating neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's diseases. Students will be graded on class participation (50%) and presentation of relevant research papers (50%). The development of critical thinking skills will be emphasized. Each class will begin with an introductory lecture by the instructor, and then a paper presented by a student. Class will meet once a week for two hours.

    2 credits
    Prerequisite: None
    Term offered: I
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: 2
    Instructor:  Dr. Darren Boehning

    NEUR 6325
    Behavioral Neuroscience

    The discipline of neuroscience has long used rodents as model organisms.  Currently, genetically altered mice are widely used to test specific hypothesis regarding the neural substrates of learning and memory as well as the mechanisms underlying neuro-psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.  The widespread use of transgenic and knockout mice in neuroscience research necessitates using behavior as an assay to evaluate CNS function.

    The didactic component of this course will provide a general background in behavioral neuroscience with an emphasis on understanding the anatomical (and neurochemical) pathways that underlie different rodent behaviors.  The laboratory component will provide basic skills in assessing the behavioral phenotype of genetically altered mouse models, data analysis, and experimental design.  This includes skills in performing an evaluation of rodent general health, reflexes, motor and sensory function, feeding and drinking behavior, emotional behaviors, learning and memory and reward/addiction-like behaviors.  There are no exams; grades are based on performance in laboratory assignments and the presentation of a written behavioral neuroscience research proposal (~10 pages, NIH-NRSA format)

    This course will prepare Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology students for future work using and validating rodent neuro-behavioral models and is also suitable for students interested in utilizing genetically altered mouse models in their research.

    2 credits
    Prerequisite: None
    Term offered: II
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Lecture, 2
    Instructor:  Dr. Kelly Dineley

    NEUR 6403
    Integrative Neuroscience

    This required course will form a basis for understanding the organization, functions and disorders of the nervous system.  We will study the neurobiological mechanisms of major sensory, motor, emotional-affective and cognitive functions and dysfunctions.  The format will be two weekly sessions of lectures with discussion about important concepts and current topics in neuroscience that focus on critical features of integrative nervous system functions: organizational principles of the nervous system, integration among systems, synaptic and cellular plasticity in physiological and disease states, and underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms.  Grades will be based on class participation and on midterm and final written examinations.

    4 credits
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: 4
    Instructor: Dr. Volker Neugebauer

    NEUR 6104

    Developmental Neurobiology

    The diverse functions of our nervous system, which range from sensory perception and motor coordination to motivation and memory, depend on the precise interconnections of several millions of neurons. These connections are made during embryonic and postnatal development, and are constantly being modified by learning, memory and experience. This elective course considers molecular control of neural specification, formation of neuronal connections, construction of neural systems, and the contributions of experience to shaping brain structure and function. We will focus on factors that control the diversity and survival of neurons, guide axons, and regulate the formation of synapses, and will conclude with two forms of neurodevelopmental diseases. Discussion of primary literature is the main emphasis. Grades will be based on class participation and a written review.

    1 credits
    Prerequisite: None
    Term offered: II
    Year offered: Annually
    Hours per week: Conference and discussion
    Instructor: Dr. Ping Wu

Neuroscience Graduate Program Contacts:

Program Director:
Shao-Jun Tang, Ph.D.
2.104D MRB, Route 1069
Phone Number: (409) 772-1190

Associate Program Director:
Yogi Wairkar, Ph.D.
10.138 MRB, Route 1045
Phone Number: (409) 772-8212

NOD Track Director:
Shao-Jun Tang, Ph.D.
2.104D MRB, Route 1069
Phone Number: (409) 772-1190

Program Coordinator:
Aurora Galvan
120-E BSB, Route 0625
Phone Number: (409) 772-2124