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Administrative Unit:Neuroscience Training Program
College/School: School of Medicine and Public Health
Admitting Plans:Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professor Mary Halloran (program director). For a list of faculty who are members of the program please see the research tab on the program website.


The Neuroscience Training Program (NTP) was established in 1971. Currently, it comprises over 100 faculty members whose research interests range from molecular neurobiology to integrative systems. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in research and teaching. On average the number of students in the program is approximately 50, half of whom are women. The program is best suited for students who are independent and wish to take a direct role in determining their graduate education. Training leads to the Ph.D. degree in neuroscience or the M.D./Ph.D. degree in cooperation with the School of Medicine and Public Health.

The doctoral program of each graduate student in the training program is tailored to meet individual needs. Each student's program is supervised by an advisory committee of five faculty members selected by the student in consultation with the major professor. During the first year students complete three laboratory rotations and take one-semester courses in molecular/cellular neuroscience and systems neuroscience. Students also take one upper-level course in molecular/cellular and systems neuroscience. Additional advanced courses may be taken to complement individual research interests.

A preliminary examination is required of all Ph.D. degree candidates at the end of the second year of graduate study. The examination consists of two written papers that are presented orally to the student's advisory committee. The first paper is a critical evaluation of a research topic outside the student's major area of interest. The second paper is a thesis research proposal. Additional requirements for the Ph.D. degree are attendance at the weekly neuroscience seminar and completion of one semester of teaching.

The central forum for intellectual exchange in the program is the neuroscience seminar (NTP 900), which meets weekly and is attended by neuroscience students and faculty. During an academic year, members of the program choose six topics in current neuroscience research for consideration. Topics are reviewed intensively in study groups supervised by faculty sponsors. Critical summaries of each topic are then presented by students to participants in the seminar as a series of lectures and discussions. Each three- to four-week topic session concludes with a lecture by an outside invited speaker who is well known for his or her research in the topic area. In the course of every three- to four-year period, most of the major research areas in neuroscience are reviewed in the neuroscience seminar; consequently, students become familiar with the breadth of contemporary neuroscience.

The average time taken by students to complete the Ph.D. degree is five years. The program prepares students for careers primarily in research and teaching in universities and colleges and careers outside of academia. Of the more than 160 students who have earned the Ph.D. degree in the program, more than 85 percent have careers in biomedical science.

Neuroscience and Public Policy Program

The Neuroscience and Public Policy Program is aimed at addressing an unfortunate truth: namely, that science policy and the law in the United States and elsewhere are frequently made by individuals who have little or no training in science, and, therefore, rely on scientists and engineers for advice, most of whom have little or no understanding of how public policy or the law is made. The result of this process is science policy and laws that often are not well conceived, frequently ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive. The program is based on two strongly held beliefs: (1) that sound science and technology policy and law are essential for the well-being of societies; and (2) that a step toward ensuring such policy is to train future scientists in the making of public policy or the law and prepare them to participate in bringing science and society closer together.

Initially, the program offered students the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience, which is granted by the Neuroscience Training Program, and a master of public affairs (MPA) degree, with an emphasis on domestic policy, which is awarded by the La Follette School of Public Affairs. The program added a second double degree track in 2010 offering a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience and a master of international public affairs (MIPA) degree that integrates neuroscience and international public policy. In 2011 the program announced a J.D./Ph.D. dual degree track in law and neuroscience.

In each of the degree tracks, the program brings together faculty from neuroscience, public policy, bioethics, sociology, and law to train research neuroscientists who will be qualified to help shape public policy or the law that should be informed by discovery in neuroscience. The cross-disciplinary training combines didactic and laboratory research training in neuroscience with a classroom-based and "hands-on" education in public policy or the law.

Students in the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program meet all of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in neuroscience, which are set by the Neuroscience Training Program; those for the MPA or the MIPA degree, which are determined by the La Follette School; or those for the J.D. degree as prescribed by the Law School. Neuroscience and public policy students also take the neuroscience and public policy Seminar, which meets biweekly, during each of the years they are enrolled in the program. The seminar, a central element in the program, challenges students to synthesize information that bridges neuroscience and public policy or the law, and to express this synthesis clearly in written critiques and oral presentations.

For more information about the double and dual degree tracks offered through the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program, including admissions requirements, please visit the program website.

Financial Aid

Each student receives a stipend that covers tuition, fees, living costs, and health insurance and is guaranteed for five years if progress is satisfactory. Financial support is provided from the program's NIH training grant, fellowships, and faculty research grants. Teaching assistantships are not used to support students. Limited support is available for international students.


The admissions deadline for the Neuroscience Training Program is December 1. No exceptions will be made for late materials so prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to send in required materials as early as possible. Admission to the program is based mainly on demonstrated ability and interest in science and mathematics. In addition to the minimum Graduate School requirements, the minimum course prerequisites for the NTP are mathematics through calculus and a year each of chemistry, physics, and biology. Applicants for admission must submit all undergraduate and graduate transcripts directly to the Neuroscience Training Program, three letters of recommendation, scores from the GRE general test, and a statement of research interests and goals. Prior laboratory research experience, though not required, is a component of successful applications.

For more information about Neuroscience Training Program admissions, see Admissions on the program website.

Prospective international students should see International Admissions on the program website.

For more information: Neuroscience Training Program, Room 9531, Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research II, 1111 Highland Ave., Madison, WI 53705; 608-262-4932;
Neuroscience Training Program E-mail: ntp@mhub.neuroscience.wisc.edu
Neuroscience and Public Policy Program E-mail: npp@mhub.neuroscience.wisc.edu
Neuroscience Training Program Website: ntp.neuroscience.wisc.edu
Neuroscience and Public Policy Program Website: npp.wisc.edu