Neural Science (PhD)

NYU Neuroscience

Program Description

Understanding the brain is one of the great scientific challenges. How does the nervous system allow us to sense, move, learn, decide, remember, and think? How are the underlying neural circuits built by genetic and molecular programs? How do neurons communicate via synapses to transmit and store information? What goes wrong in neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia, and in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease? And how can we model neurons, circuits and systems to better understand the brain? Graduate students in our PhD program in neuroscience are addressing these questions at labs located across NYU, using cutting-edge tools drawn from genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, electrophysiology, microscopy, computer science, data science, and mathematics. This website is designed for you to learn about graduate training in neuroscience at NYU.

Our program arises from two cooperative centers located just a few city blocks apart: the Center for Neural Science (CNS) and the Neuroscience Institute (NI). CNS, located at NYU’s Washington Square campus, is home to core neuroscience labs, has affiliate labs in biology, psychology, physics and data science, and is NYU’s portal for undergraduate neuroscience education. The NI is located at NYU’s school of medicine and houses additional core neuroscience labs, as well as affiliates from clinical departments and the Nathan Kline Institute. Together, CNS and NI serve as the joint pillars of graduate training in neuroscience at NYU, with research spanning genetic, molecular, cellular, developmental, systems, behavioral, and computational levels. Prospective graduate students apply through a single online portal and applications are jointly reviewed by a single admissions committee that spans CNS and NI.

Students in our PhD program receive comprehensive interdisciplinary training in all areas of neuroscience, with a strong emphasis placed on performing research at the highest level.

  • At the start of their training, students choose an area of specialization — either Molecular, Cellular, and Translational (MCT) or Systems, Cognitive, and Computational (SCC) — allowing them to focus their study of brain function. 
  • During their first year, students take required coursework in cellular and systems neuroscience, neuroanatomy, and quantitative methods. They also perform lab rotations, typically 3 months each, in which they are exposed to the specific research problems and methods of 2 or 3 labs. Students are advised by a Director of Graduate Studies on rotation advisor selection, rotation and course progress, and managing a balance between courses and lab.
  • By the start of their second year, students typically choose a thesis lab, and begin working with their faculty mentor to design a thesis project. While starting their thesis research, students continue course work with electives focused on their areas of expertise. Students also form an advisory committee, which is usually composed of 3 additional faculty from across our program. 
  • At the start of their third year, students have a qualifying exam, where they defend a written proposal in the format of a predoctoral NIH NRSA fellowship.
  • In later years, students take elective courses and pursue original thesis research guided by their faculty mentor. Students typically meet with their advisory committee once or twice a year to receive outside feedback and guidance. Student give public talks on their research after the 1st and 3rd years, and participate in a variety of departmental, regional, and international scientific meetings. Many students also write successful fellowship applications to fund their own research, and their thesis research is often published in the most prominent scientific journals. 
  • In addition to academic courses and research, there is a strong emphasis on providing training and advice on teaching, career and scientific development, grant writing, community outreach, and broad communication skills.
  • Graduate training finishes with a written dissertation, public talk, and oral defense, supervised by the thesis committee and an outside reviewer (typically a faculty member from another university). 

Students in our program go on to do postdoctoral work in neuroscience, work in science, medicine, and other technical fields, and become research faculty at other institutions.

Dual Degree

The Neural Science Department offers a dual degree with the NYU School of Law: Neural Science PhD/Law JD.

See Neural Science for admission requirements and instructions specific to this program.


All applicants to the Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) are required to submit the general application requirements, which include:

See Neural Science for admission requirements and instructions specific to this program.