The Neuroscience, PhD program focuses on the study of the brain and addresses the challenge of developing an integrative understanding of cognition and higher brain function. In response to this challenge, the rapidly developing field of neuroscience has produced an exponential increase in the amount of data available to investigators as they develop new theories of brain function and new hypotheses to test. The main objective of the program is to prepare students to participate at the cutting edge of this exciting field in academia, industry, and government. The program provides students with a rich interdisciplinary intellectual environment that fosters the development of the skills they will need to successfully pursue research careers.

Current faculty research focuses on the broad areas of behavior, anatomy, physiology, neuropharmacology, molecular biology, computational modeling, and informatics. External research collaborations exist with federal agencies, private and not-for-profit corporations, and other universities. The scope of research ranges from the subcellular and molecular level (in the context of such phenomena as drug addiction and the biological basis of schizophrenia) to the systems and behavioral level.

Current research projects include plasticity mechanisms supporting development, network formation and information processing, network/cellular/subcellular models of associative learning, biochemical dynamics in disorders of the basal ganglia, computational methods for simulation of complex biological systems, role of metals in memory and Alzheimer's disease, and dynamical behavior of neurons and networks of neurons, and identifying and characterizing protein interactions for the dopamine and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain.


University-wide admissions policies can be found in the Graduate Admissions Policies section of this catalog. International students and students having earned international degrees should also refer to Admission of International Students for additional requirements.


Applicants should have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field from an institution of higher education accredited by a Mason-recognized U.S. institutional accrediting agency or international equivalent. Completed coursework should include undergraduate courses in organic chemistry, cell biology, and calculus. Coursework in biochemistry (e.g. BIOL 483 General Biochemistry), cell biology (e.g. BIOL 484 Cell Signaling and Disease), and molecular genetics (e.g. BIOL 482 Introduction to Molecular Genetics) is highly recommended. Admission requires a minimum GPA of 3.25 in undergraduate studies. 

Application Requirements

To apply for this program, prospective students should submit the George Mason University Admissions Application and its required supplemental documentation, and:

  • A goals statement related to the research interests of at least one faculty member in the program,
  • The names of two faculty members who may be suitable to serve as advisors or supervisory committee members, and
  • Three letters of recommendation from faculty members or individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant's academic or research capabilities. 

The GRE is not required for admission into this program.


For policies governing all graduate programs, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Transferring Previous Graduate Credit into this Program

Previously earned and relevant graduate credits may be eligible for transfer into this program; details can be found in the Credit by Exam or Transfer section of this catalog.

Banner Code: SC-PHD-NEUR

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students should refer to the Admissions & Policies tab for specific policies related to this program.

Doctoral Coursework

Core Science
NEUR 702Research Methods3
Select one statistics option from the following:3-8
Introduction to Random Processes in Electrical and Computer Engineering
General Linear Modeling I
and General Linear Modeling II
Analysis of Experimental Data
Applied Probability
Applied Statistics I
Core Neuroscience
NEUR 601Developmental Neuroscience3
NEUR 602Cellular Neuroscience3
NEUR 603Mammalian Neuroanatomy3
NEUR 701Neuroscience Laboratory3
Rotations and Readings
NEUR 703Laboratory Rotation and Readings (taken three times)9
Select 16-21 credits of electives or independent research in order to achieve 48 pre-dissertation credits. The courses must be approved by the student's advisor, providing further substantive or methodological specialization.16-21
Elective course options for students interested in attaining professional skills include:
Multidisciplinary Problem Solving and Leadership
Total Credits:48


An additional requirement for graduation calls for students to have at least one publication (in print or in press) in a refereed journal.

Doctoral Committee and Proposal

When coursework is nearing completion, the student should form a doctoral committee of at least three graduate faculty members and start preparing their dissertation proposal. Students in consultation with their advisor identify which faculty are appropriate to be a part of their committee. The dissertation committee administers the qualifying exam and evaluates the dissertation proposal as well as the dissertation itself. At least one of the committee members must be outside of the dissertation advisor's department.

Candidacy Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

The doctoral candidacy examination includes written and oral components. After passing the candidacy exam and receiving committee approval for the dissertation proposal, the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy.

Dissertation Research

Note: No more than 24 combined credits from NEUR 998 Dissertation Proposal and NEUR 999 Doctoral Dissertation may be applied toward satisfying doctoral degree requirements, with no more than 21 credits of NEUR 998 Dissertation Proposal.

Select 24 credits from the following:24
Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits24