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Doctor of Philosophy in Anatomical Science and Neurobiology

Major: ASNB
Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GM
Program Webpage:

Program Information

Our philosophy is to encourage academic excellence in the neurosciences within a framework of structure-function relationships at the molecular, cellular, and systemic levels. We strive to prepare students with sufficient background depth to excel in high tech cutting-edge translational (applied) research environments and the more traditional multidisciplinary academic setting. We provide students with innovative approaches to important issues in neuroscience research including development, organization and plasticity. Our research interests range from sensory and motor systems to therapeutic strategies for spinal cord injuries. In all approaches we strive to integrate the latest teaching modalities while maintaining the time-honored advantages of hands-on, laboratory-based instruction.

The degree program is available to qualified individuals possessing a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. No specific undergraduate major is required, although some science background is required.

The Ph.D. degree is offered to students who plan to pursue a career in research and/or teaching, in an academic institution or within industry.

All degree programs require full-time study, and it is expected that while participating in these programs students will devote full-time effort toward completion of the degree requirements.

Program Admission Procedure

All students wishing to apply must submit an application to the Office of Graduate Admissions with the following documents:

  • A formal application submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions (see website: for forms and directions).
  • Application fee.
  • A minimum of two letters of recommendation.
  • Official transcripts of all college work.
  • Official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test.
  • A brief statement of purpose describing your interests and career goals.
  • All international applicants whose native language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. Students holding a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited institution in the United States are exempt from this requirement.

Program candidates are only admitted in the fall semester (orientation begins the first Monday in August). Review of applications begins mid-January and continues until all positions are filled. Admission into the program is competitive, and applicants are encouraged to submit their applications early.  All applications are automatically considered for a fellowship, which provides a stipend and covers tuition and health insurance.


Required coursework

Students must complete the following courses:

Biochemistry (BIOC/CHEM 545 or equivalent) - 3.0 credit hours

Cell Biology (MBIO 667 or equivalent) - 3.0 credit hours

Two lab rotation (ASNB 618) - 6.0 credit hours total

One methods course (e.g. ASNB 665) - 3.0 credit hours

Anatomy seminar (ASNB 606) each semester prior to candidacy - 1.0 credit/semester

Students must complete at least 12.0 credits of departmental courses (non-research), including at least 6.0 credits of following core courses:

Gross Anatomy (ASNB 601) - 6.5 credit hours

Microscopic Anatomy (ASNB 603) - 5.0 credit hours

Neuroanatomy (ASNB 607) - 3.0 credit hours

Neural Systems (ASNB 608) - 4.0 credit hours

Dental Gross and Neuroanatomy (ASNB 672) - 3.0 hours

Head and Neck Anatomy (ASNB 673) - 4.0 hours

General and Oral Histology (ASNB 671) - 5.0 hours

Students must complete one of following elective courses1,2:

Introductory Immunology (BIO 602) - 2.0 credit hours

Biochemistry II (BIOCH/CHE547) - 3.0 credit hours

Cellular and Molecular Immunology (MBIO 658) - 3.0 credit hours

Neuroanatomy (ASNB 607) - 3.0 credit hours

Neural Systems (ASNB 608) - 4.0 credit hours

Physiology I (PHY 605) - 3.0 credit hours

Physiology II (PHY 606) - 3.0 credit hours

Introduction to Statistical Computing (PHST 620) - 3.0 credit hours

Advanced Biostatistics (BIOL 650) - 4.0 credit hours

1Course substitutions can be made if approved by the ASNB Graduate Education Committee.
2ASNB 607 and 608 fulfill both core and elective requirements.

Following completion of all required coursework, each student is considered a Masters Candidate and will register as such (MAST).

Laboratory Rotations

Each student will complete at least two rotations in different laboratories prior to the start of their third semester. The objectives are to expose the student to different approaches and areas of research, and to assist the student in choosing a laboratory for dissertation research. For each rotation, the student will register for the three (3)-credit course Laboratory Rotation (ASNB 618) which is graded on a pass/fail basis. Once a student has completed a semester rotation in a given laboratory, they can obtain credit for further research in that laboratory by registering for Original Investigation (ASNB 619). Faculty reserve the right to decline accepting a student. Upon selection of an advisor, a letter of agreement will be signed by both the student and advisor which will be filed with the Graduate Program Director.

Advisory Committee

The purpose of the advisory committee is to guide the student in developing a course of study that will prepare him or her for a successful career. To this end, the committee may specify one or more of the courses to be taken by the student.

The committee will have five members, with at least one from outside ASNB. The principal advisor will serve as chair. The student, in conjunction with the advisor, should form a committee prior to the start of the second year. Once the committee is formed, the student will meet with the committee at least twice per year. Following each meeting, the mentor will submit a written brief summary of the meeting to be placed in the student’s file.

The principal advisor who will direct the student's research must be a member or joint/associate member of the Department Faculty as well as a member of the Graduate Faculty.

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to assure that the student has sufficient knowledge and skills to begin a research project. The exam will be taken within 2 terms (Fall, Spring or Summer terms) after the completion of required coursework. The exam consists of an oral presentation and defense of a research proposal (described below).

Prior to writing the Research Proposal, the student will develop an outline of the proposed experiments in coordination with their advisor and then present this outline to their committee. It is at this point, prior to writing the Research Proposal that the committee should recommend any changes in the research plan, regarding, for example, too many or too few experiments, experiments that are too difficult, or experiments that may be more appropriate for addressing the research question. Once the committee is satisfied with the proposed experiments, the student will write a Research Proposal in the following general format.*

Hypotheses and Experiments
This section will consist of a list of the proposed hypotheses to be tested, and a brief description of the experiments that will be used to test these hypotheses.

Materials and Methods
This section will consist of a detailed description of the materials and methods that will be used to carry out the proposed experiments.

Expected Outcomes
This section will describe the expected results.

Potential Problems
This section will describe any potential problems that could occur, how they might affect interpretation of their research results, and how the student will address any potential problems.

*All students are encouraged to submit (in coordination with their advisor) an application for a National Institutes of Health Predoctoral National Research Service Award (F31) or a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Award. Therefore, the Research Proposal may be submitted in the format of a relevant application with the exception that the background and significance section should be expanded to include a more extensive literature review than permitted by the NIH or NSF page limitations.

Upon completion of the research proposal, the student will distribute a copy to each committee member, who will have two weeks to read the proposal.

The qualifying exam will be chaired by the student’s advisor. The exam will begin with an oral presentation (approximately 30 minutes in length), open to everyone, in which the student will present background information and an overview of the research plan. The presentation will be followed by an oral defense to assess the student’s readiness to conduct the proposed research, and their knowledge of all background information relevant to the proposed research. Non-committee members in the audience will then ask questions. The general audience will then be dismissed and the student will defend his/her proposal before the committee. Passing will be determined by majority vote of the committee. A student who fails the exam will have 2 months to retake the exam. Failure on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.

Upon successful completion of the exam, a written report stating the outcome of the exam will be signed by each committee member and will become a permanent part of the student’s record. A passing vote indicates that the student has completed the requirements for an M.S. degree, and is a candidate for the Ph.D. degree. The student must consecutively register for DOCT 600 and maintain candidacy year around (fall, spring and summer) until the degree is awarded.

Annual presentation of research progress

Ph.D. students who have completed their class work (M.S. and Ph.D. candidates) must present their research accomplishments annually. This presentation should be 30-50 minutes in length, and the time and location of the presentation should be formally announced to the department faculty, staff and students at least 1 week prior to the planned presentation.

Teaching requirements

Each Ph.D. student must serve as a teaching assistant (T.A.) in at least one ASNB core course. The specific course will be chosen by the student and his/her advisory committee.

Dissertation Defense

With the exception of their training in teaching, the Ph.D. candidate will focus exclusively on completing their research projects and writing a dissertation describing the results of their experiments. It is expected that the dissertation should contain data sufficient for approximately three publishable manuscripts. Upon completion of the dissertation, the student will distribute a copy to each Dissertation Committee member. The committee will have two weeks to read the dissertation and give approval to schedule a defense date or recommend changes that must be completed prior to scheduling a defense date. Once the dissertation is approved by the committee, the student will schedule a Dissertation Defense which will consist of an oral presentation to the department (approximately 45 minutes in length), of the research completed during the student’s graduate training. Non-committee members in the audience will then ask questions. The general audience will then be dismissed and the student will defend his/her dissertation before the committee. Approval by the majority of Dissertation Committee members will signify completion of the Ph.D. degree.

Academic policies

Satisfactory Progress

All graduate students are expected to make steady and satisfactory progress toward the completion of degrees. Unsatisfactory performance may result in immediate dismissal or in academic probation, at the discretion of the Graduate Education Committee of the Department.

A student may not remain on academic probation for more than one semester, after which his/her performance must equal or exceed the minimum requirements. If a probationary student does not achieve the minimum performance level, the Education Committee will consider their dismissal from the program. In all cases, students receiving financial aid must maintain satisfactory progress in order to be eligible for continued financial support.

Satisfactory progress is assessed by a number of factors. While taking courses, students are required to maintain a minimum average grade of "B", i.e., a cumulative grade point of 3.0 on a 4.0 value scale. Deficiencies in the cumulative average grade generated through course work cannot be overcome using research credits (i.e. ASNB 616, 619 or 620). Unsatisfactory performance (i.e., GPA< 3.0) may result in immediate dismissal or in academic probation.

For degree candidates, satisfactory progress also involves maintaining steady progress in laboratory research, analysis, or the documentation of research results. The Reading or Dissertation Committees will evaluate the student’s progress and unsatisfactory progress will be reported to the Education Committee.

Satisfactory progress also involves maintaining the standards of academic and professional integrity. Plagiarism or other failures to maintain appropriate academic standards will result in immediate dismissal from the program.


For administrative purposes, an interim Ph.D. Advisor will be assigned to each incoming student until he/she has selected a Dissertation Mentor.

Guideline Changes

The Department reserves the right to change requirements at any time. When requirements change, the student may have the option of satisfying either the requirements in effect when he/she entered the program or the new requirements, depending on circumstances.

Departmental Faculty

William Guido
Chairman, ASNB

Robert Acland
Director, Fresh Tissue Laboratory

Martha E. Bickford

Jennifer Brueckner-Collins
Course Director, Medical Gross Anatomy

Nigel G.F. Cooper
Vice-Chair for Research
Director, Molecular Neurobiology Core Laboratory

Raymond Ho
Course Director, Dental Gross and Neuroanatomy; Head and Neck Anatomy

Charles H. Hubscher
Director, Graduate Program

Robin F. Krimm
Course Director, General and Oral Histology

Ashok Kumar

George D. Mower
Course Director, Medical Neurosciences

Matthew Qiu
Director, Neurochemistry Shared Instrumentation Laboratory

Fred Roisen
Professor and Former Chair

Guillermo W. Rougier

Michael T. Tseng
Course Director, Dental Hygiene

Rita M. Colella
Associate Professor
Course Director, Medical Microscopic Anatomy

Nobuyuki Kuwabara
Associate Professor
Facilitator for Guest Clinical Gross Anatomy Instructors

Robert F. Lundy, Jr.
Associate Professor
Director, Graduate Admissions

Samuel Scott
Associate Professor

Richard Benton
Assistant Professor

Nicole R. Herring
Assistant Professor
Course Director, Advanced Head and Neck Anatomy

J. Patrick Moore
Assistant Professor

Jeff Petruska
Assistant Professor

Joint/Associate Appointments

Manuel Casanova
Endowed Chair, Psychiatry

Allan Farman
Diagnosis & General Dentistry

Robert Friedland
Chairman, Department of Neurology

Susan Harkema
Neurological Surgery

David Magnuson
Neurological Surgery

Maureen McCall
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Gülgün Tezel
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Gordon Tobin

Scott Whittemore
Endowed Chair, Neurological Surgery

John Barker
Associate Professor

Maxwell Boakye
Associate Professor
Neurological Surgery

Rif El-Mallakh
Associate Professor

John Johnson
Associate Professor
Chairman, Orthopedic Surgery

Michael Voor
Associate Professor
Orthopedic Surgery

Tongalp Tezel
Associate Professor
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Jun Cai
Assistant Professor

Qingxian Lu
Assistant Professor
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Nicholas Mellen
Assistant Professor

Patrick Scott
Assistant Professor
Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Welby Winstead
Assistant Professor
Surgery, Otolaryngology


Claire Meena-Leist
Assistant Professor

Paul Kiser
Assistant Professor



Kunwar P. Bhatnagar

Ferrell Campbell

James B. Longley

G. Stephen Nettleton


Kenneth Reid

Richard Rink


Richard H. Swigart

Kathleen M. Klueber
Associate Professor

Contact Information

Anatomical Science and Neurobiology - Ph.D.

Charles Hubscher, Ph.D.

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