Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies: Specialization in Translational Neuroscience

Degree Awarded: Ph.D.
Unit: GI
Program Webpage:

Program Information

The Interdisciplinary Program in Translational Neuroscience (IPTN) is a PhD program designed to provide broad training in neuroscience to prepare students for careers in academic, clinical and translational research involving the nervous system including disease, trauma and developmental disorders.

Students will be assigned advisors initially to help them with course selection, choosing laboratories to rotate in and finding research mentors. Committee members will be assembled from the participating professors/lecturers representing a broad range of both basic and clinical Neuroscience. Individualized curricula will emphasize basic genetic, molecular, cellular, and/or systems mechanisms that underlie a wide range of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases and disorders.

Students who successfully complete the program will gain a strong academic background in the neurosciences and intellectual mastery of relevant scientific literature with a major emphasis either in the system/cognitive or cellular/molecular areas. They will gain a good understanding of the ethical issues involved in conducting translational research and receive outstanding training in how to conduct basic science research and/or clinical research with patients.

Areas of focus include:

  • Spinal cord injury, motor systems and rehabilitation.
  • Vision, retina and visual pathways
  • Sensory systems, autonomic nervous system and pain
  • Developmental neurobiology
  • Behavioral & cognitive neuroscience
  • Neuropharmacology and neurochemistry


Graduate Studies – PhD

To earn the Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies: Concentration in Translational Neuroscience, a student is required to successfully complete the following:

  • Core Courses
  • Other required and elective courses as approved
  • Qualifying examination
  • Laboratory Rotations
  • Original Investigation
  • Dissertation and defense

Core Courses:

Fundamentals of Neuroscience: ASNB XYZ Fall semester. 3 credit hours. A survey of processes underlying the functioning of neurons and neural systems.
Translational Neuroscience: NSCI 601 Spring semester. 3 credit hours. This interdisciplinary course combines the basic genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that underlie a wide range of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases and disorders with their clinical manifestations. The goal is to foster an understanding of the links between basic science, disease-oriented research, and translational research, building an interdisciplinary foundation of knowledge in basic and clinical neuroscience. Classes will be taught by experts in basic and clinical neuroscience. For each thematic area, there will be one discussion session/journal club that will be led by a student and will focus on the topic being covered.

Advanced Biostatistics (BIOL 650;). 4 credit hours. Application of statistical methods commonly used in life sciences, with emphasis on interpretation of experimental data. Alternate statistics classes (e.g., PSYC 610/611; others) can be substituted with student committee approval. A minimum of 4 credit hours total is required.

Research Ethics (BIOC 630). Spring semester. 1 credit hour. Topics include ethical conduct in research; data acquisition, management, sharing and ownership; mentor/trainee responsibilities; publication practices; peer review; conflict of interest; as well as career guidance and opportunities.

Neuroscience Seminar Series Journal Club (ASNB 606). 1 credit hour/ semester (total = 4 hours).  Students present their review/critique of published journal articles from the laboratories of neuroscientists speaking in the Neuroscience Series.  The host faculty for each seminar speaker facilitates the discussion. The goals of this course are to 1) provide students with background information needed to understand Neuroscience Seminars 2) increase student participation and enhance their interactions with Neuroscience Seminar speakers during the seminar and student-speaker lunches 3) teach critical thinking and evaluation of Neuroscience literature.

Example Electives: Customized to each student (many more available).

PSYC 642    Behavioral Neuroscience               
MBIO 667    Cell Biology                        
PSYC 645    Cognitive Neuroscience               
PSYC 621    Cognitive Processes
ASNB 677    Current Topics in Sensory Systems
ASNB 617    Developmental Neurobiology

Laboratory Rotations and Original Investigation: Students must work in a laboratory during every semester of their graduate training.  Before choosing a laboratory for their dissertation research, students must take rotation hours through at least one laboratory in the interdisciplinary program.  These and subsequent research hours (until the student has entered candidacy) will be taken under GS 699 Independent Research.

Mentor and Advisory Committee: Once a student selects a mentor, he or she will form an Advisory Committee consisting of the mentor plus 4 additional members of the Translational Neuroscience Program faculty.  The faculty members composing the Advisory Committee will have primary appointments in a minimum of three separate departments.  The Advisory Committee may be reformulated, with the permission of the Executive Committee, as the student progresses towards completion of the degree.

QUALIFYING EXAMINATION:  (Completion by the end of the second year).

Part 1: The student’s committee will prepare two questions designed to assess the student’s ability to integrate course material, to demonstrate critical thinking, and to evaluate neuroscience literature related to the student’s area of interest. These two questions will be submitted to the chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee, who will select one question for distribution to the student. The exam is “open-book” and the student will have one month to complete the exam. The exam must be written in the student’s own words, and represent the student’s unaided efforts. Prior to submission, it should not be edited or critiqued in any form by the mentor or by the student’s committee. The answer for Part 1 should be no less than 25 pages and no more than 35 pages in length, double-spaced, not including references. The use of books and review articles is acceptable; however, a significant portion of the paper must be based on recent, primary sources in scientific journals. The answer will be evaluated on a mastery of basic background and conceptual material, familiarity with the literature in the field of study and critical thinking about the cited works and the scientific question.   Part 2 of the exam will consist of an oral defense of the student’s answer before the program faculty.  Faculty may also ask general neuroscience questions using a current graduate-level neuroscience text as a source and/or a set of classic papers.

Other Programmatic Activities (students are also required to participate in the following programmatic activities):

Student Research Presentations: Students in their second through fourth years of study are required to present their research progress to the Neuroscience Program faculty.

Neuroscience Research Day: Students are expected to participate in this annual event sponsored by the Louisville Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience
The Neuroscience Seminar Series: (Fall and Spring semesters) All students are required to attend neuroscience research seminars. Two researchers are brought in each month during the academic year whose technique or research focus areas are of broad interest to the university’s diverse neuroscience research community.


Faculty will be determined during the development of each individual student's program proposal.