Master of Science in Anatomical Science and Neurobiology

Degree Awarded: MS
Unit: GM
Program Webpage:

Program Information

The thesis M.S. 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 thesis M.S. degree is offered to students who want to continue their education in Anatomy and Neurobiology and offers the student the opportunity to improve his/her background for career development (e.g., to prepare for a career in teaching, or to prepare for further higher education programs such as a Ph.D. program, Dental or Medical School).

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 who wish to apply must submit an application to the Office of Graduate Admissions with the following documents:

  1. A formal application submitted to the University of Louisville Office of Graduate Admissions (see website: for forms and directions).

  2. Application fee.

  3. A minimum of two letters of recommendation.

  4. Official transcripts of all college work.

  5. Official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test and/or MCAT.

  6. A brief statement of purpose describing your interests and career goals.

  7. 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.



Requirements for the thesis M.S. Degree

Students should familiarize themselves with the general requirements for the master's degree as stated in the current UofL Graduate Catalog. Briefly, a minimum of 30 semester hours is required for the master’s degree, of which 15 semester hours must be in courses of the major subject area. At least one-half of the credits counted toward the degree must be 600 level courses or above. This does not include research credit hours. The department imposes the following additional requirements:

Students will successfully complete at least two of the following courses within the department:

Gross Anatomy (ASNB 601) 6.5 credit hours

Microscopic Anatomy (ASNB 603) 5.0 credit hours

Fundamentals of Neuroscience (TBD) 4.0 credit hours

Human Embryology (ASNB 605) 3.0 credit hours

*Developmental Neurobiology (ASNB 617) 3.0 credit hours

*Molecular Neurobiology (ASNB 614) 4.0 credit hours

*Synaptic Organization of the Brain (ASNB 666) 3.0 credit hours

Survey of Dental Gross and Neuroanatomy (ASNB 672) 7.0 credit hours

Dental Microscopic Anatomy (ASNB 671) 5.0 credit hours

* Offered on a rotational basis

Seminar: Anatomy Seminar (ASNB 606, 1 credit hr) must be taken for credit each semester prior to candidacy.

Electives: Additional courses (electives) within ASNB or graduate level courses in other departments may be taken to achieve the minimum requirement of 30 credit hours. The student should consult with his/her advisor on the selection of the appropriate electives.

Research Hours: Research credit hours may be taken as Laboratory Rotation (ASNB 618), which is graded on a pass/fail basis, prior to choosing a mentor. Once a mentor is chosen, research hours are taken as Original Investigation (ASNB 619), in which students earn a letter grade.

Candidacy: After completion of all requirements (as outlined above), students enter Master’s Candidacy and must register for and maintain candidacy (MAST 600) until the successful defense of his/her thesis. This registration must be maintained year round (fall, spring and summer semesters) until the degree is awarded. Once a student registers for MAST 600, he/she may not register for additional courses. The statute of limitation for obtaining a Master’s degree is six years from the beginning of the program of study.

The minimum number of hours which must be taken is nine (9) in the fall or spring semester and six (6) in the summer semester. The maximum number of hours that may be taken in the fall or spring semester is 12 (or 15 hours if three or more are research hours). 12 credit hours (including research hours) is the maximum allowed for summer sessions.

Original Research

Students will conduct this required research under the direction of a member or joint/associate member of the departmental faculty (hereafter known as the thesis advisor) who is also a member of the graduate faculty. Faculty reserve the right to decline accepting a student.

During the first year of enrollment, students are required to visit the laboratories of potential advisors to become acquainted with the faculty and the research opportunities available. Selection of an advisor and the initiation of a research project should be concluded prior to the end of the first year, at which time a written agreement, signed by both the student and thesis advisor, will be filed with the Graduate Program Director.

A thesis master of science degree requires more than the completion of a prescribed curriculum of course work, a written thesis based on original research, and a successful oral defense. By its nature, original research does not always achieve positive results within a specific period of time. Therefore, no specific time can be given for the successful completion of this degree. Note that students are advised to complete the majority of their course work in the first year so that adequate time is allotted in the second year to complete their research and thesis. Specifically, students will be required to engage full-time in research for the equivalent of two academic semesters and maintain steady and satisfactory progress. Faculty advisors submit Graduate Student Progress Reports biannually to the ASNB Graduate Program Committee for review.

Thesis Committee

The composition requirements of, and specific deadlines related to, the thesis committee appear in the Graduate Catalog. Briefly, the thesis committee is composed of the student’s advisor and two other faculty, one of which is from a different department. All three must be members of the graduate faculty. This committee should be established shortly after the student and her/his advisor agree on a specific research project. To avoid unnecessary delays the student should regularly consult with her/his thesis advisor and committee members concerning the direction and progress of the research project. Once in Master's candidacy, the student should meet with their committee at least once per semester.

Thesis Defense

The M.S. candidate will focus exclusively on completing their research projects and writing a thesis describing the results of their experiments. It is expected that the thesis should contain data sufficient for approximately one publishable manuscript. Upon completion of the thesis, the student will distribute a copy to each committee member. The committee will have two weeks to read the thesis and give approval to schedule a defense date or recommend changes that must be completed prior to scheduling a defense date. Once the thesis is approved by the committee, the student will schedule a thesis defense. SIGS requires that an announcement of the defense be posted at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date. The defense will  consist of an oral presentation (approximately 30 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 thesis before the committee. Completion of the M.S. degree will be determined by majority vote of the committee.

Electronic Format of Thesis

Deadlines for the submission are published in the schedule of classes. Students must follow The School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) requirements for the format of their Master’s thesis. The published Guidelines for the Preparation and Processing of Theses/Dissertations [pdf]are available for reference. Any thesis received by SIGS that does not reasonably adhere to their guidelines will be returned to the student or committee chairperson.

SIGS requires the submission of a digital thesis. The digital document must be submitted in Adobe PDF format. The electronic version should not include signatures from the thesis advisory committee. It should list the committee members’ names only. Students must submit a hard copy of their signature page on white paper, with original signatures, to SIGS. If students wish to use material that has been previously published under their names in their thesis, they will need to contact the original publisher for permission. ASNB requires a bound copy of each student’s thesis. For archival purposes, it is recommended that the document be printed on 25% cotton paper.

Academic Policies

Satisfactory Progress

All graduate students are expected to make steady and satisfactory progress toward the completion of degree. 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 meet 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 Thesis Committees will evaluate the student’s progress and unsatisfactory progress will be reported to the Graduate 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 advisor will be assigned to each incoming student until he/she has selected a Thesis Advisor.

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.


Richard Benton

Assistant Professor

Kunwar P. Bhatnagar

Professor Emeritus

Martha E. Bickford

Course Director of Synaptic Organization of the Brain

Maxwell Boakye

Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery

Bart Borghuis

Assistant Professor

Jennifer Brueckner-Collins


Rita M. Colella
Associate Professor

Course Director of Medical Microscopic Anatomy

Nigel G.F. Cooper

Director of Molecular Neurobiology Core Laboratory

William Guido


Susan Harkema
Professor of Neurological Surgery

Research Director of Frazier Rehab Institute

Nicole R. Herring
Assistant Professor
Course Director of Advanced Head and Neck Anatomy and Survey of Dental Gross & Neuroanatomy

Director of Fresh Tissue Laboratory and Bequeathal Program

Dena Howland

Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery

Charles H. Hubscher
Vice Chair and Director of Graduate Studies

Course Director of Fundamentals of Neuroscience

Kathleen M. Klueber

Professor Emerita

Robin F. Krimm
Vice Chair for Research

Course Director of Developmental Neurobiology

Ashok Kumar


Nobuyuki Kuwabara
Associate Professor
Course Director of Medical Gross Anatomy

Facilitator for Guest Clinical Gross Anatomy Instructors

Robert F. Lundy, Jr.
Associate Professor

Course Director of Medical Neurosciences

David Magnuson

Professor of Neurological Surgery

Maureen McCall

Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

J. Patrick Moore
Associate Professor

Director of Graduate Admissions

Jeffrey C. Petruska

Associate Professor

Matthew Qiu

Director of Neurochemistry Shared Instrumentation Laboratory

Richard Rink

Professor Emeritus

Guillermo W. Rougier


Patrick Scott

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Michael T. Tseng

Course Director of Dental Microscopic Anatomy

Scott Whittemore
Professor of Neurological Surgery

Scientific Director of Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center