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Curriculum & Requirements

NUIN students must satisfy course requirements, a TA requirement and fulfill other program milestones and requirements in addition to completing a thesis. See the Academic Timeline for a yearly summary, and click the links below for more detail on each feature of the program. 

Laboratory Research Rotations
Students must complete at least three laboratory rotations — each one academic quarter in length — a process that culminates in the identification of a lab in which to conduct thesis research.

NUIN students take nine units of graded coursework. These include four units of required courses (NUIN 401-1,2,3 3 units) NUIN 407, (0 units) Biostatistics (1 unit)) taken during the first year and five electives. Electives must be relevant to a student’s research, but otherwise may be chosen from among courses offered by NUIN as well as other Northwestern departments and programs. NUIN recommends that one of the electives be NUIN 414: Finding Your Voice as a Scientist. 

Students meet with NUIN Advisors on the Progress to Degree Committee quarterly in the first year, twice in the second year, and annually after their 5th year in the program. 

Seminar Attendance
During the fall, winter and spring quarters of the first year, each student must attend at least six seminars presented by non-Northwestern faculty. 

Starting in their first year, students must complete an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with their advisor and submit to NUIN. The IDP is designed to allow the Thesis Advisor and student to set annual goals towards research progress and career development.

All students are expected to serve as a teaching assistant for two courses, usually during the second or third years.

Qualifying Exam
The qualifying exam is taken at the end of the second year. It is an entirely oral exam, assessing a student’s mastery of fundamental neuroscience knowledge and skills required to be a successful investigator.

After achieving candidacy, NUIN students are required to give a public seminar, called the Post Advancement to Candidacy Talk (PACT), to gain practice and experience presenting their research to a larger audience. 

Thesis Committee
Students are expected to have their thesis committee established by the end of winter quarter of the third year. The committee is formulated in consultation with the student’s adviser.

Thesis Proposal
Students must complete a written thesis proposal and present it to their thesis committee by the end of the third year. Students are required to meet with the thesis committee at least once before the thesis proposal meeting.

Annual Meetings of the Thesis Committee
Students are required to hold annual thesis committee meetings. These events are documented by the Thesis Committee Status Report, which must be completed, signed and submitted to NUIN following each meeting.

First Author Publication
Before graduation each student must have published (or have in press) at least one first author, peer-reviewed research article. A co-first author publication satisfies this requirement.

Thesis Defense
A student must first defend their written thesis document before the thesis committee. If the student passes the private defense, the student presents a public seminar on the thesis research.

Students who enter NUIN from the MSTP program or the Neurobiology Masters program may have different timelines or requirements. Please refer to the NUIN Student Handbook for details.

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