Neuroscience Theme

Prospective students should use this checklist to obtain specific admissions requirements on how to apply to Graduate School.

Co-Directors: Dr. Scott Wilson, Dr. Tara Desilva
Phone: (205) 975-5573

Theme Information

The UAB Neuroscience Graduate Theme is a portal into the comprehensive neuroscience research opportunities at UAB. Students entering the Neuroscience Graduate Theme will find a home and anchor for their entire graduate experience. Throughout a student's entire Ph.D. career, the faculty and staff of the Neuroscience Graduate Program provide continued support, encouragement, and guidelines for success. The theme-based UAB Neuroscience Graduate Program seeks to equip and train students to become tomorrow's innovative neuroscientists by

  • Teaching basic neuroscience ideas that become stepping stones to more in-depth research
  • Providing unique professional and scientific avenues through which they can develop their presentation skills, learn critical thinking and how to design experiments
  • Offering students the opportunity to choose neuroscience research from a multitude of options available through labs all over campus, not limiting students to a department but, rather, a discipline
  • Providing opportunities for informal interaction with other students to discuss research, scientific writing, as well as a social  network of peers to assist students in staying grounded Students enter the neuroscience theme either through direct admit into the program or after their first year when moving into the permanent lab of a neuroscience mentor. Neuroscience theme students follow the neuroscience curriculum and do not join a departmental  graduate program nor follow a departmental graduate program curriculum. The student becomes affiliated with the department in which the mentor holds his/her primary appointment for the purpose of the awarding of the degree.

Departments affiliated with the Neuroscience Theme include:

  • Neurobiology
  • Cell, Developmental & Integrative Biology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Pediatrics
  • Pathology
  • Vision Sciences 


Admission to our program is highly competitive. We generally admit only 6-7 students each year. Students admitted to our students meet and usually exceed general requirements of:

  • 3.0 or above undergraduate GPA
  • GRE scores of 550 or better on each section for a minimum composite score of 1100 / > 300 on the newest scoring system
  • Strong background in biology, chemistry and/or mathematics
  • Research experience, minimum 6 months bench research 
  • TOEFL (for international students) of greater than 500 on paper-based test and greater than 173 on computer-based test

Only online application materials will be accepted.

Required Application Materials

Domestic students: (No application fee)

  • Application and personal statement
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended
  • Official GRE scores (Institutional code 1856)
  • 3 letters of recommendation

International students: ($60 application fee)

  • Application and personal statement
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended
  • Official GRE scores (Institutional code 1856)
  • Official TOEFL scores
  • 3 letters of recommendation

All students accepted into the program receive

  • Free tuition
  • Free health insurance
  • $29,000/year stipend (current for 2015-2016)


All first year students follow the same curriculum, designed to provide them with the foundations they will need as they move into permanent labs and begin their own research projects. Students begin their year attending the Intro to Neurobiology course at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico. While there, the student is exposed to a variety of learning opportunities, including lectures, hands-on experiments, and going out into the Gulf to "fish" for marine life. Students live at Dauphin Island, dorm style, for 2 1/2 weeks in late summer, working hard with UAB faculty and teaching assistants and playing hard during their downtime. This course provides a very unique opportunity for neuroscience students.

Overview of General Requirements --

  • Students are required to successfully complete 2 electives prior to their last semester.
  • Registration for the Student Summer Seminar Series is required for each student each summer semester. Participation includes attendance, completion of an evaluation form for each speaker, and the presentation of a 20 minute PowerPoint talk and 10 minute Q-A session. Students will present once each summer. First year students are excluded from presenting.
  • Students must register for and attend a seminar series of their choosing (with advice from their mentor) each semester until graduation.
  • A biostatistics course is required - BY 755, and is taken during the spring semester.
  • All students must successfully complete an ethics course. This is taken during the fall semester of the student's 2nd year (GRD 717).
  • Students must register for a journal club of their choosing (with advice from their mentor) each fall and spring semester until graduation.
  • Two first-authored papers accepted to an appropriate journal are required unless the student's committee recommends/approves differently.
  • Students must be registered for a minimum of 9 hours during the Fall semester, 9 hours during the Spring semester, and 9 hours during the Summer semester each year.
  • 18 credit hours of dissertation research are required before graduation. This means you must have a minimum of two semesters between the semester of your Qualifying Exam and your final defense semester.
  • You must be registered for at least 3 credit hours during the semester in which you plan to graduate, unless told otherwise.

Neuroscience Theme Faculty

The faculty listing for the Neuroscience theme is located at  

Additional Information

Deadline for Entry Term(s): Consult theme website for deadline information:
Deadline for All Application Materials to be in the Graduate School Office: Consult theme website for deadline information:
Number of Evaluation Forms Required: 3
Entrance Tests GRE (TOEFL and TWE also required for international applicants whose native language is not English.)

For detailed information, contact:

Patricia Matthews
Program Manager
UAB Neuroscience Graduate Theme
SHEL 120D / 1825 University Boulevard
Birmingham, AL 35294-2182
Tel: 205.934.7034
Fax: 205.996.6749