The Washington State University General Catalog

Program in Neuroscience

The online catalog includes the most recent changes to courses and degree requirements that have been approved by the Faculty Senate, including changes that are not yet effective.

Program in Neuroscience
Veterinary and Biomedical Research Bldg (VBR) 207

Director, Chair, and Professor, S. Hentges; Associate Director of Graduate Program and Professor, S. Appleyard; Associate Director of Undergraduate Program and Associate Professor, S. Gizerian; Regents Professor, J. M. Krueger; Professors, M. Chandra, C. Davis (Spokane), W. Dong, M. Frank (Spokane), R. Fuchs, J. Hinson, M. Morgan (Vancouver), C. Portfors (Vancouver), M. Schmitter-Edgecombe, H. Van Dongen (Spokane), G. Wayman, P. Whitney; Associate Professors, R. L. Brown, T. Brown, R. Catena, A. Coffin (Vancouver), A. Dimitrov (Vancouver), D. Jackson (Spokane), L. Kapas (Spokane), M. Layton (Spokane), D. Lin, R. McLaughlin, S. McPherson (Spokane) P. Meighan, J. Peters, D. Rossi, J. Sun (Spokane), E. Szentirmai (Spokane), B. Tanner, M. Varnum, A. Vasavada, J. Wisor (Spokane); Assistant Professors, C. Cutter, K. Delevich, J. Gerstner (Spokane), G. Giannotti, A. Henricks, K. Honn (Spokane), Y. Lee (Spokane), L. Peixoto (Spokane), E. Qualls-Creekmore, M. Rempe (Spokane), B. Satterfield (Spokane); Additional Graduate Faculty, C. Burgoyne, S. Demirel, B. Fortune, H. Shen, B. Sorg, D. Stenkamp, L. Wang.

Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system impacts physiology, behavior, and health. It seeks to answer questions at the molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, cognitive, and societal levels through application of a wide array of approaches and techniques. Neuroscience research is critical not only to improving learning and performance, but also addresses some of the most vexing problems that prevent good health. It impacts the very nature on how we view ourselves as sentient beings. WSU has a neuroscience faculty engaged in numerous focuses with particular strengths in the areas of energy homeostasis, sleep, circadian biology, addiction, emotions and well-being, sensory processes, neuronal function, electrophysiology, and movement. The Program sponsors Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, in addition to minors at the undergraduate level.

The undergraduate program for majors is designed for students interested in preparing for professional study in the health sciences (such as Medical Doctor or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), graduate school, or for those who wish to use their training in laboratory settings in universities, government organizations, or industry.

Computational neuroscience is an option within the undergraduate neuroscience major and links the information processing features of the nervous system with information processing of computer systems. Accordingly, the computational neuroscience track supplements the neuroscience core curriculum with information technology courses. In this way students learn not only of the brain and its information processing mechanisms, but also of modern computer hardware and software technologies. Upon completion of the four-year curriculum, a BS in Neuroscience will be awarded. Furthermore, the program is designed to allow students to acquire breadth in computation subjects or, alternatively, to focus on either software or hardware aspects of computation. Students choosing to acquire breadth in computational subjects will be well prepared for graduate study in most areas of neural and biomedical science, including bioengineering. Students choosing a software or hardware focus may obtain a minor in either computer science or computer engineering.

Student Learning Outcomes for BS neuroscience majors


  • Demonstrate knowledge of, and recognize the relationships between, the structure and function of molecules and tissues involved in neurobiological systems at all levels: molecular, cellular, and organismal.
  • Recognize the impact that science has on culture, and vice versa.


  • Perform basic laboratory techniques used in neuroscience research and understand and apply principles of laboratory safety.
  • Locate and retrieve scientific information and read, understand, and critically evaluate primary literature.
  • Prepare oral and written reports in a standard scientific format.
  • Apply the scientific process, including designing, conducting, and evaluating experiments and testing of hypotheses.
  • Use mathematics and statistics to evaluate scientific evidence and interpret graphs and tables.


  • Recognize that all areas of science are integrated and interconnected.
  • Appreciate scientific knowledge as something that is not static, but constantly expanding through the ongoing work of researchers.
  • Value ethical conduct in science.
  • Recognize that the best decision-making and policies are based on evidence.

Transfer Students

Transfer students must satisfy the program requirements for graduation. Science courses taken at other institutions will be evaluated and credits accepted where possible. Transfer students are strongly encouraged to enroll in math and chemistry classes at the appropriate level to meet the program requirements prior to transferring. Inquiries should be directed to the Associate Director of Undergraduate Program.

7-Year Honors Neuroscience/Veterinary Medicine Degree Program

Academically qualified undergraduate students who meet the highly selective criteria for admission to WSU’s Veterinary Medical Program may apply to the 7-year BS/DVM degree program in neuroscience after completion of one year of Honors College coursework at WSU. If accepted into the program, the student will work toward a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience in the first three years of the program and work toward the doctor of veterinary medicine degree in the following four years. The first three years are a combination of WSU Honors College courses and regular university undergraduate courses that fulfill the pre-veterinary and Neuroscience major requirements. The last four years are the traditional Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, plus completion of an honors thesis. Prospective applicants must be admitted to the WSU Honors College and enrolled in Honors courses. See the Honors College for additional information.

Preparation for Graduate Study in Neuroscience

The graduate program prepares students for careers in academia, industry, and government service. Students work closely with faculty members who are internationally known for their research accomplishments in energy homeostasis, sleep, circadian biology, addiction, emotions and well-being, sensory processes, neuronal function, electrophysiology, and movement.  Upon graduation, students with a doctoral degree are credible international experts in the area of their thesis research. They will have developed cutting edge technical research skills, be capable of independently organizing and writing publishable research manuscripts, know the fundamentals on how to write competitive research proposals, have a breadth of knowledge that enables them to critically evaluate neuroscience research, and finally, develop insights that help them identify areas ripe for future investigation. These skills are not only appropriate for basic research, but the ability to organize a set of sophisticated goals, identify a plan to accomplish those goals, and then successfully complete the plan are skills transferable to many jobs. Our graduates have gone on to excellent positions in tier-one research universities, teaching colleges, industry (e.g., biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices), as well as professional schools (e.g., medical, veterinary, optometry).

To be eligible for admission, candidates must meet general Washington State University requirements outlined at the Graduate School website: in effect at the time of their admission, as well as the current graduate neuroscience program requirements.

Applicants to the Ph.D. or M.S. program are required to have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited higher education institution. Applicants must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A=4.0).  Applicants will have completed courses in inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, calculus, physics and a minimum of three courses in different areas of the biological sciences. It is advisable that applicants have a basic statistics course prior to entering the neuroscience program.

Application documents must include the following:

  • College transcripts (unofficial acceptable for initial review–upon admittance official transcripts are required)

  • Three (3) letters of reference

  • Resume or curriculum vitae

  • Personal statement describing why you are interested in studying neuroscience (clearly define which faculty mentor (minimum of 3) you are interested in working with and explain why). If admitted to WSU, you will have the ability to refine your choice of faculty mentors while doing lab rotations.  Included in the personal statement describe an achievement that you are proud of and discuss how you reached your goal, and any obstacles you had to overcome to reach it. Conversely, tell us about a time when you didn’t achieve a goal and what you learned from the experience (maximum word length is 350 words).

  • Writing Statement:  Describe a major finding in neuroscience and/or biomedicine over the past five (5) years and explain why you think it was important (maximum word length is 350 words for statement).  Be sure to cite references used after the writing statement.  An additional maximum length of 350 words is given for the cite references.

  • Turning in a document over the maximum word length may cause your application to be disqualified from consideration.

  • TOEFL scores (minimum score 100). IELTS (minimum score 7), or Duolingo (minimum score 115) required for applicants whose native language is not English. See for more information on language exemptions.

Inquiries should be directed to the Program in Neuroscience, Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience; Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-7620 or email

Students normally begin their studies in the fall semester, which starts the latter part of August. Applicants are offered admission on a rolling basis but may be notified of acceptance as late as April 15. Students may still apply for admission after December, but graduate stipends may not be available for late applicants.

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