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RedmannX5's avatar

What are some good colleges/universities to get your Ph.D. In Neuroscience from?

Asked by RedmannX5 (814points) December 9th, 2011 from iPhone

I am going to graduate with a BS in Psychology this upcoming May, and I want to continue on and get my Ph.D. in Neuroscience. What are some good schools or graduate programs for this? I want to stay in the United States, but don’t really have a preference about where I live.

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19 Answers

janbb's avatar

Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Brown

wonderingwhy's avatar

Johns Hopkins, Yale, UCSF, MIT, everything @janbb said.

nikipedia's avatar

What do you want to study? Whose lab you’re in is much more important than which school you go to.

whitetigress's avatar

Why not study around this radical and groundbreaking scientist ?

UCSD is a gem.

blueiiznh's avatar

@janbb stated many good ones. Additionally Brigham & Womens and Dana Farber Cancer Institute are teaching Hospitals/Organizations affiliated with Harvard Medical.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Well if you fancy coming to the UK may I recommend the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

RedmannX5's avatar

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. However, I am worried that all of the aforementioned top-notch universities might be 1) too expensive for my financial situation, and 2) very competitive. There is nothing wrong with a little competition, but my cumulative GPA is about 3.4, and these top-notch universities would probably require a higher GPA. Any ideas on where I could go that might be cheaper and slightly easier to get into?

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia You’re absolutely correct, and everyone that I have talked to has told me that I need to get a good, smart, and kind advisor (one that won’t make my life hell for the next decade), and that this is almost as important as the actual school that I attend.

I ultimately want to study how music affects the human brain, so this might narrow down the suggestions.

nikipedia's avatar

I am gonna give you a whole bunch of information, just disregard anything you already know!

Finances: You should not have to pay for your PhD. No respectable program charges its students. Your university should waive your tuition and fees, and you should be paid a small but livable stipend. (I get 27k, which was relatively generous back when I was applying.)

School selection: The schools named above are GREAT for undergraduate degrees, and very competitive. They are not really anything special for neuroscience though. (Nothing wrong with them, but they are known more for undergrad than grad programs.)

You should select your school 100% based on potential advisers. This is not just about finding someone you get along with—you want to work for someone who is well-known in the field, likely to retain his/her funding for the entire time you’re in the lab, and who has access to equipment and collaborators who will be critical to your research.

My best advice for this is to read a lot of articles in your field and see which names keep coming up as authors. (The last author is almost always the person in charge of the lab, or the principle investigator—this is the person you’re interested in.)

Try to find a school that has several advisers that sound like a good fit. Most programs will let you (or force you to) rotate through several labs before committing to one. This will help you determine which advisers are, as you say, good, smart, and kind.

Making yourself competitive: I know you didn’t ask about this, but I’m gonna give you advice on it anyway. Your GPA, as is, will not be that important (it’s in the realm of “just fine” without going into “holy shit!” in either a good or bad direction). Just try to get solid GRE scores too. One other consideration—make sure you’ve taken all the prerequisite courses for neuroscience. Most (though not all) programs require a year of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and calculus.

The most important thing you can do to make yourself competitive is get research experience. If you don’t have it, no program worth going to will accept you. If you are already doing this, do everything you can to get (1) an awesome letter of recommendation and, if possible, (2) authorship on a paper. If you can achieve both of those things, you can practically write your own acceptance letter into the program of your choice. (As long as the rest of your application is strong.)

Last, one specific school recommendation: The first name that comes to mind when you say music and the brain is Daniel Levitin at McGill University, which technically violates your only geographical stipulation (it’s in Canada). They have a great neuroscience program if you’re willing to hop the border.

If you have more questions I’d be more than happy to help out. Good luck and keep us posted!

Harold's avatar

Shame you want to stay in the US, because the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney is a world leader.

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia Thank you so much for all the helpful information. I would LOVE to work with Daniel Levitin, and that might be the only reason I would leave the country. I’ve read his books, and ultimately it was This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitin and Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks that made me want to study music and the brain. I will certainly take all of your advice to heart, as it’s always nice to hear from someone who has already gone through what you’re about to do. Could you possibly direct me towards the website that I could find information about financial aid/stipends for receiving your Ph.D.? Because, come on now, if it’s free to get the best education on the planet, why wouldn’t more people be rushing to get their Ph.D.‘s?

janbb's avatar

@RedmannX5 Most science programs do give funding for Ph.Ds as @nikipedia says; most humanities programs do not. More people do not go for Ph.Ds because it is bloody hard work. Generally the school itself and/or professor you are working with will provide your funding.

I was also thinking of Oliver Sack’s work and wondering if he is teaching anywhere at this point. He is located in the New York area but I’m not sure if he is associated with a university.

RedmannX5's avatar

@janbb It is certainly hard work to get a Ph.D., but the benefits that accompany it will forever outlast the blood, sweat, and tears (at least that’s how I’m justifying it for myself). Thanks for the help regarding financial aid though, I can speak with the university/advisor that I choose and I see if they offer funding. As for Oliver Sacks, he’s currently a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center (as well as being a physician and amazing author). I’ve never thought about working under Oliver Sacks, but that’s definitely something to consider.

janbb's avatar

@RedmannX5 Oh – I agree, I was just addressing your point about why more people don’t get them. Many of the people in my family including my son have them.

nikipedia's avatar

Oh boy. I hate to go all cynical, but I actually do not think a PhD has much benefit at all. If I could go back I am really not sure I would get one. This article is not an exaggeration.

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia Oh I didn’t see that coming, but I would have to respectfully disagree. Many times arguments are started on Fluther out of miscommunication, so please don’t take this as a personal attack, but rather I am just stating my opinion about the subject.
I think that the point of view that the author of that article was writing from was mainly a financial one, meaning he was looking at how much money the average scientist makes. However, if this was the only reason that people went into science, it would’ve been a dead field a long time ago. I personally am going into science because of my love for true knowledge and insight. It is one of the only fields that I have found where I can take my two passions in life, music and people, and accurately learn about how each of them affects the other. Now, if the only point you were trying to get across was that scientists don’t make that good of an annual salary, then I would probably tend to agree with you. But based on your statement that you don’t think Ph.D.‘s have much benefit at all leads me to believe otherwise.

Furthermore, the article was written by a man who has never been a scientist. This naturally leads me to question how much he really knows about the ins-and-outs of being a scientist.

So @nikipedia, have you personally regretted your decision to get a Ph.D.? And if so, are those regrets mainly based on a lack of financial stability and/or a lack of job demand? Or are there other reasons? I ask these questions out of genuine curiosity, because I would like to get the most complete and accurate picture of the field of science before I commit my life to it. Thanks for your insight

nikipedia's avatar

Love for knowledge will only get you so far. Being 27 and unable to pay for a nice dinner out for my boyfriend’s birthday (for instance) is embarrassing. It was less of a big deal when I was 23, and it would bother me less if I had a sense that it would pay off somehow at some point.

The money issues, lack of security, unreasonably high expectations, and terrible job prospects make it all very unappealing. Especially when you can, as has been discussed in the formal education thread, teach yourself all of it in your free time. Trying to make something you love into a job is a great way to make yourself hate it.

I am not sure if I can officially say I regret it. I am going through a rough patch. I spent the past year working on an experiment that failed terribly. I have been on this increasingly narrow track for so many years, and lately I’ve started to think about how I might be able to get off it and do something more meaningful and less like intellectual masturbation.

But I am not trying to talk you out of it. I would not have listened to anyone who tried to talk me out of it back when I was applying. Just go in with your eyes open.

whitetigress's avatar

Well just to throw it out there. I have a friend who is enrolled at UCB and is studying Neurology. For a whole year, 4 quarters, they have him “interning” at UCSD’s neurology section on campus, whilst still receiving full credit at UCB. I would exchange e-mails with the professors at UCSD you may be able to come in through scholarship? Perhaps you have something to offer the campus? Oh well, check GPA stuff here.

RedmannX5's avatar

@nikipedia I understand where you’re coming from, as I’ve always had money issues because of the overall low income of my family. It certainly is hard. And I know that the research I am doing as an undergraduate student is minimal compared to what you’re doing, but I just got done analyzing the data from the main experiment that I worked very hard on, and I didn’t find any significant results…very frustrating.

I guess I just figure that if my passions for knowledge, the brain, and music continue to be as strong as they are now, those passions will be able to drive me through all the rough patches, but I also know that most people’s interests can change quite dramatically throughout their lives. I’ve never really attempted to control my life’s trajectory too much, because I believe that my life will take me in whatever direction I should go. So with that said, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my neuroscience studies, and hopefully it will be a fruitful endeavor. But your advice has certainly given me some things to think about.

My condolences for the rough patch you are going through right now, I wish you the best.

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