Skip to main content

Neurobiology Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Neurobiology and Behavior

Program Description

Requirements for the Ph.D. degree include a minimum one semester of teaching experience, a survey course in neurobiology behavior, and an annual meeting of the Special Committee. The field has no formal language requirement, but one can be imposed by the student's Special Committee. The field also requires each student to give a publicly announced seminar as part of the dissertation defense.

Contact Information

Phone: 607-254-4389

W361 Seeley Mudd Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • cellular and molecular neurobiology
  • neuroanatomy
  • neurochemistry
  • neuropharmacology
  • neurophysiology
  • sensory physiology



Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 1; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam or IELTS Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three recommendations
  • GRE general test
  • GRE subject test in biology recommended, not required

Learning Outcomes

Learning Goals

In the course of studying for and completing a PhD in the field of Neurobiology and Behavior (NBB), students will work toward mastering an integrative understanding of behavior.  The expertise of faculty in NBB ranges from neuroscience to the evolution of behavior.  A major learning goal of our program is to appreciate knowledge from multiple levels of analysis, while specializing in one or more of these areas (mechanistic, developmental, adaptive and evolutionary).  We offer a broad exposure and core curricular basis that will serve as the foundation for more specialized coursework, and ultimately, for independent research in preparation for a career as a professional biologist with a range of employment options.

While each student’s course of study is tailored to his or her needs and background, students across the program will share many learning goals on the road to establishing themselves as professional biologists, including:  independent learning and mastery of the appropriate literature in the student’s subfield; integration of the current state of knowledge to formulate a cutting edge research question; acquisition of data collection skills; acquisition of appropriate analysis skills to derive conclusions for appropriately designed investigations; effective communication abilities using written, spoken and presentation skills. 


A candidate for a Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior is expected to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in the field of NBB, and to contribute significant, original research to our understanding of behavior within their sub-discipline.  In so doing, the candidate shall demonstrate the ability to

  1. critically evaluate the state of their field by analyzing available scientific literature
  2. synthesize current knowledge and identify novel research questions in their chosen field
  3. master appropriate research techniques and collect original data
  4. analyze results using appropriate technological and statistical methods
  5. place and interpret results into a scholarly context and identify their biological importance
  6. master communication skills including the publication of scientific papers, the presentation of scientific talks and the delivery of pedagogically sound lectures
  7. stay abreast of the current state of their chosen field
  8. support and disseminate knowledge through collaboration, teaching and mentoring
  9. uphold standards for scientific rigor and ethical behavior.

Assessment of Learning Outcomes

There are three main ways that learning is assessed as part of a PhD program in the field of Neurobiology and Behavior. 
A)    The first is through formal coursework and registration unit grading, within which assessments include exams, essays, participation and presentations (for coursework) and a semiannual assignment of registration units documenting satisfactory progress toward the degree. 
B)    The second is through the admission to candidacy exam (i.e. the “A” exam).  The A-exam typically is conducted by the fifth semester of graduate study and examines the student’s general breadth and depth of knowledge in the field and potential for independent research in their area of study.  The A-exam is an oral exam and is conducted by the student’s special committee.  To prepare the student, the A-exam is normally preceded by independent reading and/or writing assignments. 
C)    The third assessment occurs at the close of the course of study in the form of defending the dissertation.  The defense includes a public presentation of research results delivered to the field of NBB.  The public defense is followed by the B-exam, which is conducted by the special committee and examines the student’s originality of results, comprehension of research results, and written and oral communication proficiency.