Neuroscience Program

Doctoral Dissertation


For a successful completion of their doctoral program, candidates must satisfy all applicable university degree requirements and all requirements established by the department/faculty for the Neuroscience Ph.D. program. Doctoral candidates must pass a final public defense of their doctoral dissertation and successfully accomplish the following:

1. Dissertation Research. After advancing to candidacy, the candidate works on his or her doctoral dissertation while enrolled in NEUR 999.

  • Candidates must complete a minimum of 12 credits of doctoral dissertation research (NEUR 999), and a minimum of 24 research credits (NEUR 998 and NEUR 999 combined)
  • A candidate must be enrolled in a minimum of six credits per semester if he or she is to maintain a “full-time student” enrollment status
  • A candidate holding a graduate research assistantship who has completed all 48 course credits and 24 research credits may maintain a decrease to 1 credit per semester and maintain full-time status, with submission of form “Doctoral Dissertation Research Full-Time Equivalent Status” each semester
  • The candidate is expected to make an original and significant contribution to the field worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. One first-authored, primary data publication in a peer-reviewed journal is required before the thesis can be accepted for the committee review.  Two or more such publications are strongly recommended.

2. Pre-Defense. The public defense is preceded by a pre-defense meeting, in which only the candidate and the dissertation committee members need to be present.

  • The dissertation must be made available to the committee at least 14 days in advance of the pre-defense
  • The pre-defense meeting and the defense should be scheduled at least 4 weeks apart (both appointments should be created at the same time)

3. Defense. The defense must be announced at least 14 days in advance.

  • The dissertation must be made available to the committee at least 14 days in advance of the defense
  • The doctoral committee reviews the dissertation and examines the candidate in a public oral thesis defense
  • Bring one copy per committee member of dissertation rubric and oral presentation rubric.  The completed forms should be returned to the Director of the Neuroscience PhD Program.

4. Dissertation. The final dissertation is comprised of the student’s first authored manuscripts together with a brief intro and conclusion/future directions.

  • The final dissertation must be submitted prior to the last day of classes of the semester, and a format review must be scheduled no later than 5 days prior to that
  • The candidate should refer to the University Thesis and Dissertation Services website for deadlines and to help to prepare, format, and properly submit his/her dissertation to the university library

5. Degree. The degree will be awarded upon completion of the required course work (NEUR 999) and successful defense of the thesis.


The candidates should refer to the Registrar's graduation website for coordinating their dissertation defense timelines with the graduation process timelines and requirements.

  • Note that, the total time for items 2-4 above is 7 weeks: you must give your dissertation to your committee 7 weeks before the end of the semester.

The following doctoral graduation checklist will help to guide the Neuroscience doctoral candidates through the process of completing the requirements for the degree.

  1. File a Graduation Intent form through the PatriotWeb system by the deadline.
  2. Select a pre-defense and defense date with your committee at the beginning of the semester (allow two hours for each event).
  3. Email the Director of the Neuroscience PhD Program with your pre-defense and defense dates and an unofficial transcript.
  4. Schedule your dissertation format review with the library.
  5. Update your current mailing address, phone number, and email address on PatriotWeb.
  6. At least 21 days prior to your defense date:
  • Email the necessary information about your defense (your name, department, dissertation title, committee chairperson, date, time, and place of defense) to
  • To insure proper formatting of the signature page, e-mail ( or fax (703-993-9033) a copy of your dissertation signature page to the COS Office of Graduate Academics. That office will review the formatting and inform you of any necessary changes (which should be made prior to your defense and the attainment of any committee member signatures).
  • Ensure all "IP" (In Progress) and "IN" (Incomplete) grades are resolved by the end of the semester.

The candidate should maintain contact with his or her Dissertation Advisor, dissertation committee, the Director of the Neuroscience PhD Program and the College of Science Graduate Program Director throughout the semester for information and for any changes in the requirements and deadlines.

Print Friendly and PDF