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Neuroscience PhD: suggestions for preparing, what schools to consider


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I will be graduating in 2015 from a 5-year undergraduate program at Northeastern University with a major in behavioral neuroscience and computer science minor. I am looking at PhD programs in motor neuroscience, if possible in a program that would also allow me to do some work with robotics.

I was hoping someone could give me some suggestions on which schools to look at, as well as what I can do in my remaining time in undergrad to strengthen my application.  Also, should I take the GRE subject test? If so, in what subject?

Sorry for the long post, and thanks for your help!


Here are my stats:


GPA: 3.97/4.0

GRE: haven't taken it yet


Research experience:

Volunteering (15-20 hours/week) in research lab on campus studying human motor control for 2 years so far (will continue when I return to the US)

6-month full time co-op in that lab

6-month full time co-op at Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany (a robotics lab)

Will complete another co-op next fall (Thoughts on what type of co-op in would be good to do?)

Planning Honors thesis for Junior/Senior year



None yet, but professor hopes 2 of my projects will get there before I am applying

Presented posters at Northeastern research expo and Northeast Undergraduate Research Symposium

Attended Neuroscience 2012 conference


Other possibly relevant experience:

Mentor for undergraduate math/science research program, including teaching Matlab

TA/tutor for introductory computer science course


LOR: Pretty sure they will be quite strong. (Planning to use 2 of the recommenders who wrote letters for Goldwater scholarship.)



Goldwater scholarship, university provost research grant, travel funding for Neuroscience conference


Possible weaknesses:

So far for math, I've only completed Calc 1-3 and “statistics in psychological research,” but I plan to take Linear Algebra and Differential Equations

I have limited robotics experience (this is a new interest). I plan on taking robotics courses, but I won't be able to until my last semester (spring 2015).


I've just started to look at schools, but here are a few I've found so far of interest:




University of Chicago

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU)

Carnegie Mellon

Current professor at Northeastern also said she would fund me if I wanted to stay for graduate school, but I think I would like to go somewhere else and get a different prespective.

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Continue doing what you're doing!  You are doing great so far, especially with the grades and research.


Whether or not you need to take the GRE Subject Test is going to depend on what programs you apply to.  Identify potential graduate programs first, and then look at their admissions requirements.


To identify programs for you, one way is to ask your professors where the top scholars in your area are doing research.  Another way is to read articles in the field that are cutting edge or exciting to you, and then find out where those authors are located and if they are still doing research in those fields.  If you can, visit a regional or national conference in your field and start networking - go to talks that look interesting and talk to the presenters afterward.  (Bonus points if you present yourself!)

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