Biopsychology Curriculum

1. First year research project and oral presentation (Psychology 619). Students are expected to become involved in a research project early in their first semester in the program. Before the end of the fall semester of their second year they must give an oral presentation on their research project. Before the beginning of the third year, and advancement to candidacy, students must present a research paper describing their research for approval to their research mentor and one other Biopsychology faculty member.

2. Required introductory course. All students are required to take the Advanced Seminar and Practicum in Physiological Psychology (Psy 731) in their first two years.  Psy 731 cannot be used to replace one of the required, three advanced lecture and seminar courses (as detailed in 
3).

3. A total of three advanced lecture or seminar courses relevant to biopsychology must be taken, and at least two of these must be at the ‘600-level’ or above. The faculty advisors will assume the responsibility for assuring that the student’s course selection is adequate preparation for their professional career. A signed approval note listing the three courses should be sent to the Biopsychology office.

Students are strongly encouraged to take at least one course in Neuroscience and one in Evolutionary Biology. There are a number of courses that meet these requirements, and the appropriate selection for a given student is determined by the student, in consultation with their advisory committee. Courses that have been approved in the past include: Biol 425/ NS 625 (Systems Neurobiology), CMB 422/ NS 622 (Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology), NS 570/571 (Human Neuroanatomy), NS 601 and 602 (Principles of Neuroscience I & II, modules can be taken independently for 1 credit each), Physiol 541/ Psych 532 (Mammalian Reprod. Endocrinology), Physiol/NS 693 (Nervous System Structure and Function), Biol 492 (Behavioral Ecology), Psych 530 (Advanced Comparative Animal Behavior), Anthropology 478 (Primate Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology), Psych 831 (Seminar in Physiological Psychology).  Students may also take advanced undergraduate courses, including Psych 433-438.

Other courses may be approved at the discretion of a student's advisory committee. [Note: Courses cannot be double counted between the categories; e.g., a Neuroscience course taken to meet a Biopsychology relevant course cannot also be counted as a Rackham cognate or Psychology breadth course.

4. Biopsychology Colloquium:. All students are expected to attend the weekly Area colloquium series.

5. Departmental Breadth Requirement. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend the monthly Departmental colloquium. In addition, all students must take one Psychology course in an area besides Biopsychology (i.e., a course not taught exclusively by Biopsychology staff) sometime during their first two years, prior to candidacy. Students should seek the advice of their advisory committee in fulfilling this Psychology “breadth” requirement.

6. A one-year sequence of statistics (e.g., Psychology 613-614) or approved substitute must be taken.

7. Rackham requires a minimum of 4 credits of cognate courses outside of psychology. These courses should be related to the professional goals of the student and approved by advisors (e.g., neuroanatomy, biochemistry, “evolution courses” in biology or anthropology, etc.). Courses used to meet the Biopsychology advanced course or breadth requirement cannot be used to meet the Rackham cognate requirement.

8. Preliminary Examination. Normally, graduate students will take their Prelim Exam in May at the end of the second year. However, dates are adjusted to accommodate research (especially field work) and class schedules.

The exam format will consist of students selecting one question from a list of questions prepared by the faculty. The purpose of the exam is to assess the ability of a student to think logically about a problem area and to formulate research questions, rather than assessing the amount of information they possess. Students will have 2.5 weeks to write a response in the format of a grant application in which they provide some background to the research area, generate experimental hypotheses, propose experiment(s) to test hypotheses, and discuss how results would be interpreted. The document is about 12 pages of double-spaced text. After the faculty has read the papers, an oral exam is held with a committee of 3 faculty. Students normally achieve Ph.D. candidate status by September of the third year in the program. After candidacy status is achieved, a Dissertation Committee is formed to advise on dissertation research and to evaluate the thesis when submitted.

To maintain full-time status, Precandidates must enroll for at least 9 credit hours and a maximum of 18 credits. If they have been  recommended for Candidacy, they should register for 8 credits of Psych 990. Once advancement to Candidacy has been approved by Rackham, the Registrar’s Office will change all 990 enrollments to 995. For each Fall and Winter semester Candidates will register  for 8 credit hours of Psychology 995; they also have the option of enrolling in one additional course per term. Students must enroll in each Fall and Winter term up to and including the semester in which they defend their dissertation.

At least two members of the dissertation committee must be core Biopsychology faculty and Rackham requires that one member be from a Department other than Psychology. The dissertation defense of students in the Biopsychology Area is a public talk given as part of the Biopsychology Colloquia Series followed by an oral exam.