Ph.D. in Neuroscience

Student with Professor Jon Cohen.Student with Professor Cohen.

Applications will be accepted in September for the incoming Class of 2018 with a deadline of November 27, 2017.

Please note that this application deadline is earlier than in past years. Be sure to check the University graduate school webpage for additional information.

View some recent examples of student research. View an overview of the Ph.D. timeline.

How do our brains work? How do millions of individual neurons work together to give rise to behavior at the level of a whole organism? Training researchers to answer these fundamental, unanswered questions is the goal of the new Ph.D. program in Princeton's new Neuroscience Institute. Students in this program will learn to use the latest techniques and approaches in neuroscience. Most importantly, students will be trained in how to think, and how to develop new techniques and approaches: creativity and originality will be essential to cracking the puzzle of the brain.

Students in the Neuroscience Ph.D. will take lecture and laboratory courses; learn to read, understand, and present current scientific literature; develop and carry out substantial original research, and present their research at meetings and conferences.

Coursework in the Princeton Neuroscience Ph.D. program is based on the idea that hands-on experience is an essential part of gaining real understanding. During their first year, all students participate in a unique year-long Core Course that surveys current neuroscience. The subjects covered in lectures will be accompanied by direct experience in the lab. Thus, all students, regardless of their background, learn through first-hand experience what it is like to run their own fMRI experiments; to design and run their own computer simulations of neural networks; to image neural activity at cellular resolution in behaving animals; and to patch-clamp single cells, to name a few examples. This course offers students a unique opportunity to learn the practical knowledge that is essential for successfully developing new experiments and techniques.

A multielectrode bed onto which a salamander retina has been placed.A salamander retina on a multielectrode bed. (Photo courtsey of Berry Lab)

Incoming students are encouraged to rotate through up to three different labs to choose the lab that best matches their interests. In this process, students may sometimes discover an area of research completely new and fascinating to them. Following their rotations, and by mutual agreement with their prospective faculty adviser, students choose a lab in which they will carry out their Ph.D. research.


The main pillar of a student's Ph.D. will be their original, in-depth research with one of our world-class faculty. Some examples of recent work led by students include the first patch-clamp recordings from grid cells of mice running in virtual mazes; developing and testing detailed models of the dynamics of decision-making in rats and humans; studies of the effects of changes in neural input-output gain on attention and learning; and developing methods to use real-world speech in combination with fMRI measures, which revealed critical links between speech production and comprehension systems.

The Office of Disability Services (ODS) at Princeton University offers a range of services to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to Princeton's academic and extracurricular opportunities. Prospective students with disabilities considering study in any of Princeton’s programs are encouraged to contact ODS to learn more about the services and accommodations that can be provided. The Disability Services staff is available to meet with prospective students who are visiting the campus and current students who have a disability or suspect they may have a disability. For more information, please see the ODS website.