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  • 1. BROWN UNIVERSITY-NIHGraduate Partnerships Program in Neuroscience Organization and Policies 2009-10
  • 2. Table of Contents1. General Description 32. Admissions Procedures 33. Coursework 44. Advising 45. Laboratory Rotations and Research 56. Graduate Program Activities and Events 67. Teaching 68. Comprehensive Exam 79. Preliminary Exam/Thesis Proposal 810. Dissertation Preparation and Defense 811. Expenses 912. Governance 913. Faculty Trainers 1014. Graduate Student Grievance Procedures At Brown 1015. Graduate Student Grievance Procedures At NIH 12 2
  • 3. 1. General DescriptionThe Brown-NIH Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) in Neuroscience provides advanced study foracademic and research careers in neuroscience. Students receive broad, multi-disciplinary training inneuroscience with a strong foundation in core concepts, skills, methodologies, and advancedcomprehension of the scientific literature. Students take a core curriculum that encompasses multiplelevel analyses including genes, cells, systems, cognition, translational neuroscience, and diseases ofthe nervous system. At all stages of instruction, we integrate skills considered essential forsuccessful, independent research careers in neuroscience. These include critical thinking andreasoning, effective science writing and oral presentation, knowledge of scientific review processes,and training in ethics. Admission is limited to applicants for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy inNeuroscience.To fulfill the Programs requirements, each student must pass all courses with a grade of “B” orhigher, pass a comprehensive examination, propose and defend a thesis topic (preliminary exam),and complete and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation. The thesis, which describes thestudents original research, should contribute significantly to the field of study and be of sufficientquality to merit publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Each student serves as a teaching assistantwithin one of the Programs departments for one semester, and participates in other Programactivities (See Section 6).2. Admissions ProceduresThere are two Admissions Committees, one at Brown and one at NIH. The Brown Committee iscomprised of the Director or Co-Director of the Program, one senior faculty trainer, one junior facultytrainer, and the graduate student representative. At least one member of the committee has theirprimary appointment in a department other than neuroscience. The NIH Committee comprises theCo-Directors and two NIH investigators.Students interested in the Brown-NIH GPP must apply to both programs. On the Brown applicationthey must indicate their interest in the GPP.The Admissions Committees review all applications, but all Program faculty have access to graduatestudent applications. The Admissions Committees compare initial rankings and collectively generatean interview short list based on their assessments, together with solicited comments and rankingsfrom faculty. Applicants interview at both Brown and NIH, and both committees must agree on theoffer list. Admission letters are sent from both NIH and Brown to successful candidates based onpost-interview rankings and availability of slots. The Program Directors keep faculty informed at thevarious stages of the admissions process.The Program web sites post application information. Application materials are due to the BrownUniversity Graduate School by December 5, 2009 for September, 2010 entry. Matriculating studentsare expected to have an undergraduate degree in a scientific discipline such as Biology, Psychology,Neurobiology, Chemistry, Physics, Applied Math, Engineering, or Computer Science. Candidateswhose undergraduate training does not include certain topics critical to their research interests cantake additional courses as part of their program of study.3. Coursework 3
  • 4. All students take the following core courses in their first year of study:NEUR1650 Structure of the Nervous System ABC/NCNEUR2030 Advanced Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology I ABC/NCNEUR2040 Advanced Molecular & Cellular Neurobiology II ABC/NCNEUR2050 Advanced Systems Neuroscience ABC/NCNEUR2010 Graduate Proseminar in Neuroscience S/NCNEUR2020 Graduate Proseminar in Neuroscience S/NCNEUR2980 Graduate Independent Study I - Section 15 S/NCNEUR2980 Graduate Independent Study II - Section 15 S/NCTo satisfy any course requirement, a student must receive a grade of A or B. Lower grades (C andNC) will trigger a meeting of the student’s Advisory Committee to discuss remedial or other action.All first year students take a two part Comprehensive Exam (see Section 8) based largely on thecontent of the core courses.Second year and third year students sign up for four sections of NEUR2980 – Section 15 (Dr.Lipscombe) S/NC until their 24 credit requirement is fulfilled. Brown University requires 24 coursecredits for graduation.GPP students leave Brown after completing their comprehensive exam at the end of their secondsemester. There are no formal course requirements beyond laboratory work after the student’s 1styear at Brown. However, we recommend that students be proficient in Statistics and that they takeadvantage of courses offered at NIH.4. AdvisingEach entering student is assigned an advisor from the Program faculty for the initial phase of training.This advisor serves together with the Director and the Co-Director as the students 1st year AdvisoryCommittee. The faculty advisor meets with the student at the beginning of the first semester toprovide general oversight of training. The 1st year Advisory Committee meets with the student in lateOctober and again in early March to discuss progress in course work, laboratory rotations, fellowshipapplications, and general program information.GPP students transfer to NIH at the end of their second semester, where they will choose theirdissertation advisor. This choice must be approved by John Isaac or Katherine Roche, ProgramDirectors at NIH. The Thesis Advisor becomes the first member of the student’s Thesis Committee.The students and their Thesis Advisor then select two additional faculty members to serve on theThesis Committee. One faculty member must be an Associate or Full Professor at Brown and on thelist of approved faculty trainers in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. The second committeemember should be an investigator at NIH in a different laboratory from the Advisor. Students andAdvisors may invite other faculty to participate in committee meetings who are not trainers in theNeuroscience Graduate Program. They can add to the scientific discussion but they are not votingmembers of the committee.The chair of the Thesis Committee is someone other than the Advisor.In the student’s 2nd year, the Committee’s primary focus is to help in preparation for the preliminary 4
  • 5. exam, which takes place in October of the student’s third year of study.In the student’s third year and beyond, the Thesis Committee’s focus is to help guide the dissertationplan. All students should be strongly encouraged to publish, present their findings at the Society forNeuroscience, take summer methods courses, and apply for individual predoctoral fellowships.The Thesis Committee must meet at least once each year, in the September-October timeframe, withthe student to evaluate progress in the thesis research. After each meeting of the Thesis Committeethe chair of the committee will complete and submit a training update form that is available from theProgram Directors. Additionally, the student and advisor will submit a progress report in the March-April timeframe, signed by both. If possible, students should arrange committee meetings whenBrown faculty members are in Washington, DC. Alternately, they should set up video or internetconferencing so that the Brown committee member is an active participant in committee meetings.At least once each year, the graduate students will meet informally as a group with the ProgramDirectors at NIH (2nd year students and beyond). These meetings are intended to keep the studentsinformed about the development and organization of the Program and Department. They also providean opportunity for student feedback and suggestions concerning financial support, teachingresponsibilities, Program requirements, and other issues of mutual concern.Additionally, each student is encouraged to meet individually with one of the Directors to discussprogress in the Program and general programmatic affairs.5. Laboratory Rotations and ResearchA crucial responsibility of new students in the GPP is to choose a research area and a Thesis Advisor.There are a very large number of advisors and laboratories to select from at NIH. Students arestrongly encouraged to arrange their first rotation at NIH the summer immediately before starting atBrown. The second rotation starts at the end of the second semester. Students must inform KatherineRoche and John Isaac of their rotation plans. They must also inform the GPP once they select theiradvisor.To become familiar enough with the alternatives and to make an informed choice, students areencouraged to attend seminars and lab meetings and interview with faculty. GPP students join a labduring their two semesters at Brown. Students are expected to attend all lab meetings and participatefully in laboratory research and related activities.Laboratory research should be arranged and underway by the first semester of the first year. In rareinstances it may be appropriate for a student to delay the onset of laboratory work until after the firstsemester, but the delay must be explicitly approved by the Program Director. Even in such cases, thestudent is expected to have established a meaningful scientific relationship with a member of thetraining faculty in preparation for their rotation in the second semester. All students are expected towork in a lab during the winter intersession except for a reasonable vacation interval to be arrangedwith the Program Director or Thesis Advisor.6. Graduate Program Activities and EventsA number of special Graduate Program activities and events are integral to graduate training, and 5
  • 6. students must arrange their schedules so they can participate. In cases of unavoidable conflicts orspecial hardship, students may be excused from individual events by the Program Director. • Retreats A one-day retreat for the Neuroscience Graduate Program is held every year at Brown, usually during the week preceding the beginning of the academic year. The purpose of the retreat is to acquaint the graduate students with the research of the Neuroscience faculty, particularly the faculty trainers. The retreat is organized and arranged by a committee consisting of the Graduate Student Representative, one faculty member, and several graduate students. GPP students also attend a NIH student retreat in September. • The Graduate Seminar in Neuroscience (NEUR 2010 & 2020) is intended to expose graduate students to the latest work in key fields of neuroscience. All students attend weekly seminars that occur every Thursday at 4 PM followed by an informal social with the speaker. All graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend these socials. Each year, the outside speakers are chosen by the Colloquium Committee with input from graduate students who can select two speakers to invite and host. Also, one student is assigned each week to set up and operate the audiovisual equipment for the seminar and assist with refreshments. The Colloquium Committee is appointed by the Chair of the Steering Committee. • In-House Seminars: 2nd year graduates and beyond are encouraged to return to Brown for a day to present their work at the In-House Seminar Series. Students are also encouraged to attend journal clubs at NIH. • Weekly Laboratory Meetings: Every research laboratory conducts weekly meetings. Students must attend lab meeting. It is a requirement for a passing grade in NEUR2980. Students must inform their advisor if, for any reason, they cannot attend. • Ethics and Skills Workshops: All 1st year students are required to attend the Ethics and Skills Workshops offered by the Program, and the Ethics of Responsible Conduct in Research, a seven week series conducted by the Division of Biology and Medicine. These workshops are designed to foster skills necessary for a successful career in research. • Graduate Student Recruitment: Recruitment is essential for program vitality. Students assist in recruiting new students to the Program each year. The Graduate Student Representative helps to coordinate recruitment efforts and establishes a committee of students responsible for organizing social events.7. TeachingThere is no formal teaching requirement for GPP students. However, students interested in teachingexperience may, if class schedule permits, help with one of the courses during their 1st two semestersat Brown.8. Comprehensive ExaminationThe Comprehensive Examination is the first of two exams that must be passed to qualify for 6
  • 7. candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Satisfactory performance on the Comprehensive Examination isrequired for continuation in the Program beyond the third semester. The purpose of the writtenComprehensive Examination is to ensure that students have a comprehensive knowledge of the basicconcepts in neuroscience and that they are able to convey this knowledge. The ComprehensiveExamination also helps identify students in academic difficulty or in need of remedial work.The Comprehensive Examination is administered in two parts: at the end of the first semester and thesecond semester.The exam is a general test of knowledge in neuroscience with questions prepared by the ExaminationCommittee. The exam encompasses the breadth of material taught in five courses: NEUR 165,NEUR 2030, NEUR 2040, and NEUR 2050. Additionally, students are expected to have familiaritywith the content of presentations made at the Graduate Proseminar (NEUR 2010 & 2020).All of the first-year students in a given class take the same written, closed book exam at the sametime. Students are asked to answer four of six essay-type questions over a period of 5 hours. Afterevaluating the students performance on the written exam, the Examination Committee recommendsone of three possible outcomes to the Program Director: 1) unconditional pass; 2) conditional passon successful completion of remedial work that may include re-writing certain sections; or 3) failure inwhich case the student will be evaluated in an oral examination by the examination committee.(Conditional pass on successful evaluation in an oral examination by the Examination Committee.)If an oral exam is required, this will typically occur within 2-3 weeks of the original exam date but, inexceptional circumstances, may be delayed. The oral examination provides an opportunity for theCommittee to ask for clarification of, or elaboration upon, the written answers, but need not berestricted to those topics. Students who fail the oral exam are considered to have failed theComprehensive Examination.In the case of failure, the Steering Committee may recommend that the student be dismissed from theProgram or may permit the student to retake the exam after remedial work. A re-take of either part ofthe Comprehensive Exam must occur no later than the beginning of the students fourth semester inthe Program. In evaluating a student’s status at this time, the Examination Committee may seek anassessment of the student’s performance in the laboratory. If remedial work is judged necessary, theExamination Committee, in consultation with the Program Director, will assign it. This may includeadditional course work, independent study, or the preparation of a paper. As per the guidelines, astudent must pass additional course work with a grade of “B” or higher to remain in good standing inthe Program.A student who fails either part of the Comprehensive Examination a second time or who fails bothparts of the comprehensive exam on the first take will usually not be permitted to continue in theProgram. The Steering Committee will inform the student of this decision and in such cases, a Masterof Arts degree may be offered if the student can meet the requirements.9. Preliminary Examination / Thesis ProposalAdministration of the Preliminary Examination is the responsibility of the student’s Thesis Committee.At least one of the Program Directors from NIH will also attend the examination to ensure uniform 7
  • 8. expectations are met. At the beginning of the fifth semester, the student will present a writtenresearch proposal to the Thesis Committee, the NIH Program Directors, and the Brown ProgramDirectors. The format is that of an NIH RO1 grant application, with a 50 page (double spaced) limit onthe research plan, which includes the specific aims, significance, background (a critical review of therelevant literature), experimental (or analytical) design, and detailed methods of the proposedresearch. The Chair of the student’s Thesis Committee is responsible for notifying the student if theirwritten proposal is not acceptable.When this proposal is accepted as a document, the student will present a 20-30 minute talksummarizing their proposal and experimental plan. Students should be prepared to answer manyquestions from their Thesis Committee and be well prepared to defend their experimental plan. Asuccessful defense of the project constitutes passage of the Preliminary Examination. The student isadvanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. when he or she has completed all required courses and haspassed the Comprehensive and Preliminary Examinations. The Dissertation Defense cannot takeplace within one year of the Preliminary Examination. The preliminary exam will be administered atNIH. If possible, the committee member from Brown will attend the exam but at least they should beincluded via video conferencing.10. Dissertation Preparation and DefenseThe student will write a dissertation in approved form and submit it to their Thesis Committee, the NIHProgram Directors, and the Brown Program Directors for evaluation and revision when their thesisresearch is complete. Before the thesis is submitted, it is the joint responsibility of the student andThesis Advisor to ensure that the thesis is complete and that adequate time is available for theCommittee to read it. At this stage, the Thesis Committee will be augmented by a faculty member(outside reader) with relevant expertise from an institution other than Brown and NIH. At least twoweeks must elapse between submission of the complete, final draft of the written thesis to the ThesisCommittee and the final defense.The thesis will form the basis for a public seminar that must take place at Brown University. Followingthe seminar is a closed oral examination attended by the Thesis Committee and other interestedGraduate Program faculty. The final examination or defense must be scheduled by the candidate atthe convenience of the readers in consultation with the Program Directors.At least four weeks notice of the defense date must be given to all faculty and students prior to thefinal defense.At least three weeks prior to the final examination or defense, candidates must provide the programcoordinator with appropriate dissertation-defense information so the Dissertation Defense InformationForm can be completed and returned to the Graduate School.At least two weeks must elapse between submission of the complete, final draft of the written thesis tothe Thesis Committee and the final defense. At least two weeks prior to the final examination or defense, the following items must be submitted tothe Graduate School by the candidate: 1) The title page, bearing the notation "approval of semi-final version" (typed or handwritten somewhere on the title page) and the signature of the advisor. 8
  • 9. 2) The names of the dissertation advisor and all readers (with contact information for any who are not at Brown). 3) The date, time, and place of the final examination. In some departments this information will come from the manager or the director. 4) A mailing address, telephone number, and email address where the student can be reached through the end of May. 5) All of the candidates previous academic degrees, with institutions and dates of conferral. 6) Date of preliminary examination. 7) Language requirements, including when and how they were fulfilled.Candidates must also assure that all members of the Thesis Committee sign the title page of thethesis.The last day that a doctoral dissertation and all of the associated forms and documents related to thecompletion of a Ph.D. may be submitted to the Graduate School is the first business day in May (May3, 2010), in order to be allowed to participate in graduate that year.Please consult the Dissertation Guidelines from the Graduate School at:http://gradschool.brown.edu/go/dissertation#pDeadlines for additional information regarding thedefense process.11. ExpensesExpenses related to the thesis defense are the responsibility of the Advisor. This includes travel toBrown from NIH, as well as expenses related to the outside reader. Student and Advisor should selectan outside reader with this in mind.12. GovernanceThe Brown-NIH GPP is supervised by Program Directors at Brown and at NIH. These Directors aresenior faculty members appointed for a three-year term. The Brown Director is appointed by theSteering Committee in consultation with the Department of Neuroscience Chair. The NIH Director isappointed by the GPP office at NIH. The Brown Director works with students, the Co-Director, theSteering Committee, faculty trainers, and Advisory Committees to operate the Program. Inconsultation with the students, the NIH Program Director annually appoints a Graduate StudentRepresentative to serve as a liaison between the student body and the Program.The Admission Committees receive and review applications for the annual admission process to theBrown-NIH GPP. Both committees are involved in the review, interview and selection process.External Advisory Group. The NIH appoints an Ad Hoc review group to review the GPPs every fiveyears. The External Review group visited NIH in July, 2009. A written report is available. 9
  • 10. 13. Faculty TrainersIndividual investigators can become Program Faculty Trainers after approval by the GPP, and theBrown-NIH GPP program directors. Faculty interested in accepting graduate students and becoming atrainer need to satisfy certain criteria.Procedure for reviewing current and new faculty trainers including mentoring of junior facultyThe training program maintains a strict policy with regard to inclusion of faculty as trainers while at thesame time encouraging the participation of junior faculty and other senior faculty distributedthroughout the University system. The Steering Committee undertakes annual review of all currentand prospective trainers and will add or delete trainers according to the criteria below: • Have an active, ongoing basic neuroscience research program • Actively participate in training activities • Have a record of successfully training graduate students. Junior faculty with no prior training experience are eligible, provided that they show exceptional promise as independent scientists and trainers. In these cases a mentor will be assigned to junior faculty sponsors • Have adequate research support to provide stable funding for the trainee, as well as an appropriate laboratory environment. Have their status as graduate student mentor approved by their NIH Institute Director • Participate in Program activities14. Graduate Student Grievance Procedures at Brown (FRR Part 4 Section 10.II.A.)1. Mediation:a. Every graduate student is entitled to a fair and prompt hearing of grievances. Before invoking thisprocedure, however, a student who believes himself or herself to be aggrieved must first attempt toresolve the difficulty through discussion with the other person or persons involved.b. If no resolution can be effected by direct discussion, and the student wishes to pursue the matterfurther, he or she must then address either the Program Director, a senior faculty member(Representative), or the Chair of the appropriate department, with the aim of securing clarification andadvice. The Program Director, Representative, or Chair shall then discuss the matter informally withthe several parties and attempt to resolve it by mediation.c. The Program Director, Representative, or Chair shall also prepare a memorandum outlining theproblem, the steps taken, and the proposed resolution. Copies of the memorandum shall be given toall persons involved.d. If a mutually satisfactory solution is not achieved by mediation, and the student wishes to pursuethe matter further, then the Program Director, Representative, or Chair shall make a determination asto whether the question at issue is or is not departmental in nature.e. If it is determined to be departmental, the student may then file a written request for a review withthe Chair of the department (see below - #2 Grievance Procedure); if not, no further action is taken atthe departmental level.f. A student who disagrees with such a determination may appeal it to the Dean of the Graduate 10
  • 11. School, whose decision shall be final.g. A student who has been unable to resolve a non departmental question by personal effort mayalso make appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School, in this case with a view to securing advice anddirection.2. Grievance Procedure:a. If an unresolved grievance has been determined to be departmental, and the student wishes topursue the matter further, he or she must, within a reasonable period of time, file a written appeal withthe Chair of the appropriate department. This appeal must ask for review of the question and mustspecify the alleged injury, the reasons for the students belief that he or she is aggrieved, and theremedy sought.b. The Chair, within a reasonable period of time after receiving an appeal, shall refer it, depending onits nature, either to a committee of review or to the departmental Faculty (see the followingparagraphs). A student who believes that any procedure outlined in this section has not been carriedout within a reasonable period of time may appeal to the Dean of the Graduate School for adetermination of this allegation.c. If the grievance involves any question except that of a change in the degree for which the studentis enrolled, it shall be referred to a committee of review, to be named by the Chair. This committeemust include the Chair (unless he or she is the object of the appeal), at least two other facultymembers, and at least one graduate student member; when the exercise of academic judgment isrequired, the student member or members shall be non-voting.d. As expeditiously as possible, this committee of review shall hear the student, consider theevidence, confer with other persons concerned, and prepare a comprehensive report of findings and amajority vote of the members. It shall be the Chairs duty to carry out, so far as may be, the directionsof the committee for the official record, either by the Chair or by a designated member of thecommittee, and a copy given to the student.e. If the grievance involves the question of a change in the degree for which the student is enrolled, itshall be referred to the regular faculty of the body to present his or her case, and may request thesupport of such witnesses or advisers as are deemed necessary by the student and the presidingofficer. At the invitation of anyone personally involved in the appeal, the Dean of the Graduate Schoolmay at his or her discretion appoint members of the Graduate Council to act as observers. If astudents record is to be discussed in the presence of people other than officers of the University, thestudent must supply such waivers and take such steps as are necessary to satisfy the provisions ofthe Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act when the subject-matter requires confidentialtreatment.f. Minutes consisting of a summary of the proceedings of the appeal shall be kept, and copiessupplied to the student and the Dean of the Graduate School. Decisions shall be by simple vote ofthe majority and shall be taken in a closed session; they shall be made known in writing to the studentby the Chair of the department as soon as possible after a decision has been reached.g. Subsequent appeal of the decisions of the committee of review or of the Faculty of the departmentmay be made to the Graduate Council on the ground that the grievance was not given an impartialand proper hearing. The Council shall consider such an allegation within a reasonable period of timeafter receiving it. If the Council determines that the students complaint is justified, it shall ask to have 11
  • 12. the matter reconsidered by the department, itself monitoring, if necessary, the procedure.Definitions and general provisions:(a) Whenever the word "department" is employed herein, it shall be understood to include Divisionsand Programs where applicable.(b) Whenever the word "Chair" is employed herein, it shall be understood to include Divisional Deansand Program Directors where applicable.(c) Whenever a Chair or a Graduate Representative is the object of an appeal, he or she should stepaside and request the department to name a locum tenens.(d) When an appeal is made in a department which by reason of insufficient number of availablefaculty finds that it cannot carry on the described procedure, this circumstance shall be made knownby the Chair to the Executive Committee of the Graduate Council, which shall devise a specialprocedure for hearing the appeal, following as closely as practicable the model of the regularprocedure. The special procedure may involve the ad hoc enlistment of faculty members from otherdepartments or from the Graduate Council itself.15. Graduate Student Grievance Procedures at NIHRefer to GPP policies and Dr. Sharon Milgram, Director, GPP. 12