SDN Program Requirements

Course Requirements. Students are required to complete 81 units of graduate coursework related to social and decision neuroscience by the end of their second year, with a grade of B or higher in each class. The coursework must satisfy the following requirements. Students should take a minimum of 54 units during their first year and 27 units during their second year. First-year coursework must include CNS/SS/Psy/Bi 102 ab (Brains, Minds, and Society) and two courses in statistics, econometrics, or machine learning. Students are also required to take Bi/CNS/NB/Psy 150 (Introduction to Neuroscience), a graduate course in behavioral economics, and two additional upper-undergraduate or graduate courses (i.e., numbered 100 or higher) in economics, political science, or finance.

Lab Rotations. Students are required to complete three quarters of lab rotations during their first year. These rotations should include work in two different labs, for a minimum of one quarter each. Lab rotation plans need to be approved by the SDN option representative by the end of the second week of the fall quarter. Students must sign up for 18 units of CNS 280 (Research in Computation and Neural Systems) or SS 300 (Research in Social Science) for each quarter of lab rotations. Students are expected to become full members of a research group by the end of the spring quarter of their first year. The faculty member leading that lab becomes the student’s main advisor.

General Knowledge Exam. Students are required to take a written general knowledge exam in social and decision neuroscience. The exam is offered during spring quarter of the second year, and students must pass it with a grade of at least 80%. A list of topics and references associated with the exam can be obtained from the SDN option representative.

Other Requirements. Students must satisfy the following additional requirements.

First, they must enroll in SS/Psy 283 abc (Graduate Proseminar in Social and Decision Neuroscience) every quarter, from their first to their last quarter in residence. This weekly seminar provides training in academic skills such as writing, presenting, reviewing, and career strategy, as well as breadth of knowledge in social and decision neuroscience.

Second, students must attend four social science seminars in economics, finance, or political science every quarter, from their first to their last quarter in residence.

Third, students must audit one of the following courses during their first year in preparation for serving as teaching assistants later in the program: Ec 11 (Introduction to Economics), PS 12 (Introduction to Political Science), or Psy 13 (Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience). The choice must be approved by the SDN option representative.

Fourth, students are also required to complete Bi 252 (Responsible Conduct of Research) during their first year.

Fifth, students must attend a conference and submit a grant proposal during their second year.

Sixth, starting the third year, students must present a poster or give a talk at a conference every academic year.

Seventh, students must submit yearly progress reports to the option representative by the last day of classes of the spring quarter, starting their first year. A template for the report can be obtained from the option representative. These reports will be reviewed by the entire SDN faculty and granted one of three outcomes: approval, conditional approval, or program termination. Students may receive at most one conditional approval of their yearly report during their time in the PhD program.

Candidacy Requirement. Students must form a thesis committee and defend their thesis proposal to the committee. Students must pass this candidacy exam by the last day of classes of their third year. A thesis committee must have four members subject to the following constraints: at least one should be a neuroscience faculty member, at least one should be a non-neuro social science faculty member, and there should be at most one faculty member from another institution. The main advisor cannot serve as the chair of the thesis committee.

Thesis and Final Examination. The candidate is expected to complete and successfully defend their thesis by the last day of classes of the spring quarter of their fifth year. Extensions to an additional sixth year will be considered only at the candidacy exam stage and, if necessary, for the proposed research plan.

The time of the defense should be determined in consultation with the main advisor, the thesis committee, and, if necessary, the SDN option representative. Students must submit a written copy of their dissertation to the thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the thesis defense date.