The Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy is housed in a modern university medical center where research scientists, clinicians, teachers and students work in concert at unravelling the mysteries of the brain and body.
Neuroscience as a field has grown tremendously in the last decade; for instance, attendance to the 2004 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting included over 31,000 people, more than double the number in 1990. Wake Forest University's effort to study the development, organization and pathology of brain function has expanded in parallel, creating unprecedented opportunities for collaborations between departments, between investigators with expertise in diverse techniques and fields, and between basic scientists and clinicians. Our department plays a key role in this effort, and students are a major part of it.
During the first year of graduate study, each incoming student selects several faculty members with whom to do laboratory rotations. Each rotation lasts between 3 and 4 months, and affords first-hand experience in the day-to-day research activities of a laboratory. Rotations are fun and are an excellent way to learn cutting-edge scientific techniques and methods. Although they start as short projects, it is not uncommon for them to grow and become parts of full-blown publications. Usually 3 rotations are made before deciding on a home lab to pursue the thesis work, but occasionally students decide early and may forego one or more rotations.
Both a stipend and full tuition coverage are offered to all students selected for admission. Stipends are competitive with those of major universities across the country. This is particularly so in view of the low cost of living in the Winston-Salem area and the availability of student housing within walking distance of the medical center. Currently, the stipend for a graduate student is slightly over $20,700 per year, but it is planned to increase by about $1,400 per year over the next 3 years.
In addition, graduate students receive an new IBM ThinkPad laptop computer and, if enrolled in the student health plan offered by the university, a monthly supplement that defrays about 85% of the health insurance costs.
The main focus of the Neurobiology and Anatomy program is on research, but teaching is often a very important component of an academic career. Although the progam has no teaching requirements, students who are interested may obtain some experience as teaching assistants in the anatomy laboratory, and may be able to teach selected courses outside our campus while in the program.
I'm Confused: Neurobiology or Neuroscience?
In addition to the PhD program in Neurobiology and Anatomy, Wake Forest University has an Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program also leading to a PhD degree. The existence of 2 similar programs is somewhat of a historical accident which, admittedly, may cause some confusion. The Neurobiology and Anatomy Department houses students from both programs -- on average, about 15 from each in the last couple of years.
So, first let's mention the similarities. Although the curricula are not identical, the differences are really minor. The key first-year course is Introduction to Neuroscience and is taken by students from both programs; lab rotations and qualifying exams are essentially the same, and so is the financial assistance. For students doing their thesis work in the department, in practice it does not matter which program they are in.
Now the differences. The first one is that is that Neuroscience students have a wider variety of laboratories to choose from because their program is inter-departmental, whereas Neurobiology students stay within the department. (If this ever becomes a problem, there is an option to switch programs; see the Graduate School site.) The second difference is that, as a consequence, the Neuroscience Program is more competitive; it receives more applications.
In the application form, the Graduate School allows you to specify a first and a second option for the programs you want to apply to. Thus, if you are interested in neuroscience but specifically in the projects outside our department, you should probably put the Neuroscience Program as your first option. On the other hand, if you are most interested in the research within our department, it would make more sense to put the Neurobiology and Anatomy Program as your first option.