With rapid advances in research and technology, the field of neuroscience is rapidly and constantly expanding. In 2010, "U.S. News and World Report" ranked the top neuroscience graduate programs in the United States. While each program has unique aspects, all of them require graduate students to complete laboratory rotations before choosing a dissertation mentor. Each program also has a number of career development opportunities for students, including weekly journal club presentations, seminars and student research presentations.

Harvard University

The program in neuroscience at Harvard University is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Here, students are required to take two core neurobiology courses as well as four additional courses covering cellular and molecular biology, developmental biology and systems biology. The PIN has a unique advising program where first- and second-year students meet every six to nine months with a small group of faculty members to help guide their early graduate studies. Research sites available for dissertation projects include McLean Hospital, which is the first research program in the nation in a psychiatric hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital, home of the Kirby Neurobiology Center. The Center for Brain Science at the main Harvard campus in Cambridge hosts a number of neuroscience labs and the new Swartz Program in Theoretical Neuroscience.

Stanford University

The neuroscience Ph.D. program at the Stanford University School of Medicine requires students to complete six classes that can be distributed over three topic areas – cellular biology, systems biology and translational biology. New students complete an intensive two-week laboratory techniques course in cellular and molecular neuroscience. In addition to outstanding research, Stanford distinguishes itself through its student-led programs. Neuroscience students organize an annual research presentation retreat each spring at the Hopkins Marine Station. Additionally, students work with the community and local students, teaching general science to elementary school students using the Stanford Science Bus, and teaching neuroscience to middle and high school students using actual brains.

University of California, San Francisco

In addition to standard coursework, students enrolled in the neuroscience graduate program at UCSF also take intensive mini-courses to hone their skills in scientific literacy and presentation. During their second year, NGP students receive training in the field of ethics and the responsible conduct of science, and serve as graduate teaching assistants for one quarter. A unique aspect of coursework in the NGP is that students can take courses at other schools in the area. The intercampus exchange allows students to enroll in classes on other University of California campuses, or at Stanford University, while the San Francisco Consortium permits cross-registration amongst four colleges – the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, UC San Francisco and Hastings College of the Law.

Johns Hopkins University

While core courses offered through the department of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University address basic topics, students can take a number of upper level, highly specialized courses in their field of interest, including a course that is exclusively about one type of cell. Students can complete their dissertation projects on the main JHU campus or they can work in laboratories at Janelia Farm, a research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that focuses on fundamental scientific questions not addressed at most universities. Students also have the opportunity to conduct research at the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, which focuses on the study of neural mechanisms associated with higher brain functions.