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Catalog 2012 - 2013

Neurobiology of Aging

Michael J. Forster, PhD, Graduate Advisor
Center for BioHealth 521
Phone: 817-735-2092
E-mail: michael.foster@unthsc.edu

Graduate Faculty: BasuDasForster, Gatch, GwirtzJung, Jones, Krishnamoorthy, Luedtke, Machu, NejtekProkai, Prokai-Tatrai, SchetzSimpkins, SinghSumien, Uht,  

The Neurobiology of Aging program offers both MS and PhD degrees in a wide range of research areas, but with focus on biological aging processes and age-related diseases affecting the nervous system. The Neurobiology of Aging program bridges all major discipline-oriented programs, including Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Psychology, Integrative Physiology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacology and Neuroscience. Students are encouraged to acquire a broad base of knowledge and techniques in biomedical sciences, and to acquire a basic understanding of biological aging processes as they affect neurophysiological function and promote diseases of the nervous system.

With the “graying of America,” society is faced with increasing numbers of individuals with diminished cognitive, sensory, or psychomotor function, which contribute to decreased independence and diminished quality of life. Further, aging promotes an increase in susceptibility to devastating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as an increased susceptibility to brain insults. For example, it is estimated that by the year 2050, more than 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease. Research in the Neurobiology of Aging program includes efforts aimed at delineating the mechanisms of these debilitating neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as fundamental studies to gain understanding of how normal processes of aging in the brain confer an increase in risk for these conditions.

Students with a variety of academic backgrounds may gain acceptance to the Neurobiology of Aging program, though they must be prepared to complete an integrated biomedical science core curriculum that includes fundamental principles of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, microbiology and immunology, pharmacology, physiology and neurobiology. Following the completion of the core curriculum, students must complete advanced courses in Functional Neuroscience and the Neurobiology of Aging, as well as other advanced elective courses in any discipline related to their individual research interests. Students will also participate in seminars and group discussions of current research topics, and will be trained in a number of techniques required to address existing research problems in the Neurobiology of Aging. Both MS and PhD students will conduct original, publishable research and will be expected to present their results at national scientific conferences.

Completion of the MS degree typically requires two to three years; the PhD degree is generally completed in four to five years. Students who successfully complete a graduate degree in the Neurobiology of Aging will be well prepared for careers in academic and government research laboratories, as well as in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry.

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination determines if the doctoral student has mastered information needed to succeed in the discipline of Neurobiology of Aging. The student is required to demonstrate reasonable proficiency in the topics of general biomedical science, biology of aging, functional neuroscience, and the neurobiology of aging presented during the first two years of graduate study. An oral qualifying examination will be administered by a committee comprised of graduate faculty from the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience selected by the graduate advisor, and may also include faculty from another discipline when appropriate. The student's major professor may be present, but will not participate in the examination. The initial phase of the qualifying examination consists of presentation of a published Neurobiology of Aging article, approved by the graduate advisor, with a subsequent question period. In the second phase of the examination, the student will be required to address questions on his/her knowledge of biomedical science and the neurobiology of aging.

A maximum of two attempts to pass the qualifying examination will be allowed. A doctoral student who does not pass after the second attempt may be dismissed or allowed to complete the requirements for a Master of Science degree.

Grant Writing (BMSC 6310)

Successful completion of Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) requires the preparation and oral defense of an original NIH-style R21 grant proposal. The student’s doctoral advisory committee serves as the student’s grant proposal committee. The graduate advisor and the student’s major professor instruct the student on the regulations of the course and assist in initiating and preparing the proposal. The proposal must consist of the student’s original ideas and is expected to significantly extend scientific knowledge in the chosen research area. The student will first submit a summary report, which presents the hypothesis, experimental strategy, and specific aims for the proposal to the examination committee within the first three weeks of the semester. Once the committee approves this summary, the student must then proceed to prepare a detailed written report of the research proposal in current NIH R21 format. The final proposal will be typed and presented to the committee at least two weeks prior to the oral defense. The student will present the proposal to faculty and graduate students in a public defense. The grant proposal and presentation will be evaluated by the committee on the basis of originality and ability to organize and communicate information. A maximum of two attempts to pass will be allowed.

If the student demonstrates competence in the area of research chosen for the dissertation or a related topic as evidenced by writing, presenting and defending an NIH R21 grant application, the committee will recommend that the student be advanced to candidacy.

This page last modified November 15, 2011