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Visualization of copper in normal (top row) and mutant (bottom row) zebrafish brains. Image by Tong Xiao, Chang lab.

The Neuroscience PhD Program grants PhDs only. We do not offer a master’s degree. Applications are accepted in fall for the class entering in August of the following academic year.

The application deadline for Fall 2023 admission was November 30th (by 8:59 pm Pacific Standard Time). All application materials including the online application, application fee (or fee waiver), transcripts, test scores (if applicable), and recommendation letters must be received by the deadline. Late applications are not accepted or reviewed. We do not accept applications for spring semester. The entire application process is online, and it includes uploading transcripts, Personal History Statement, and Statement of Purpose, and providing registration numbers for the TOEFL and/or GRE (submission of GRE scores is optional in our program), and contact information for at least three recommenders. Applications will be reviewed holistically, using a rubric that considers academic preparation, research experience, and contributions to diversity and community, each evaluated in the context of the individual applicant.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all materials, including recommendation letters, are submitted by the deadline.

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division website to apply. Applications are accepted from September 15th through November 30th for admission the following year.

Fall 2023 Admissions Virtual Information Sessions:

Friday, October 21, 11am-12pm Pacific Time
HWNI Neuroscience PhD Program Info Session – Diversity Admissions Fair
Hosted by Program Faculty with Current Students
Session Recording

Friday, November 4, 10-11am Pacific Time
AMA Grad Student Panel for Prospective Applicants
Hosted by Current Students
Session Recording

Apply Now

Application Tips

Inform Yourself

Please read all pertinent information on the program and application requirements before you start the application process. Most questions are answered in these online materials.

Be Concise

Convey all you want the committee to know about you in a compelling, concise application. We review several hundred applications, so avoid sending excess materials that are not required.

Start Early

Letters of recommendation are a critical part of the application. Faculty recommenders are usually busy and have requests from many students. It is imperative to ask for recommendation letters early and to clearly communicate the 11/30 deadline.

Be Specific

You must choose at least one area of emphasis from the dropdown menu in the online application. While your choice does not obligate you to follow any specific path once enrolled, failure to do so delays the review process.

Which Graduate Program is Right for You?

The Neuroscience PhD Program provides broad training at multiple levels of neuroscience. Other PhD programs at Berkeley also offer training in neuroscience, or in specific sub-disciplines of neuroscience. These include the PhD programs in Molecular & Cellular Biology, Psychology, Biophysics, and Vision Science. These programs differ in overall academic focus and course curriculum, and in the subset of neuroscience laboratories available for thesis research. UC Berkeley allows each applicant to apply to only one graduate program per application cycle. We want you to pick the one that best matches your intellectual interests.

Neuroscience PhD Program

Classes cover neuroscience at all its levels, including molecular, cellular, biophysical, developmental, circuits, systems, computational, behavioral, and human cognitive neuroscience. Thesis research is available in all these areas, studying normal brain function from cellular to systems levels, behavior, cognition, and disease. See complete list of the labs available for thesis research in our program here (be sure to check the box to show only Neuroscience PhD Program Faculty).

Molecular and Cell Biology Graduate Program

Classes provide broad training in molecular and cell biology, including genetics, biochemistry, structural biology, immunology, and molecular, cellular, synaptic and developmental neurobiology. Thesis research is available in neuroscience labs within the MCB department, which include molecular/cellular to circuits-level neuroscience research.

>> Go to MCB Graduate Program website

Psychology Graduate Program

Within this program, students can undertake thesis research in Psychology faculty laboratories. Training that is most related to neuroscience falls within 3 areas of specialization: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior; Behavioral Neuroscience; and Change, Plasticity, and Development. This program has no rotations, and students directly enter a specific faculty laboratory.

>> Go to Psychology Graduate Program website

Biophysics Graduate Group

This program focuses on molecular biophysics and systems biology, including selected faculty in neuroscience. Neuroscience areas include systems neuroscience, molecular imaging/optical probes, cellular signaling, structural biology, and brain imaging.

>> Go to Biophysics Graduate Group website

Vision Science Program

This program offers broad training in vision science, eye diseases, and development. Thesis research is available in visual neuroscience, including visual perception, visual system neurophysiology and signaling, development, and control of eye movements.

>> Go to Vision Science Program website

Other Programs

Other programs have some overlap with specific areas of neuroscience, including the Integrative Biology Graduate Program, Bioengineering Program, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Community Health and Human Development.

Requirements For Application

Minimum requirements for admission

  • A bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (for US institutions).
  • Submission of GRE scores is optional. If you decide to include GRE scores in your application, use Institution Code 4833 and Program Code 0213.
  • At least one year of laboratory research experience.
  • Three letters of recommendation. Letters should be from individuals who have supervised work in a laboratory, research, or academic setting and can comment on intellectual ability, creativity, scientific leadership skills, and scholarly potential.
  • Proof of English proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS) required of international applicants. (For the TOEFL, use Institution Code 4833, no department/program code). The university requires the following minimum passing scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): 230 for computer-based test; 90 for internet-based test (iBT). If an international applicant has enrolled in an academic program at an American university for at least one year and has a minimum 3.0 GPA, the TOEFL requirement can be waived.

Strongly recommended

Strong undergraduate preparation for neuroscience includes at least one year of college level coursework in one of the following disciplines: biology, physics, chemistry, calculus, or engineering.

Additional coursework in cognitive science, psychology, biophysics, or neurobiology is advisable.

Applicants should describe their research experience in the Statement of Purpose.

Review Process

Applications are reviewed by an admissions committee comprised of faculty and a senior graduate student. The admissions committee review takes into consideration all aspects of an application: transcripts, prior research experience, test scores, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and the personal history statement.

Top applicants will be invited to one of two virtual interviews visits scheduled for January 23-24 and February 6-7, 2023. During the visit, candidates interview with 5-8 faculty members and interact with current graduate students. The purpose of the interviews are to evaluate applicants’ preparedness for graduate research.

Faculty evaluations from the interviews inform final admissions decisions, which are made shortly after the second virtual interview visit. Official admission offers are sent to successful applicants by early March.

Applicants that are recommended for admission are invited for an in-person visit March 19-21, 2023. During the in-person visit, admits will interact with current graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty, and attend social events such as a program dinner. The goal of the in person visit is to introduce new admits to the neuroscience community at Berkeley, both socially and professionally.

Application Essays

Your application has two essays: the Statement of Purpose (SOP) and the Personal History Statement (PHS). In the SOP, you should describe your motivation, preparation and aptitude for PhD study in neuroscience. Please include a description of your prior research experience and accomplishments, with enough detail (for at least one project) to illustrate how you think scientifically. You should also discuss your future research interests and career goals and why you think Berkeley is a good fit for your PhD training. The SOP should be 2-3 double-spaced pages.

In the PHS, you should describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. The PHS should not duplicate the SOP but should provide broader context on your personal story and goals. This may include how you overcame barriers to access higher education, how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, your service to advance equitable access to education for under-represented groups, research you may have done that focuses on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, your leadership roles in such groups, and/or your plans in graduate school and your future career to address societal issues. The PHS should be 1-3 double-spaced pages.

Submitting Your Application

Graduate Program Manager

For questions about the PhD Program, please contact

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Neuroscience PhD Program, UC Berkeley
444 Li Ka Shing, MC#3370
Berkeley, CA 94720

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