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 2024 admission is November 27th, 2023 (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 test scores for the TOEFL/IELTS and/or GRE (submission of GRE scores is optional in our program), and contact information for at least three recommenders. See more info about application requirements on the Graduate Admissions Requirements page. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all materials, including recommendation letters, are submitted by the deadline.
Applications will be reviewed holistically, using a rubric that considers academic preparation, research experience, contributions to diversity and community, initiative and motivation, and synergy with the program, each evaluated in the context of the individual applicant.
Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division website to apply. Applications are accepted from mid-September through the end of November for admission the following year.
Application fee waivers are administered by UC Berkeley Graduate Admissions and not by the Neuroscience PhD Program. Please visit the fee waiver website for more information.
Fall 2024 Admissions Virtual Information Session:
Thursday, November 2, 2023 10-11am Pacific Time
Ask Me Anything Panel for Prospective Applicants (flyer)
Hosted by Current Students
Friday, November 3, 2023 11am-12pm Pacific Time
Neuroscience PhD Program – Diversity Admissions Fair Info Session
Hosted by Program Faculty with Current Students
Previously Recorded Sessions:
Friday, October 21, 2022 11am-12pm Pacific Time
HWNI Neuroscience PhD Program Info Session – Diversity Admissions Fair
Hosted by Program Faculty with Current Students
Friday, November 4, 2022 10-11am Pacific Time
AMA Grad Student Panel for Prospective Applicants
Hosted by Current Students
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.
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.
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 application deadline.
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.
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 the box next to “Show Only Neuroscience PhD Program Faculty” is checked).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Areas of Neuroscience
The Neuroscience PhD Program provides research training in four broad areas of neuroscience: cellular & molecular neuroscience, systems & behavioral neuroscience, human cognition, and computational neuroscience.
Cellular and molecular neuroscientists at Berkeley study neuronal cell biology, cellular physiology, and molecular and genetic basis of neuron, synapse, and glial function. Specific topics include sensory transduction, cellular-level neuronal development, synaptic transmission and plasticity, ion channel physiology, neurodegenerative disease, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Many faculty develop novel molecular genetic tools to more precisely measure cellular physiology or to develop new therapeutical approaches to disease. Methods from molecular biology, computational biology (bioinformatics), and cellular physiology are often used in this research.
Systems and behavioral neuroscientists at UC Berkeley study how neural circuits, ensembles, and large-scale neural systems process information in order to interpret the sensory world, make and recall memories, and produce specific behaviors. Our faculty study neural systems for sensory processing (vision, audition, touch), innate behaviors, memory, navigation, motivated behaviors, sleep, circadian rhythms, social behaviors, decision making, and more. This research often involves neurophysiology, imaging, and optogenetics experiments, usually in behaving animals. Computational models of neural circuits, and sophisticated data analysis involving modeling and machine learning, are often used in this research.
Cognitive neuroscience at UC Berkeley focuses on human cognition and its brain correlates. Our faculty study the human cognitive abilities and neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory, decision making, perception, reasoning, attention, sleep, motor control, etc. Berkeley human cognition labs employ a broad range of experimental techniques, including functional and structural neuroimaging, electrophysiology, brain stimulation, pharmacology, computational modeling, and quantitative behavioral analyses.
Although quantitative methods are used in all sub areas of neuroscience for analyzing complex data sets, the focus of Computational Neuroscience is to model the brain or brain function: computational models can attempt to model experimental data obtained in neurophysiological experiments (biophysically plausible models) or model functions achieved by the brain such as object recognition, language comprehension, symbolic manipulations, etc. A strong mathematical and programming background is required for research in Computational Neuroscience.
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.
- Evidence of English language proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS) is required of international applicants. (For the TOEFL, use Institution Code 4833, no department/program code). More information about the university’s English language proficiency requirements for graduate admissions and under which circumstances an applicant may be exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS can be found on the Graduate Admissions website.
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.
If your GPA is not based on a 4-point scale, please do not convert to this scale. Instead complete the “Other Scale GPA” section on the application.
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 29-30 and February 12-13, 2024. 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 and waitlisted are invited for an in-person visit March 17-19, 2024. During the in-person visit, recruits 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 and waitlisted applicants to the neuroscience community at Berkeley, both socially and professionally.
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
For general questions about graduate admissions or technical problems with the online application:
For comprehensive information on university-wide graduate application and admissions processes: