We request continued NIH support for Columbia's University-wide Doctoral Program in Neurobiology in Behavior (NB&B). Founded in 1995 by John Koester and Darcy Kelley (the current Program Director), NB&B includes 50 neuroscience training faculty from 10 departments on both the Medical School and Arts and Sciences campuses that serve as Ph.D. mentors and/or participate actively in NB&B teaching and governance. Sixty-six additional faculty members serve as potential research rotation and dissertation sponsors. For the 2011-12 academic year, the Program includes 88 pre-doctoral graduate students, of which 74 are from the US or are permanent residents. An Executive Committee from participating Departments appoints the Co-Directors: Darcy Kelley, Carol Mason and Ken Miller. The Co-directors are supported by an Internal Advisory Committee of mid-career faculty members from the two campuses and a Curriculum Committee. An External Advisory Committee reviews the NB&B program every four years. Feedback on the program includes an exit interview after the Ph.D. defense; career trajectories are actively tracked post-Ph.D. In 2012, 392 applications to the NB&B program were received of which 67% were US citizens or permanent residents. Students are admitted directly to the program by a fifteen-member Admissions Committee of training faculty. We actively recruit applicants from underrepresented groups and matriculate 1 or 2 annually (~30% of offers). The number of applicants offered admission and the percentage of matriculating students is increasing: 11 matriculants in 2010 (42 offers), 13 matriculants in 2011 (43 offers), 10 matriculants in 2012 (33 offers). US students receive individual fellowship support from the NSF, DOD and NIH (pre-doctoral NRSAs). Non-US students receive external support from Fulbright, NSERC (Canada) and the HHMI. Five students each in years 1 and 2 have been supported by this training grant. Reflecting the increasing matriculation rate and very high quality of students, we now request stipend and tuition support for 11 students total in years 1 and 2. The training program opens with a Boot Camp, a two-week introduction to current research approaches, followed by a neuroscience survey course and three advanced seminars. Research rotations, typically three, are taken in the first year. In addition, students complete three professional development courses led by the NB&B Program Co-directors: a first-semester course focused on developing a research fellowship proposal, a second-semester course on responsible conduct of science and a professional development course for advanced students. Students are directly supervised by the Co-directors in years one and two. By the beginning of the second year, students choose a thesis laboratory and take a qualifying examination to advance to candidacy by the beginning of year 3. The qualifying examination committee typically constitutes the core of the thesis advisory committee that meets yearly with each student through year four and every 3 to 6 months prior to thesis defense, typically 5.5 - 6.5 years post-matriculation. All students attend the weekly NB&B research seminar, a student journal club and lab meetings. A NB&B Program-wide retreat is held biannually and students receive support to attend scientific meetings.
The goal of the proposed program is to support Ph.D. students in academic and research training in Neuroscience in order to expand their understanding of basic research and of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. This training will help produce the next generation of neuroscientists who will tackle perturbations of brain function at levels ranging from genetic and molecular through to circuits, systems and behavior including strong theoretical neuroscience training.
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