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Master of Science in Neurobiology Program Overview


Program Overview

The Master's Program in Neurobiology features independent, hands-on research training combined with focused classroom instruction to prepare students for careers in medicine, industry, academic research, and/or teaching. Students can earn this degree in one year of intensive study.

The program provides an unparalleled opportunity to learn and collaborate with some of the foremost scholars in the field of Neurobiology. Graduates of the program have gone on to MD or PhD programs at top institutions around the country or choose to directly enter careers in academic or industrial research.

Please feel free to contact any of the program personnel with any questions. Inquiries regarding admissions (receipt of transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) should be directed to the Neurobiology office.




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Entrance Requirements


  1. Applicants must hold a four-year undergraduate degree.
    • Applicants may be considered for admission before finishing their undergraduate degree, but they must complete this degree before enrolling at Northwestern.
    • An undergraduate degree in does not necessarily need to be in a 'hard  science' field such as Neuroscience, Genetics, Biology, Chemistry, etc., but all applicants will need to have completed the coursework below.
  2. Strong performance (B+ or greater) in the following coursework is expected:
    • One year of Chemistry
    • One year of Biology
    • One semester of Organic Chemistry
    • One semester of Physics
    • One semester of Calculus or advanced math


The admissions committee looks for substantial laboratory research experience of at least nine months. Applicants who do not have significant prior research experience have found it difficult to complete the program in one year.

We ask for students to include a description of their research experiences in their Statement of Purpose.


Standardized test scores, such as the GRE and MCAT, are not required but recommended.

For International students, the TOEFL or IELTS examination is required.

Minimum scores for admission to the MS Program in Neurobiology:

  • TOEFLS - 100 on the internet version, 600 on the paper version, or 250 on the computer version
  • IELTS – 7.0 or higher

The exams must not be taken more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. For example, if you are applying for Fall 2019 entry, test scores must be no older than September 2017.

All International students whose native language is not English must take the Versant English test once they arrive on campus.

The program will waive the TOEFL/IELTS requirements for students that receive bachelor degrees from certified institutions where the primary language is English. Most accredited American universities will meet this requirement.

Program Statistics

  • Over the past five years, 31% of applicants were admitted.
  • Over the past five years, 92% of applicants completed their degree.
  • We have a good record of placement in medical school, academia, and industry.
Average GRE and GPA scores over 5 years
  • GRE Verbal: 74th percentile
  • GRE Quantitative: 86th percentile
  • GPA: 3.62

Please note that the above represents the average scores of admitted applicants. The program does not have GPA/GRE/MCAT minimums, but applicant scores are determined holistically against their application’s strength and against the current applicant pool.



Tuition, Housing, & Financial Aid


Information regarding Graduate tuition and fees can be found at TGS Tuition.


On-Campus Graduate Student Housing

Engelhart Hall Apartments are open to all graduate students, their partners, and families. Recently renovated apartment units feature redesigned floor space and new kitchens with all new appliances. Staff are on-site.

For more information, visit the Graduate Housing website.

Additional Off-Campus Options

The Division of Student Affairs Off-Campus Housing Guide contains information and resources available to students living off-campus, from apartment hunting to being a good neighbor within the Chicago/Evanston and Northwestern communities.

Resources for finding an apartment in Chicago:


The master's program does not provide financial aid in the form of academic scholarships, assistantships, TA opportunities, or stipends. Financial aid is offered through student loans and/or external funding. The Graduate School's financial aid website can assist with any questions regarding aid.

Choosing a Lab Advisor

An advisor agreement form must be filled out and returned to the Neurobiology office by mid-October.

We recommend newly enrolled students work with the Program Assistant to determine which advisors would be best suited for them based on their research interests and to facilitate potential mentee/mentor connections.

For some additional advice on choosing an advisor, check out the readings below:

We encourage you to look through our list of advisors and their research interests.  Below lists advisors from recent years:

Advisor Department Research Interests
Ahmed, Atique Neurological Surgery Glioblastoma; mechanisms of therapeutic resistance in brain tumor; identification of drug targets
Beutler, Lisa Medicine (Endocrinology) Gut and brain communication for body weight maintenance; optogenetics and calcium imaging in mice
Bozza, Thomas Neurobiology Molecular genetics and physiology of olfaction
Caraveo-Piso, Gabriela Neurology (Movement Disorders) and Pharmacology Molecular and cellular mechanisms of memory; dementia; Lewy Body pathologies
Dombeck, Daniel Neurobiology Neuronal circuits underlying mammalian navigation
Gallio, Marco Neurobiology Temperature sensing processes in the brain
Guemez Gamboa, Alicia Dione Neuroscience Circuit development; Adhesion molecules
Kath, William Engineering Sciences & Applied Mathematics Computational neuroscience;action potential propagation anddendritic integration in neurons
Klein, William Neurobiology Alzheimer’s disease; memory-linked synapse structure and signal transduction
Kozorovitskiy, Yevgenia Neurobiology Synaptic and circuit development in the basal ganglia
Lee, Hojoon Neurobiology The neurobiology of taste
MacIver, Malcom Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Neuroscience and robotics
McLean, David Neurobiology Development and plasticity of motor networks
Miri, Andrew Neurobiology Motor system function; Behavior quantification
Paller, Ken Psychology Human memory, awareness, & memory disorders
Raman, Indira M. Neurobiology Ion channel biophysics; Neuronal excitability; Synaptic Transmission; Cerebellar physiology
Sanchez, Jason Communication Sciences & Disorders Glutamate clearance, synaptic transmission and potassium channel function
Schmidt, Tiffany Neurobiology Visual neuroscience; neurophysiology; neuroanatomy; mouse genetics, behavior 
Schwartz, Gregory Ophthalmology Circuit mechanisms underlying sensory computation
Smith, Richard Pharmacology Developmental neurobiology; early life ion channel diseases; clinical pharmacology
Turek, Fred Neurobiology Sleep and circadian rhythms, and seasonal reproductive cycles
Vitaterna, Martha Hotz Neurobiology Mouse Behavioral Genetics, particularly Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, Arousal, Affect
Woolley, Catherine Neurobiology Steroid hormones in neural plasticity
Yang, Yue Neurobiology Developmental and Activity-Dependent Remodeling of Chromatin Architecture; Epigenetic Regulation of Neural Circuits; Cerebellar Circuits in Motor Learning

More information on choosing an advisor can be found in the Student Handbook.

Program Staff

Marco Gallio | Associate Professor, Director
Hojoon Lee | Assistant Professor, Associate Director
Anthony Keevan | Director of Operations & Outreach, Assistant Chair
Franny McNamara | Coordinator of Department Programs

Contact Information


Please use the following contact information for all inquiries relating to the Neurobiology MS program