PhD in Integrative Neuroscience - Year One Course Structure
The lecture modules in the first 16 weeks (up to the first laboratory rotation) cover the areas of Neuropsychiatry (Monday and Wednesday, pm), Vision and Action (Tuesday, am), Developmental Psychopathology in Childhood Adolescence (Tuesday, pm), Molecular Neuroscience (Thursday, pm), Neuroscience of Learning and Memory (Friday, am). These issue-focussed modules are complemented by the skills-based training modules in Research, Design and Statistics (Thursday am) and Research Techniques in Bioscience (Monday and Friday, am). The latter modules include substantial applied and practical components. All modules have explicit learning outcomes including Knowledge and Understanding, Discipline Specific and Transferable Skills. Once laboratory rotations start (week 18), the lecture component is scaled down so that students will only attend one additional issue-based module Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (from week 18 Friday, am). For the third laboratory rotation (week 40), there are no concurrent taught modules, the extra time helping the student with the critical decision concerning their research programme for Years 2-4.
Lectures given in the area of Neuropsychiatry will be assessed in the form of compulsory essays. The research techniques in Biosciences lectures given on a Monday morning will require preparation for the Friday morning tutorials. Students will undergo regular tests as part of the Postgraduate Research Design and Statistics PST001 module.
In addition to these time-tabled lectures, students will receive formal training on a number of essential topics (e.g., health and safety procedures in the various suites of laboratories, COSHH). All students will also complete an accredited Home Office training course (which is put on several times a year by Cardiff University). This two-day course is followed by a formal examination, and is an essential pre-requisite for a Personal Licence.
The parallel laboratory rotations start in week 18 (late January) and all three rotations follow the same structure. Prior to starting, in weeks 11-12, the student decides on the rotations they will take. A final set of first and second preferences will be provided by the end of week 12. The Programme Director and Deputy will then confirm the allocation of laboratory placements, ensuring a suitable balance for each student and ensuring proportionate supervisory loads across supervisors. To aid the students’ selection, potential supervisors (see list of 30, Section 2) will help compile a handbook with suggested mini-projects at the start of each academic year.
The student will work on a mini-project for a 9-week period, then the student will have 2 weeks to complete two tasks: To submit a succinct report on the mini-project. This report will be a maximum of 2,500 words and will be in the style of a Journal of Neuroscience paper (e.g., Introduction a maximum of 400 words, Discussion no more than 1200 words). These reports will be read and assessed (with feedback) by the rotation supervisor and a second, independent assessor from a different school. To give a brief, PowerPoint presentation on the study (10 mins, followed by a discussion). The session of five presentations (one from each PhD student) will be attended by the Directors of Postgraduate research, the other PhD students, and the rotation supervisors. The student will then receive formal feedback on the report and the presentation by his or her Supervisory team. Presentations will be graded as either ‘Accept', 'Minor Revision', 'Major Revision' or 'Reject', and feedback provided on each aspect of the presentation. The three rotations (weeks 18 -28, weeks 29 - 39, weeks 40 - 50) provide invaluable first-hand experience of research techniques, a taster for specific research issues, and provide a method of assessment of progress.
The completion of the rotations and their associated reports and presentations take the student to a crucial 2-week period (weeks 48-50). During this time the student and potential supervisor (s) will decide, by mutual agreement, on a suitable research project for a PhD. The students and supervisors will be encouraged throughout to engage in a project that combines multiple approaches. Note, the supervisors for Year 2-4 need not come from the mini-projects (laboratory rotation), although this may sometimes occur.