The program consists of the following core activities:
Additional satellite activities through the CNBC will also foster students’ professional and scientific development.
Current PNC students looking to join the joint PNC/Statistics program may petition to do so by sending an email to the PNC co-directors explaining how they intend to satisfy the degree requirements. See the Graduate Student Handbook for details.
Students must complete the four-course requirement of the CNBC certificate program:
They must gain graduate level training through coursework in the following three areas: (i) cell and molecular neuroscience/neurophysiology, (ii) systems neuroscience, and (iii) cognitive neuroscience. Recommended courses fulfilling this requirement include
To complete the computational requirement, students must take:
Note that this is not exactly the same as the standard CNBC computational requirement.
To meet the course requirements for the PhD in Statistics, students must take:
Any substitutions or exemptions from coursework must be recommended by the student’s advisor and approved by the PNC co-directors and the director of graduate studies in Statistics.
The milestones listed below are stated as requirements, but some flexibility is likely to be necessary. In individual cases exceptions may be granted by the PNC steering committee and the Statistics faculty. In such cases clear alternative deadlines must be established and communicated in writing to the student.
First year research requirement: By the end of the first calendar year in the program, all students are required to complete a computational project. This project will be evaluated by a committee consisting of at least three faculty, of whom at least two are PNC training faculty. The project requires the student to identify a biological problem, understand the data collection process, articulate the goals of building a model or performing a particular kind of analysis and implement this computational approach. In some cases this project may be a precursor to the student’s eventual thesis project. This project cannot substantially overlap with a project completed for a class, although it may be on the same topic as a class project, provided that it represents a substantial extension of that work.
Students should begin formally discussing this research project no later than the end of the spring term. Initial steps should include forming this committee and organizing a meeting to discuss/outline the project with your committee. The committee should consist of at least two PNC training faculty. The makeup of this committee should be approved by the program co‐directors. At this first meeting the committee should approve the project proposal or indicate steps necessary to identify a new project. Then, before the start of the fall term, students must schedule a committee meeting where they present/defend their results. This meeting should occur before Oct 15. The initial part of this meeting involves a 30 minute presentation by the student, which is open to the public. This will be followed by a meeting with the committee and the student, during which the committee will ask detailed questions about the work. Based on this meeting, the committee will evaluate the student’s work and will decide whether a student passes, fails or needs to revise the project, subject to re‐evaluation. Questions about the content of the presentation should be raised by the student with committee members well before the evaluation meeting. Students who wish to enter the joint program from Statistics after their first year may be able to waive this requirement with the permission of the PNC training faculty.
Second research project: In the second year, students are expected to work on research about 1/3 of their time during the academic year and full time during the summer. By the end of the second full year in the program all students are required to complete a deeper computational project. The student’s work on the project should demonstrate that the student has 1) the ability to analyze and interpret experimental data in a particular area 2) the ability to develop and implement a computational approach incorporating the relevant level of biological detail and 3) the ability to organize, interpret and present the results of the computational work. This project should be a body of work suitable for publication. It is expected that this work will be written up as a manuscript suitable for submission to a journal in the relevant field; a draft of this manuscript must be submitted to the committee at least a week in advance of the meeting. In most cases this project will be on an area related to the student’s eventual thesis project.
The evaluation of this milestone is similar to that of the first year milestone described above. Initial steps include forming a committee consisting of at least three faculty of whom at least two are PNC training faculty. and organizing a meeting to discuss/outline the project with your committee. At this first meeting the committee should approve the project proposal or indicate steps necessary to identify a new project. Then, before the start of the fall term, students must schedule a committee meeting at which they will present/defend their results. The initial part of this meeting involves a 30 minute presentation by the student, which is open to the public. This seminar must be advertised to both the PNC and Statistics communities at least one week prior to the event. (To advertise, send the talk announcement including the date, time, place, title, abstract, and faculty committee to the Statistics and PNC graduate program coordinators.) This will be followed by a meeting with the committee and the student, during which the committee will ask detailed questions about the work. Based on this meeting, and the submitted manuscript draft, the committee will evaluate the student’s work and will decide whether a student passes, fails or needs to revise the project, subject to re-evaluation.
Note that the second year research requirement also counts to satisfy the Advanced Data Analysis project required by Statistics.
Statistics Preliminary Exams: By the end of the third full year the student should complete and pass the preliminary examinations for the Ph.D. in the Department of Statistics.
Ph.D. Thesis proposal: Required coursework should be completed by the end of the third year. During the fourth year a Ph.D. candidate should present a thesis proposal first to his or her thesis committee and then to the CNBC and Statistics community. The student will have two joint advisors, one from Statistics and the other a CNBC faculty member from outside of Statistics. A thesis committee will be formed and should be composed of at least four members, one of whom is an external member (typically from outside CMU and Pitt); two must be PNC training faculty; two must be Statistics faculty; and at least one CMU or Pitt member must be from a discipline outside of statistics. The thesis committee is subject to approval by the PNC training faculty and the Department of Statistics faculty.
The thesis proposal should include: a succinct summary of the proposed research problem; the significance of the proposed research; a review of relevant literature relating to the problem; a review of the candidate’s work leading up to the thesis, including preliminary results; a clear statement of remaining research; and a tentative schedule for completing the work. The proposal should be limited to 15 pages, plus references, figures, or online appendices. It should also conform to the stylistic requirements for thesis proposals in the Department of Statistics. As in the Department of Statistics, the thesis committee must offer its preliminary approval of the proposal following a meeting that is open to other faculty. The student then arranges to present the proposal publicly, so that CNBC and Statistics faculty and other community members can attend. Formal approval is conferred by the Statistics faculty and the PNC training faculty.
Ph.D. Thesis Defense: Normally, the dissertation is completed during the student’s fifth year. The student should set up a pre-defense meeting with their committee members six months prior to their defense. The final defense is a public presentation, in accordance with the College and University requirements for the Ph.D. It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the College and University’s guidelines are followed for publicity of the defense and the availability of the thesis document at least two weeks prior to the defense. Note that the defense must be held at least 21 days before the date the degree is awarded.