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Biopsychology Curriculum

1. First year research project and oral presentation (Psychology 619). Students are expected to become involved in a research project early in their first semester in the program under the supervision of their mentor. Before the end of the fall semester of their second year, they must give an oral presentation on their research project. Students must present a research paper describing their research for approval to their research mentor and one other Biopsychology faculty member to advance to candidacy by the end of the second year.

2. Required introductory course. All students are required to take the Psych 631 Proseminar in Biopsychology. Psych 631 cannot be used to replace one of the required, three advanced lecture and seminar courses (as detailed in 3).

3. A total of three advanced lecture or seminar courses (400-800 level courses) relevant to biopsychology must be taken. The faculty advisors will assume the responsibility for assuring that the student’s course selection is adequate preparation for their professional career. Students enrolled at UM can access courses offered by Biopsychology Faculty HERE. (Note: Taking the Psych 808 Journal Club 3 times qualifies as one upper level course.)

These courses are then listed on the Candidacy Form (UM students should access the Psychology Portal under the Academic Milestones page HERE.) Other forms can be found on this page as well.

Students are strongly encouraged to take at least one course in Neuroscience and one in Evolutionary Biology when fulfilling their requirements. There are a number of courses that meet these requirements, and the appropriate selection for a given student is determined by the student, in consultation with their advisory committee.

Other courses may be approved at the discretion of a student's advisory committee. (Note: Courses cannot be double counted between the categories; e.g., a Neuroscience course taken to meet a Biopsychology relevant course cannot also be counted as a Rackham cognate or Psychology breadth course.)

4. Biopsychology Colloquium. All students are required to attend the weekly Area Colloquium series.

5. Departmental Breadth Requirement. All students must take one Psychology course in an area besides Biopsychology (i.e., a course not taught exclusively by Biopsychology staff) sometime during their first two years, prior to candidacy. Students should seek the advice of their advisory committee in fulfilling this Psychology “breadth” requirement.

6. A one-year sequence of statistics (e.g., Psychology 613-614) or approved substitute must be taken.

7. Rackham requires a minimum of 3 credits of cognate courses outside of psychology. These courses should be related to the professional goals of the student and approved by advisors (e.g., neuroanatomy, biochemistry, “evolution courses” in biology or anthropology, etc.). Courses used to meet the Biopsychology advanced course or breadth requirement cannot be used to meet the Rackham cognate requirement.

Example Schedule Fall Term Winter Term

Year 1  

PSYCH 506 Professional Issues in Psych (Ethics)

PSYCH 609 Teaching Academy  

PSYCH 613 Statistics

PSYCH 619 Supervised Research

PSYCH 614 Statistics

PSYCH 619 Supervised Research

Cognate Course or Advanced
Biopsychology lecture or seminarcourse

Year 2

PSYCH 619 Supervised Research

Psychology Breadth Course

Advanced Biopsychology lecture or seminar course

PSYCH 619 Supervised Research

Cognate Course or Advanced
Biopsychology lecture or seminar course

Advanced Biopsychology lecture or seminar course

Note that it is permitted to complete one of the Advanced Biopsychology lecture or seminar courses during the third year.

8. Preliminary Examination. Normally, graduate students will take their Prelim Exam in May at the end of the second year. However, dates are adjusted to accommodate research (especially field work) and class schedules.

The exam format will consist of students selecting one question from a list of questions prepared by the faculty. The purpose of the exam is to assess the ability of a student to think logically about a problem area and to formulate research questions, rather than assessing the amount of information they possess. Students will have 2.5 weeks to write a response in the format of a grant application in which they provide some background to the research area, generate experimental hypotheses, propose experiment(s) to test hypotheses, and discuss how results would be interpreted. After the faculty has read the papers, an oral exam is held with a committee of 3 faculty. Students normally achieve Ph.D. candidate status before the beginning of the fall term of the third year in the program, but there is flexibility in this regard.

To maintain full-time status, Precandidates must enroll for at least 9 credit hours and a maximum of 18 credits.

Candidacy and Beyond

When to form the Dissertation Committee and how often to meet with the committee:
After candidacy status is achieved, a Dissertation Committee is formed to advise on dissertation research and to evaluate the thesis when submitted. This usually happens during the third year in the program or early in the fourth year.

To form the dissertation committee, the student prepares a Dissertation Prospectus.  The prospectus can be 2-5 pages, written just for the committee, or it can be a fellowship or research proposal prepared for a funding agency. The length of the prospectus can vary depending on the project and the guidance of the mentor. The student usually gives a presentation to the committee describing the rationale or background for the project, results obtained to date, the plan for the research chapters of the dissertation and a tentative timetable.

The Dissertation Committee consists of four UM faculty members. At least two members of the dissertation committee must be core Biopsychology faculty and Rackham requires that one member be from a Department other than Psychology (Cognate Member).

If approved, the Approval of Dissertation Prospectus (obtained from the academic Milestones page in the Portal) form should be signed by the dissertation committee. After the prospectus meeting, the Area Chair signs the Approval of Dissertation Prospectus form and it is then submitted to the Psychology Student Academic Affairs Office. At that time, the Psychology Student Academic Affairs Office will prepare the Dissertation Committee Form and submit it to Rackham. The Dissertation Committee form should be submitted to Rackham at least six months before the defense.

If they have been recommended for Candidacy, students should register for 8 credits of Psych 990. Once advancement to Candidacy has been approved by Rackham, the Registrar’s Office will change all 990 enrollments to 995. For each Fall and Winter semester Candidates will register for 8 credit hours of Psychology 995 (Dissertation Research); they also have the option of enrolling in one additional course per term. Students must enroll in each Fall and Winter term up to and including the semester in which they defend their dissertation.

The dissertation defense of students in the Biopsychology Area is a public talk given as part of the Biopsychology Colloquia Series followed by an oral exam.