Advice for applying to graduate school in Neuroscience

First off, welcome to the world of Neuroscience - its huge with people working solely on computers or bioengineering to people who do direct readings off of brain cells. The important thing about finding a lab for graduate school is finding a good fit, both with your advisor and with the people in the lab. I spend as much or more time in the lab as I do with my husband. Most people spend years picking a significant other but only meet/speak with an advisor for about an hour before …

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Open Field Tests

A line drawing of two mice walking similar paths, but one is curvy because that mouse is woozy. Understanding or measuring how animals think is difficult when they can’t talk to you. You can’t ask ‘what are you feeling?‘ much less, ‘why do you feel that way?‘, but it is still important to understand. For instance, we study drugs to all kinds of psychological issues (depression, alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, etc) in rodents like mice and rats. Therefore, biologists have developed behavioral tests that inform us about what the animal is thinking or feeling.

The open field test measures general activity level and exploration behaviors. This lets us get a feel for how the animal behaves normally and is frequently used as a control in an experiment. In addition, numerous factors can influence how much an animal moves so by controlling what changes between tests, we can begin to understand how what we are testing influences the animal’s thinking.

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In situs

In situ hybridization (ISH) is a technique that allow you to visualize a gene’s location. The location is typically determined at the level of the cell or tissue region. However, chromosome painting is also a form of in situ and has a better resolution. In general, if a scientist is talking about ‘in situs’ or WISH, they are referring to the form that shows where a gene is being expressed.

In situ hybridization is like a Google search, where the probe is our search term.

At the most basic …

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The Preliminary Exam

While you will probably take a small smattering of courses that have more traditional midterm and final exams, these are not really that critical to your success in graduate school. Rather than caring about your grades in them, the goal is to actually master the materials in relation to your research.

Instead, graduate school typically has three major milestones:

1. Qualifying Exam (aka Quals)
2. Preliminary Exam (aka Prelims)
3. Final Defense

There are a lot of variations on the qualifying and preliminary exams, even within a university. Taking a …

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Stickleback fish

A mostly blue fish with a bright red throat. Meet your typical stickleback dad. My research is based on understanding how genes contribute to his behavior.

You can tell this is a male ready to become a dad because of his blue color and the red-orange color under his throat. Its only during the summer breeding season that he will look like this. Not all males will color up this brightly as it depends on a number of factors including the amount of light and the surrounding environment (gravel color).

Think fish behavior is boring? Not a chance - BBC2 …

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