Montana State University

Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience

Graduate Program Overview

510 Leon Johnson Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717

Department Head

Thomas Hughes, Ph.D.

Graduate Coordinator

Charles Gray, Ph.D.


  • Cassie Cusick; anatomy and physiology
  • Charles Gray; neurophysiology of visual perception and cognition
  • Gwen Jacobs; systems neuroscience, informatics and information technology
  • Frances Lefcort; molecular and cellular neural development
  • John Miller; neurophysiology

Associate Professors

  • Roger Bradley; developmental neuroscience
  • Steve Eiger; physiology
  • Thomas Hughes; biophysics

Assistant Professors

  • Christa Merzdorf; developmental neurobiology


Degrees Offered

M.S. (plan-A and plan-B) in Neuroscience or Biological Sciences
Ph.D. in Neuroscience or Biological Sciences

The department offers graduate study and research leading to both the Master of Science (M.S.) degree and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in either Neuroscience or Biological Sciences. Ph.D. applicants are required to contact faculty in their anticipated research area before applying.


 Ph.D. and M.S. Degree Programs

A Bachelor's degree in an area of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Applied Math or Psychology is recommended. Students with Bachelor’s degrees outside these areas are also encouraged to apply; such students will generally be required to complete appropriate courses while enrolled at MSU to make up subject matter deficiencies prior to full acceptance into the Ph.D. and Masters programs. Factors that the department uses in its admissions process include GRE scores, TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers), reference letters, GPA and previous coursework and research experience.

The department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience also participates in the Molecular Biosciences Program at MSU ( This is an interdisciplinary graduate training program that includes faculty from a wide range of departments specializing in aspects of biology on the MSU campus.

Prospective students should secure a faculty sponsor prior to applying for admission. For more information, and details about applying, please refer to

Program Requirements

M.S. Degree

Students may pursue the Master's degree under either Plan A or Plan B. Plan A requires the completion of 20 credits of acceptable coursework and 10 credits of thesis. Under Plan B, a 4 credit project and 26 credits of acceptable coursework must be completed. For more information, please refer to

Master's candidates must take an oral comprehensive exam near the completion of their graduate program. Required curriculum will be tailored to the needs and interests of each student in consultation with their graduate advisor and advisory committee.

Ph.D. Degree

A Ph.D. student must complete a minimum of 35 dissertation credits and a minimum of either 25 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor's degree or 10 credits of coursework beyond the Master's degree. Accepted students will be assigned an advisory committee upon entering the program to assist them in tailoring a curriculum that best fits their educational needs, research interests, and career plans.

Research Experience

Plan A (thesis option) Master's degree students gain research experience through their thesis and are expected to submit the results of their thesis work to at least one journal or conference. Plan B (project option) Master's degree students gain some research experience in the context of their project. Ph.D. students will gain research experience through their doctoral work, journal or conference submissions, and attending conferences

Research Facilities

Graduate research will be performed primarily in the laboratory of the student’s thesis advisor. Additional facilities will be available from the department and in laboratories collaborating with the student’s advisor.

Cell Biology and Neuroscience is dually housed in the 5th floor of Leon Johnson Hall and in the basement of Lewis Hall.

Financial Assistance

A number of research and teaching assistantships are available for qualified graduate students. These appointments are normally for half-time assignments (20 hours per week) during the academic year. Some appointments may also be available during the summer. Assistantships will only be offered to formally admitted graduate students. Fellowships are available through MBS program.

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