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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
October 22, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Behavioural Neuroscience Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program

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Students in the Behavioural Neuroscience Ph.D. program at Laurier work closely with a faculty supervisor on an original program of research aimed to make a significant contribution in a specific subfield of Behavioural Neuroscience. Rather than requiring students to pass comprehensive exams as a part of their studies, the Laurier Behavioural Neuroscience Ph.D. program requires students to complete comprehensive research projects with two faculty members other than their primary advisor. The purpose of these projects is to learn and benefit from the mentorship of other faculty, to experience new research methodologies and gain exposure to new research literatures, and to build the student's CV with multiple publications. The Ph.D. dissertation requires original research that contributes significant new knowledge to the field. Students have the opportunity to apply to teach undergraduate courses while they are in the program, and students often enroll in a practicum on the teaching of psychology during their first or second year. Doctoral students are encouraged to teach a course as part of their training experience. Graduates are trained for positions in university, hospital, community, industry or government settings.



"As a Ph.D. student I’m very happy to be here at Laurier. There are several qualities that make the Behavioural Neuroscience program here especially attractive. Firstly, the small size of the program enables us to have close contact with our advisors and others doing similar research in the lab. Second, the small course load allows us to focus more on our research projects. Lastly, the diversity in faculty interests gives us the opportunity as students to look at problems in Behavioural Neuroscience from a number of perspectives. Our faculty interests span from behavioural analyses, psychopharmacology, electrophysiology and molecular neurobiology."

-Ali Gheidi, Ph.D. candidate

Admissions Information

Admission is contingent upon successful completion of a Masters degree program. Applicants to the Behavioural Neuroscience Ph.D. program are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Research qualifications, including publications, manuscripts in preparation, and conference posters and presentations. A history of external funding is also an advantage.
  • Letters of reference, one of which should be from the student's Masters thesis advisor. Reference letters should speak to several aspects of the student's potential for a successful academic career: analytical skills, writing skills, statistical skills, work ethic, initiative and independence, quality and originality of research ideas, ability to work with faculty, peers, and undergraduates, etc.
  • The personal statement. Personal statements should be well-written, and should describe the applicant's research interests (including past work and ideas for future research with specific Laurier faculty). Candidates applying for the Ph.D. program with a Masters degree from another university are encouraged to contact potential faculty supervisors to find out if they will be accepting students in the current year.
  • Academic performance,as indicated by undergraduate and graduate GPA. The GRE is recommended but not required.

For general information about applying to graduate programs in psychology at Laurier, or to apply now, click here. Students who wish to apply to the Doctoral program in Behavioural Neuroscience should indicate “Ph.D. program in Behavioural Neuroscience” when they complete their on-line application.

Ph.D. Curriculum

Seven half-credit courses, two comprehensive projects, and a dissertation constitute the degree requirements. The required courses include:

  • PS861 Seminar in Comparative Cognition (year 1-3)
  • PS863 Seminar in Behavioural Neuroscience (year 1-3)
  • PS864 Seminar in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (year 1-3)
  • One elective (year 1 or 2)
  • PS856, PS857, PS858 Research Seminar in Behavioural Neuroscience I, II and III (taken 3 times, P/F)
  • PS891 Ph.D. Comprehensive Research Experience (year 1)
  • PS892 Ph.D. Comprehensive Research Experience (year 2)
  • PS899: Dissertation.

During the first two years of the Ph.D. program, all students in Behavioural Neuroscience must complete two comprehensive research experiences under the supervision of a faculty member other than their advisor. The research experiences can take the form of either: 1) a research project, including a written report, or 2) a review paper; however, at least one must be a research project.


Admitted Ph.D. students are guaranteed a minimum of $19,000 funding per year for three years. This money typically comes from a variety of sources, including teaching assistantships, Laurier graduate scholarships, and faculty research grant money. Students in the Behavioural Neuroscience Ph.D. program are typically supplemented by an additional $5,000 paid directly by faculty members from their research grants. During their studies, Ph.D. students may also apply for travel awards from the department and from graduate studies.

Students who receive a major external scholarship, such as an OGS or SSHRC award, become eligible for "top-up" scholarship funds from Laurier. The amount of these top-up scholarships varies by year, depending on the availability of funds.