An artist rendering of a neuron


About the Program

Li Zhang, PhD, Program Director

Li Zhang, PhD, Program Director

The PhD program in Neuromedicine (NEUM) offered at the Keck School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology and Neuroscience and the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute is dedicated to training the next generation of investigators in the field of neuromedicine. Through a comprehensive curriculum and an exceptional interdisciplinary research environment, the program equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex questions pertaining to neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Students receive training in disease biology, data science, and traditional research approaches, as well as the opportunity to explore genetic, molecular, cellular, and system-level aspects of these diseases. Additionally, the program integrates translational and clinical perspectives, facilitated by faculty members with medical backgrounds, to foster the development of potential diagnostic tools and therapeutics. By providing a diverse and translational research workforce in neuromedicine, the NEUM program contributes to advancements in the field and the improvement of patient care.

NEUM Course Requirements

Degree Unit Requirement: 60 units

PIBBS Requirement: Completion of PIBBS required core curriculum (29 units)

Required NEUM Courses:

  • NEUM 510 – Foundation in Neuromedicine (4 units)
  • NEUM 520 – Advanced Topics in Neuromedicine (1 unit)
  • NEUM 790 – Directed Research (varies)
  • NEUM 794ab – Doctoral Dissertation (at least 4 units)

Electives: PhD students must supplement course work by registering for either elective courses or NEUM 790 Research during the fall, spring and summer semesters as needed to complete the minimum 60 units required for the PhD program. Students can select from the list of elective coursework from Davis School of Gerontology, Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Viterbi School of Engineering, or request approval from their faculty adviser and program director for courses not listed.

Qualifying Exam

Students must pass both the written and oral portions of the qualifying exam during the second year of study. The written portion will require students to write a research grant proposal, in a format modeled after an NIH F31 fellowship application. The oral defense portion will include both a formal presentation of the grant proposal, as well as an open forum in which the guidance committee asks general questions related to the student’s research.


Each student’s research is reported in a dissertation written under the guidance of the student’s mentor and the dissertation committee. The dissertation must demonstrate the student’s capacity for independent research, scholarly achievement and technical mastery of a specific field.