Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Dynamical Neuroscience (DYNS) offers graduate study leading to Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Research-focused training is provided for those seeking an interdisciplinary understanding of Neuroscience. It prepares students for careers in academia, science and technology, government, and business; theoretical and applied work in neuroscience; and conducting original research.

DYNS encourages students to tailor their program to their specific needs, matching their backgrounds and career goals, in consultation with their advisors and DYNS leadership. Petitions to accept courses as replacements for Core or Elective requirements are common. In fact, every single DYNS student has had at least one petitioned Elective course as part of their curriculum. Thus, the DYNS program provides challenging quantitative neuroscience training that is customized just for you.

DYNS Program Requirements

DYNS Core Curriculum

Ph.D. students in the program are required to demonstrate competency in the fundamental areas of dynamical neuroscience normally by completing a total of 16 units of Core Course Requirements with grades of B or better.

  • (4 units) ECE 230A/ME 243A Linear System I
  • (4 units) MATH 214A Ordinary Differential Equations*
  • (4 units) PSY 221F/265 Computational Neuroscience
  • (4 units) PSY 269 Neuroanatomy or MCDB 251 Neurobiology

*If you have not taken undergraduate ordinary differential equations or did not major in Physics, Math or Engineering we highly recommend taking ME 169/ECE 183/PHYS 106 Nonlinear Phenomena, which is a good preparation for MATH 214 A

Additional Coursework

DYNS 596 - Directed Reading & Research

Variable unit credit for directed reading and research performed in the research laboratory of their Faculty Advisor. Required every quarter during entire academic study until enrollment in DYNS 599.

DYNS 599 - Ph.D. Dissertation Preparation

Variable units & register for only after advancing to candidacy and typically in the last year enrolled as a doctoral candidate. Unit credit for writing the PhD dissertation.

Seminar Courses

DYNS 562 - Research Progress in DYNS 1 unit each quarter & required every quarter during the entire academic study. Literature review of guest speakers; DYNS graduate students present on their lab research, timely papers from the literature and/or their own original research during the DYNS's weekly seminar series attended by DYNS graduate students and selected faculty.

It is required unless special circumstances prevent attendance.

DYNS graduate students have the opportunity to volunteer to coordinate seminars and talks: guest speakers’ invitations and events and the weekly seminar. The activitieds are organized in collaboration with the Chair of the DYNS program and the staff graduate advisor.

Elective Coursework

At least 16 additional units of graduate coursework in dynamical neuroscience and in the student’s area of specialization, exclusive of courses numbered 596-599. These courses will be individually selected from the Elective Units list (at the end of this document) by the student.

Additional research-related UCSB Course work can be petitioned to be included as a replacement for Elective Units listed courses. A replacement Elective Course must be with the written approval and signature of both the student’s Faculty Advisor and the Chair of the DYNS program. See Staff Advisor for Petition Template.

Teaching Assistant Training Courses

DYNS students are required to enroll in and take the Teaching Assistant Training(s). This will traditionally be in the home department of their advisor unless other arrangements are made.


DYNS Graduate Students will receive a directed readings from their faculty advisor and members of their committee. A doctoral committee consists of a minimum of three DYNS ladder faculty, with a maximum of 4 faculty members. The preparation for the advancement to candidacy exam normally begins in the spring or summer of their second year of graduate study.

The qualifying examination consists of a written four-hour closed book exam followed by an oral exam during the third year in the program. After passing the written exam, the student should meet with each committee member about preparation for the oral exam. It is advised to take the oral exam a couple of weeks after passing the written exam. The signed Form II is submitted to the Graduate Division in spring of your third year upon successful completion of both oral and written exams. Students are advised to complete the required core coursework and some elective coursework before taking their written exam. A committee is formed by submitting a Graduate Division Form I. The student submits the signed Form I to the Graduate Division for approval and signature by the Graduate Division Dean. The student's qualifying exam will be chaired by their Faculty Graduate Advisor, who will receive 3 (committee of 3) or 2 (committee of 4) examination questions from each committee member, for a total of 9 (committee of 3) or 8 (committee of 4) questions. The Faculty Advisor will select 6 questions, and the student will be asked to answer 4 of the 6 questions in four hours closed book. The student may use their reading list for reference.


Once the student has advanced to candidacy (P2 status) the student will work with their advisor planning their dissertation research. The student will write a Dissertation Proposal to be approved by all members of their committee. The faculty will sign the cover page of the approved Proposal. The signed Dissertation Proposal will be added to student’s file.

The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is a written dissertation and its oral defense.

Approved Elective Units

Refer to General Catalog for current listings.

Course # Title
CMPSC 225 / ECE 205A Information Theory
CMPSC 234 Randomized Algorithms
CMPSC 265 Advanced Topics in Machine Intelligence
CMPSC 281B / ECE 281B Advanced Topics in Computer Vision
ECE 236 / ME 236 Nonlinear Control Systems
ECE 277 Pattern Recognition
MATH 214B Chaotic Dynamics and Bifurcation Theory
MCDB 252 Neurobiology II: Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology
MCDB 253 Neurobiology III: Developmental Neurobiology
ME 215A Applied Dynamical Systems I
ME 215B Applied Dynamical Systems II
PHYS 219 Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 223C Concepts and Phenomena of Condensed Matter Physics
PSTAT 207A Statistical Theory
PSTAT 207B Statistical Theory
PSTAT 207C Statistical Theory
PSTAT 213A Intro to Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes
PSTAT 213B Intro to Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes
PSTAT 213C Intro to Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes
PSY 221E Statistical Analysis of fMRI Data
PSY 228 Perception
PSY 231 Cognitive Neuroscience
PSY 232 Neuroimaging
Elective Units Requiring Petitions

Any course not listed on the Approved Elective Units list requires a petition. See Staff Graduate Advisor if you have questions. 


Year 1

The graduate student starts taking the CORE and ELECTIVE courses, and the DYNS 592 Seminar and the DYNS 596 Directed Reading and Research in Dynamical Neuroscience with their faculty advisor. Students take TA training in their first year.

Year 2

The graduate student continues taking the CORE and ELECTIVE courses, and the DYNS 592 Seminar and the DYNS 596 Directed Reading and Research in Dynamical Neuroscience with their faculty advisor. The student is asked during to start preparing in the summer to take Comprehensive Exams in the next academic year.

Year 3

The graduate student fills out Form I to create a PhD committee, to be submitted and approved by the Dean of the Graduate Division. The student works with their committee to prepare and take the written exam. After passing the written exam, in 2 to 3 weeks preferably, the Oral exam is scheduled with the PhD committee. The Form II Report on Qualifying Exams and advancement to candidacy is filed during spring quarter with the Graduate Division. During year 3 additional course work may be taken. DYNS 592 Seminar and DYNS 596 Research continue.

Year 4

The graduate student is planning and working on a research dissertation, working closely with the faculty advisor and committee. The student may take additional coursework, continue research and may start DYNS 599 Dissertation Research and Preparation.

Year 5

The formal Dissertation Proposal is approved and signed by the committee members. The student is enrolled in DYNS 599 Dissertation Research and Preparation. The student continues to do research and write their dissertation. The Form III Report on Doctoral Degree Final Defense.