Need some advise

R McPherson neuron at
Wed Aug 1 19:57:48 EST 2001

"Cem Tural" <tural at> wrote in message
news:9k97po$3bab9$1 at
> Hi to all,
> I am an undergraduate engineering student in Turkey. Surprisingly, I have
> decided to attend a PhD program in Neuroscience after my MS study here in
> Turkey.
> We have Biomedical Engineering and Molecular Biology & Genetics MS
> in my University. Which path would be the more appropriate to constitute a
> background for a PhD study in Neuroscience?
> And I would appreciate if you could recommend a web site that has the
> ranking and other information about the PhD programs in Neuroscience in
> and Canada.
> Thanks and best regards,
> cemtural
I don't know about "ranking" programs in the US or Canada and I'm not sure
it is the correct thing to evaluate.
IMO, the single most important factor to optimize in choosing a graduate
program is your specific graduate advisor.  The chemistry between your
advisor and yourself must be good or your research and progress will suffer.
Factors like teaching load, stipend level, medical school ranking, access to
sophisticated equipment and stuff like that doesn't mean anything if you and
your advisor do not get along and/or do not communicate effectively.  I
recommend keeping that in mind.

So how do you optimize that you might ask?  First, the Molecular Biology is
probably your best immediate choice.  Molecular techniques are dominating
the progress in medical research.  The biomed engineering is too applied,
too specific,  as is the molecular genetics.  All that stuff is useful,
worthwhile knowledge, it just isn't as broad a background for an
undergraduate preparing for an unknown focus in neuroscience.  Although the
history of neuroscience is grounded in disciplines like pharmacology,
psychology, behavioral pharmacology, learning theory, behaviorism, ethology,
perception, neurology, and a whole bunch of very behavior-oriented
approaches, for better or worse the career path in neuroscience is dominated
by reductionism and the focus on finding the smallest molecular mechanism
underlying the disparate phenomena within neuroscience.  Molecular biology
is it. Period.  The most competitive grants propose an assortment of
molecular techniques.  Today that is all kit biology.  The latest thing is a
fishing expedition called gene matrices.  An array of genes can be imprinted
onto a membrane and a scientist can give a treatment to an animal or tissue
and then expose the treated tissue to the membrane and quickly discover if
the expression of any genes were affected by the treatment.  Pure fishing.
No prior hypothesis about which specific gene might be changed is necessary.
It sounds heretical, but a tremendous amount of progress will be made in a
short amount of time.  So get an arsenal of molecular techniques in your own
repertoire, then search for the professor whose thinking you admire, who you
can communicate with, who has a good track record for training people, and
who is interested in your talents.  Then learn his focus.  Then develop your
own.  But this is all just my advice.  Others may disagree and think going
to a hot shot school is the important factor.  Not me.

Ron McPherson, PhD
UW Neonatology
Box 356320
1959 NE Pacific St
Seattle, WA 98195-6320

email: neuron at

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