Frequently Asked Questions
Students interested in the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience dual-title degree should contact their home department graduate adviser or the director of the dual-title program to discuss their goals. Some frequently asked questions and concerns are addressed below.
- What electives count toward the dual title in SBN?
The current list of electives that have been approved by the SBN steering committee can be found here. Note that courses offered under the 597 classification can't be given standing approval and must be submitted to the steering committee. If you are interested in having a course added to the list of approved electives, the instructor should submit the course syllabus, along with a statement indicating the requested approval and explaining how it aligns with the SBN program.
- How much longer will I be in graduate school if I do the dual title?
One thing the Graduate School considers in deciding whether to approve a dual-title curricular program is whether it would delay a student's ability to complete their graduate degree. In most cases, completing a dual title will not require any additional time than that needed to complete the home degree. Advanced planning and careful course selection are key to completing the degree efficiently.
- Is there funding for dual-title students?
Graduate student support is governed by the policies of the home department.
- Can I do more than one dual title?
No. The Penn State Graduate School restricts the number of "concurrent degrees" that a student can pursue. This restriction is designed to facilitate student's ability to complete their degrees in a timely manner. Dual titles are considered a concurrent degree (along with the home degree) and thus, students may pursue only one. In most cases, pursuing the dual title will also preclude the completion of any additional master's degree, minor, or certificate. Exceptions are possible for students whose program requires a "master's-along-the-way."
- Is my adviser graduate faculty in SBN?
Individuals in graduate faculty status in SBN are listed here, organized by department. If your adviser is not listed but feel that they should be, they should request affiliation by submitting a copy of their CV, along with a letter indicating their desire to affiliate with the program and detailing how their educational and research background align with the program goals, including how the work currently being conducted in their lab is an appropriate training environment for an SBN student.
- I took a relevant course, but it isn't listed as an approved elective. Can I still get credit for it?
Possibly. Students who would like to have a course counted as an SBN elective should submit the syllabus to the dual title director for consideration. The syllabus must be from the specific instructor and semester in which the student took the course. If the syllabus is not sufficiently detailed for the steering committee to determine its suitability, more information may be required. Students are strongly encouraged to seek approval prior to enrolling in the course to avoid any disappointments. In the event that the specific syllabus is not yet available, students should ask the instructor to provide a recent and comparable version, along with a statement that the syllabus provided is a reasonable reflection of the course as the student will experience it.
- My department isn't listed as being affiliated, but my research is directly related to social and behavioral neuroscience. Can I do the dual title?
Program affiliation is regular by the Graduate School. Each department who wishes to offer the dual title must submit a detailed proposal to the Graduate School and Faculty Senate. Because this review process is time consuming, students in programs that have not already applied for affiliation will not have the opportunity to pursue this dual title. However, students should still consult with their adviser and graduate professor-in-charge to discuss how to optimize their education toward their professional goals.
- What are the advantages of pursuing the dual title?
The dual title is beneficial for students who already know they are interested in pursuing their doctoral research from a neuroscience perspective. The dual-title program is meant to enhance what you would be doing for your degree anyway, as well as provide documentation of your specialized expertise with formal recognition in your degree title. In your academic job search, the most important thing to make you competitive will be your publications. However, the formal recognition of your neuroscience training in your degree title may also widen the scope of jobs you are competitive for.
- How is this program different from the IDGP program?
Although both programs have neuroscience in the title, there are a number of differences in terms of the requirements and how the programs are administered.
- For the SBN dual title, students must first apply to one of the affiliated programs and be admitted to that doctoral program before adding the dual-title component. For the IDGP, students apply directly to that program and will receive a Ph.D. in Neuroscience.
- There is some core coursework that is common between both programs, although the SBN dual-title program will require additional coursework that is defined by the home program. Not all of this coursework will be neuroscience related. Which program is better suited to your goals will depend heavily on the extent of your interest in the home program and the non-neuroscience focused courses.
- The IDGP program is housed in the Huck Institute of Life Sciences, whereas students pursuing the SBN dual title are based in their home department. Each of these administrative entities may have their own policies regarding resources, research opportunities, and mentorship structure.
- The faculty member I am interested in working with is listed under both the SBN dual title and IDGP. Which program do I apply to?
If the faculty member holds appointments in both programs, the Graduate School recognizes them as acceptable advisers for each degree. However, prospective students are encouraged to reach out to the faculty member in advance of applying to better understand what these different degree options would mean for a student working in their lab. It is always a good idea to communicate in advance with a potential graduate adviser to learn whether they are admitting students prior to applying. Sometimes affiliated faculty may not be admitting students in a given year due to lab resources, the current number of advisees, or other obligations.