The Center for Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology’s graduate training program is founded on the idea that contemporary research about the emergent functions of the nervous system often requires the integration of experimental and technical methods.
This program supports young scientists from empirical, technical, or theoretical backgrounds as they stretch beyond the traditional boundaries of their department or lab to learn complimentary, interdisciplinary approaches from another field, advancing their research and helping them to develop into leaders and innovators in their field.
The graduate training program is built around a flexible plan of individually-chosen courses and independent study that will allow each student to gain the right background for their needs, and also seeks to provide a supportive overall training environment through course offerings, seminars, and other events that will help foster fuller integration of technical and experimental approaches at many levels of investigation in neuroscience. Trainees collaborate with their faculty mentors to develop individualized training and research plans, receive funding to travel to conferences or scientific meetings, and attend seminar series talks and other events throughout the year.
Stanford PhD students are invited to apply for the Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology training program beginning in the first year of their graduate program, after they have identified their primary mentor and established their research plan. Trainees may come from any Stanford department, so long as their research relates to the function or emergent properties of the nervous system. Graduate trainees commit to completing the training program requirements in addition to those required by their home department.
The Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology application period will open May 2019.
Individualized training and research plans
As part of their application to the graduate training program, each applicant is required to formulate individualized training and research plans. The student’s training plan generally involves several courses that go beyond the requirements of their home department, and provide strong grounding in a new research method complementing the student's primary PhD training. For example, a student admitted to the neuroscience graduate program might take a computer science course, a robotics course and a psychology course (outside the neuroscience program requirements), and might select two computational neuroscience courses from available neuroscience program options. Individual study guided by a faculty mentor may be proposed in lieu of formal coursework. The most important criterion is that the student intends to stretch in a meaningful way that is recognizable to the program’s faculty committee. Integrative educational experiences, including attendance at regular Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology seminars and travel to related conferences, build upon each student’s coursework.
In addition to their training plan, as part of their application students also propose a research plan that explains how they will integrate empirical and quantitative or engineering methods to advance their area of study. Student trainees will apply their new knowledge to their research under the joint supervision of their primary mentor and secondary mentors.
Each applicant will need to obtain approval of their training plan from both their primary research mentor and secondary mentor. The secondary mentor should provide expertise in a field outside the expertise of the student’s home lab or PhD program (e.g., in engineering or computer science if strength of the student’s primary lab is in neurobiology), and support the student as they stretch to learn new approaches and apply them to their research.
Secondary mentors need not come from Stanford, and may be international. It is best if the primary and secondary mentors have a sense of mutual understanding of the student's overall training and research goals, and of the goals of the Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology graduate training program. An established working relationship between the two mentors is beneficial, and will be especially important if the co-mentor works outside of Stanford.
Other program activities
The Center for Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology offers a journal club, an ongoing seminar series devoted to faculty and student research presentations, and also holds an annual symposium that brings distinguished speakers to campus to talk with program participants. Community engagement and participation is an important component of the center’s graduate training programs, and trainees play an important role in formulating, planning, and coordinating these events along with program faculty.
All Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology graduate trainees in good standing are eligible for $1,500 each year to support research- and training-related travel for up to three years.
To remain in good standing, trainees must submit an annual progress report that demonstrates their commitment to the training, research and engagement aspects of the program, and that is approved by a member of the graduate training program committee.
Prospective Stanford graduate students
The Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology graduate training program is only available to students who have already begun their PhD program at Stanford. Please follow the normal application procedures for the PhD program of your choice, and consider joining the center’s mailing list to learn more about seminars, symposia and other events.