Joining the Program

Members of the Stanford community are invited to join MBC as training faculty, affiliates, or trainees.

Training faculty participate in the program in teaching and other educational activities, and can serve as mentors or co-mentors to trainees (other faculty may also serve in these roles by arrangement).

Affiliates are members of the community who are interested in MBC's programs and activities, and are on the Center's mailing list.

Trainees are graduate students in a Ph.D. program at Stanford who pursue the MBC Graduate Training Program.  Potential applicants should read the Graduate Training page and review Information for Potential Trainees.

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Applying to a Stanford Ph. D. Program?

If you are currently applying for admission to a Stanford Ph. D. program, and are interested in the possibility of joining MBC as an affiliate or as a trainee, follow the normal application procedures for the Ph. D. program of your choice. You may submit a concurrent application for MBC affiliate status. This will alert us to your interest in the MBC program, and allow us to coordinate with the admissions process of your home department.

MBC has established affiliations with the Ph.D. programs in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience, Physics, and Psychology, but Ph. D. students in other programs are welcome to participate as well. If you are not sure which Ph.D. program suits your interests, please feel free to contact the MBC administrator with a brief description of your background and interests, and we will endeavor to provide guidance.

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Joining as an Affiliate

Affiliates are welcome to participate in all MBC events, will receive announcements, and will be listed on the MBC website. Everyone in the Stanford community who wishes to participate in the program is encouraged to become an affiliate. Faculty are welcome to contact Jay McClelland about joining the Training Faculty, or to join the MBC Program as an affiliate, depending on their level of interest.

In order to become an affiliate, all you have to do is provide a small amount of information. Contact the MBC administrator for the electronic form. Please indicate in your request whether you are already a member of the Stanford community or are concurrently applying for admission to Stanford.

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Information for Potential Trainees

Trainees are graduate students in a Ph.D. program at Stanford who pursue a specialized program of study and research that aims to enhance their ability to integrate computational/quantitative and experimental approaches to investigate the emergent functions of the brain.  Each trainee designs an individualized program of coursework that culminates in a MBC Research Experience, stretching the student's research beyond the ordinary expectations of his or her home program or laboratory.

Trainees receive guidance from the primary mentor, usually the student's home-department research advisor, and a secondary mentor with complementary expertise.  Trainees also participate in MBC activities including the bi-weekly seminar series, annual symposium, and outside speaker series.  Potential trainees should familiarize themselves with the details of the program, available on the Graduate Training page.

Applications from existing Stanford Ph.D. students for traineeships are due on July 31, 2017, for trainees wishing to be considered for traineeships to start in the autumn quarter of 2017. Applications can also be considered to start at other times. It is best to allow 2 months from the time you start the process of developing a proposal -- (see Steps to Becoming a Trainee) until the desired start date.

Currently, MBC is not offering stipend or partial tuition support to new trainees. However, all trainees are eligible for an annual travel allowance and modest research expense support -- (see Financial Support). Funding decisions will be made in conjunction with the evaluation of traineeship applications.

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Traineeship Details

MBC is committed to the use of advanced computational/quantitative tools, in conjunction with experimental research methods and findings, in order to understand the emergent functions of the nervous system. Traineeships should integrate both computational/quantitative and experimental approaches, but the program is flexible about the exact nature of this integration. The most important criterion is that the student intends to stretch in a meaningful way that is recognizable to the Program's steering committee. It is expected that each trainee will consult with steering committee members in developing the training program.

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Mentors and Co-Mentors

Each applicant will need to obtain approval of the training plan from both the primary research mentor and from the co-mentor.

Co-mentors need not come from Stanford, and may be international (for NSF funded trainees, foreign travel support is available). It is best if the mentor and co-mentor have a sense of mutual understanding of the student's overall training and research goals, and of the nature and role of the MBC research experience in the student's research and training. An established working relationship between the mentor and co-mentor is beneficial, and will be especially important if the co-mentor works outside of Stanford.

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Training Plan and MBC Research Experience

The trainee should develop a training plan including coursework, culminating in the MBC Research Experience. The coursework part of the training plan should stretch the trainee beyond what would ordinarily be expected for graduate students in the trainee's home program and laboratory, and should relate meaningfully to the research experience described below.

The MBC Research Experience should generally enhance the student's training, and also meaningfully mesh with the overall direction of the student's research. As a rough guideline, it should consume 50 percent of the student's research effort for one year. This level of effort is needed to begin to achieve meaningful hands-on mastery of an approach or method that is a genuine stretch for the student.

The MBC Research Experience must draw in a meaningful way on the expertise of the co-mentor, who should be carefully chosen in light of the student's training and research plan. It might involve a period of time in the co-mentor's laboratory to acquire a technique that will be brought back to the home laboratory, or a side project undertaken under the primary supervision of the co-mentor. The co-mentor may specifically recommend preparatory courses that would be included in the coursework part of the training program.

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Traineeship Timeline

The training period should extend over approximately two years, although included coursework may begin before the traineeship starts, and the two years may not overlap exactly with the period of NSF support if awarded.

Trainees will be expected to have a three-way meeting with the mentor and co-mentor at the beginning, middle and end of the training period. Trainees will complete complete regular progress reports during and at the end of the training period. Detailed requirements and timing for these reports will be provided.

All trainees will be eligible for modest necessary funds for direct research costs that cannot be covered by the mentor or co-mentor. Funding for travel to training-plan-relevant conferences will also be available where necessary, especially for presentations of results of the trainee's research.

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Steps to Becoming a Trainee

Those who wish to be trainees should take the following steps. Note that it is best to begin the process about 2 months before the deadline for which you are applying. The deadline is July 31 for existing Stanford students wishing to become trainees starting in the autumn of 2017.

1. Become an affiliate.


2. Familiarize yourself with the content of the Graduate Training and Join MBC pages on this web site, including the Information for Potential Trainees and these Steps to Becoming a Trainee.


3. Notify the program administrator of your interest in becoming a trainee.

Provide your name, department, primary advisor's name, and a brief statement of the intended scope of your training proposal. The administrator will then work with you to set up a time to meet with the Training Program Director or another member of the Steering Committee.

4. Meet with your primary mentor.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss your interest in the program and your planned training and research activities, as well as possible co-mentors, to plan what you will write in the traineeship application as described below.

5. Prepare a narrative statement of the research proposal.

This should contain the following sections.

    • (i) Introductory statement. A paragraph describing the student's overall research and training goals, and how they relate to the goals of the MBC program.
    • (ii) Proposed training plan. One to two paragraphs each on the training and research activities the applicant is pursuing or is planning to pursue to integrate quantitative/theoretical/computational approaches with experimental research approaches or findings on some topic related to the emergent functions of neural systems. The proposal should clearly indicate how the proposed training research will represent an opportunity to stretch beyond the standard boundaries of the trainee's home department and will integrate quantitative/theoretical/computational and experimental approaches.
    • (iii) MBC Involvement. One paragraph describing the students past and planned involvement in MBC training program activities, such as the Monday evening seminar series, annual half-day symposium, trainee-only research discussion sessions, etc.
    • (iv) Plans for Involving Secondary Mentor. One paragraph explaining the trainee's plans to involve a secondary mentor, describing the type of expertise to be sought, the role the secondary mentor will play, and if possible identifying an individual who has agreed to play this role. If an individual has not yet been identified to serve this role, include a statement indicating steps to be taken to find such an individual, mentioning individuals who are under consideration if possible.
    • (v) Primary mentor's statement of support for the applicant's participation in the program. This statement must come from the applicant's primary research advisor, and must indicate agreement and support for the proposer's research and training plans as described in the traineeship proposal items above. The advisor's statement must also indicate awareness that the MBC does not provide full coverage of tuition and fees and must indicate how the balance will be funded. The MBC program staff will be glad to work with the trainee's advisor and the trainee's PhD program to explore solutions, but the MBC cannot provide any additional funds.

6. Submit the training proposal.

Send the proposal (items i - iv) as a PDF attachment by email to the program administrator

The primary mentor's statement of support (item v) should be sent by the primary mentor to the program administrator.

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Financial Support

Currently, the program provides up to $1500 to support research- and training-related travel each year for up to 3 years, and a one-time allocation of up to $3,000 to cover other research-related expenses. All Trainees and Provisional Trainees are eligible for these support amounts.

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