Trainee Program Requirements


Trainees in the MBM Program must complete a series of courses over the duration of their participation in the program.

NEUR 520: Advanced Topics course, Section MBM
Trainees take this course every semester. Co-taught by program faculty and invited guest speakers, the course combines topics on Biology/Physiology, Engineering, Cognitive science, and Professional Development. The invited speakers include the Frontiers in Miniature Brain Machinery lecturers, whose lectures are both open to the public and part of the course, as well as professional development specialists from multiple departments across the University of Illinois campus, who offer advanced training in communication, leadership, and other essential skills.

MBM-Specific Coursework
Trainees who are Engineering/Chemistry majors should complete one of the following:

    • MCB 400: Cell Structure & Function
    • MCB 410: Developmental Biology
    • NEUR 462: Integrative Neuroscience

Biology majors should complete one of the following:

    • ChBE 476: Biotransport
    • BIOP 550: Biomolecular Physics
    • ChBE 472: Techniques in Biomolecular Eng.
    • CHEM 420: Chemical Instrumentation

Bioengineering students should aim for at least one of the biology or chemistry courses listed above. Relevant psychology courses may also be considered.

Advanced coursework
In addition to the above, trainees should complete at least one of the following:

    • NEUR 461: Cell & Molecular Neuroscience
    • NEUR 462: Integrative Neuroscience
    • NEUR 405: Cognitive Neuroscience
    • NEUR 414/BIOE 506: Brain, Learning, & Memory
    • NEUR 419: Brain, Behavior, & Info Process
    • NEUR 450: Cognitive Psychophysiology
    • BIOE 506: Molecular & Cellular Bioengineering
    • BIOE 476: Tissue Engineering
    • BIOE 572: Biological Measurement (Mechanical Engineering students)
    • ChBE 471: Techniques in Biomolecular Engineering (equivalent to BIOE 572)

Scientific Ethics course
A course in the trainee’s major that addresses scientific ethics as one of its primary topics will fulfill this requirement. Two examples:

Learn more about Illinois Research Ethics Resources

Training in team building, ethics, presentation skills, and entrepreneurship
Ideally, we would like to see completion of 1-2 weeks’ worth of training in these topics. Participation in multiple workshops that address these topics individually may also apply toward the requirement. Trainees who have already completed a similar program and/or learned the topics addressed in such a program may be exempt from completing it during their MBM traineeship; however, because these soft skills are better absorbed through repeated exposure, we take a “more is more” approach to this aspect of the training.

Other Program Requirements

Regular Advisement
Trainees should meet one-on-one with their advisors regularly to ensure they are still on track in the program.

 MBM Retreat Participation
The annual retreat gives trainees an opportunity to present their research, meet external program advisors, and participate in other professional/leadership skills development opportunities.

Trainees are encouraged to supervise high school/undergraduate students via lab mentorship opportunities organized by their home departments. Examples include the GAMES camp or other programs in relevant subject matter. Participation gives trainees an opportunity to learn more in MBM subjects, practice leadership skills, and inspire the next generation of scientists, particularly from underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

Trainees may develop their skills in communicating with the public via such opportunities as a booth at the Urbana Farmer’s Market, departmental open houses, and/or other outreach.

All relevant activities should be reported to MBM so we can include this information in your trainee profile.

External Research Experience
Each trainee should spend 1-3 months at an external research institution, preferably outside the United States. Our partner institutions are available options for this experience, though trainees may consult with their advisors to select a location that will complement their personal research journey. The goal is to gain experience in a lab outside the University of Illinois as well as to contribute to the larger community of research in the field.

Other requirements

Core Courses required by home departments
Trainees should discuss appropriate coursework toward completing their degree with their advisors.

Research Lab Rotations
Trainees may complete two rotations in their co-advisors’ labs per year.

Qualifying Exam
Trainees will meet with their advisor to discuss appropriate time to take this exam.

Thesis Research
Trainees should discuss thesis projects with their advisors and begin research.

Preliminary Thesis Exam
Trainees should discuss with their advisors when to take this exam in relation to their home department’s requirements.

Publish Research
Trainees should develop enough research to publish in a peer-reviewed journal.

Write and Defend Thesis
Trainees will discuss plans for their thesis and defense with their advisors.