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NIH-KI Collaborative Doctoral Program in Neuroscience

About the Program

Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden is home to one of the best neuroscience research centers in Europe. NIH is the largest and best-equipped biomedical research facility in the world, with 20% of NIH's faculty describing themselves as neuroscientists. Thus, NIH is also the largest neuroscience research facility in the world. These two prestigious institutions seek 1) to encourage research collaborations between them, and 2) to train future leaders in neuroscience research. For these reasons, the joint program offers unparalleled opportunities for training and research to a very select group of accomplished and goal-directed students who are expected to emerge as future research leaders within neuroscience.

Institutional Goals

The NIH-KI joint PhD program had its first class of four U.S. and four Swedish students in 2002. Graduate students admitted to the program through either the NIH or the KI intake are co-mentored by an NIH faculty member and a KI faculty member in a collaborative research project. Students thus have the advantage of two mentors with different but overlapping perspectives, as well as special facilities and opportunities at each institution. Students will be admitted to doctoral education at KI and thus obtain their PhD degree from KI. Approximately half of the PhD dissertation research time is spent at each institution, with a minimum of 18 months spent at either location.

American vs. Swedish PhD Programs

Swedish PhD programs, such as the KI program, are highly focused on specific research training and dissertation research (80-90%) and assign less time to formal classroom training. Course work accounts for 30 ECTS at KI, doctoral education in total accounts for 240 ECTS in total (equivalent to four years of full-time studies). At KI, students choose a dissertation advisor upon entering their degree program and begin research immediately, while taking a few required courses. In U.S. PhD programs, students usually have one to two years of course work before beginning their dissertation research. Students admitted to the program from the NIH side will follow the doctoral education structure at KI. For more information on doctoral education at KI, please visit

In Europe, specialization in science education begins at the undergraduate level. A BS/BA degree at KI does not reflect the broad liberal arts education required by U.S. colleges and universities. Instead, BS/BA students take many more courses in their major or in areas that are directly related to their major. Thus, the European BA/BS degree is roughly equivalent to an MS degree in the U.S.