Washington University’s assets and resources come together to provide a world-class research experience. Residents leave our program thoroughly prepared for exceptional careers as neurosurgeon-scientists, thanks to abundant research opportunities for basic science, clinical, and translational work across the major subspecialties of neurosurgery and related diseases. 

The department ranks as one of the top recipients of federal research funds and is home to one of the largest number of R01-funded faculty among neurosurgery departments in the country. In addition, the School of Medicine has one of the largest medical scientist training programs in the U.S.

Protected research time

Neurosurgery residents have up to two years of protected research time to focus on projects in the neurosciences. This time is meant to serve as a foundation for those who seek careers as academic neurosurgeons with an active role in basic science research. Residents do not have clinical responsibilities during this time.

Residents identify a mentor inside or outside the Department of Neurosurgery and develop a proposal for a neuroscience research project to be investigated during PGY5 and PGY6. 

Before beginning their research, residents present their plans to the Neuroscience Research Mentorship Group (NRMG), a committee of physician-scientist mentors that convene quarterly to aid in the development of their research projects. These meetings are valuable both for residents who are preparing for their research years and those whose projects are underway. 

In addition to the 12 federally-funded labs in the Department of Neurosurgery, residents can choose from a broad range of neuroscience topics researched in labs throughout Washington University. Along with the research labs in the Department of Neurosurgery, there are approximately 20 other departments that each have multiple neuroscience labs, including neurology, neuroradiology, neuro-oncology and neuropathology. 

Faculty help guide all residents to the labs that best fit their research interests. Because of Washington University’s broad strength in research and the ongoing success of many labs, these faculty have the resources necessary to support neurosurgery residents during their research time. Some research projects may overlap disciplines or laboratories, fostering collaboration between departments and labs. This common multidisciplinary approach here facilitates research progress and promotes success.

Our faculty and residents are integrated into many of the key research areas at the medical school, including neuroscience, immunology, cancer biology, developmental biology, genetics and engineering.

Resident research funding and awards

Residents are often awarded independent funding and fellowships including awards from the NIH, NREF, and other foundations.  

All residents have the opportunity to apply for the department’s R25 Resident Research Education Program Grant, funded by the NIH. Applications must be vetted by the NRMG prior to submission and are due to the NIH by October 15 every year.

R25 awardees include:

Past NREF awardees include:

Additional notable recent grant awards:

High productivity

Our residency is a top-10 training program in average H-index ranking of our residents, making it one of the most productive in the country. 

Residents are expected to publish two papers a year. Recent graduates have been published in some of the most high-profile scientific journals including Science, Nature Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Stroke, and Journal of Neuroscience and the highest impact neurosurgical journals including Journal of Neurosurgery and Neurosurgery.

Annual research symposium

The Neurosurgery Research Symposium provides residents, fellows and faculty of the department a forum to present and discuss their research.  Residents with the best clinical and best basic science presentations receive awards. Each year, a nationally-renowned neurosurgeon is invited to give the keynote address at the symposium and help judge the presentations.

  • 2023 – Peter Dirks, MD, PhD, FRCSC, Chief, Division of Neurosurgery, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), University of Toronto.
  • 2022 – J Mocco, MD, MS, Senior Vice Chair, Director of the Cerebrovascular Center, and Co-Director of the Neuroendovascular Surgery Fellowship Program in the Department of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai
  • 2021 – Linda M. Liau, MD, PhD, MBA, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA
  • 2019 – Sepideh Amin-Hanjani, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, University Hospitals
  • 2019 – Stephen J. Korn, PhD, Director, Office of Training and Workforce Development, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 
  • 2018 – Russell R. Lonser, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurosurgery, The Ohio State University
  • 2017 – Bob S. Carter, MD, PhD, Professor and Chief, Neurosurgery Service, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • 2016 – James T. Rutka, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
  • 2015 – John S. Sampson, MD, PhD, Chief, Division of Neurosurgery, Duke University
  • 2014 – Matthew Howard, III, MD, Professor and Chair, University of Iowa
  • 2013 – B. Gregory Thompson, MD, Professor, University of Michigan
  • 2012 – Nicholas Barbaro, MD, Professor and Chair, Indiana University
  • 2011 – Murat Gunel, MD, Professor, Yale University
  • 2010 – Nelson Oyesiku, MD, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Emory University
  • 2009 – Mitchel Berger, MD, Director, Brain Tumor Center, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2008 – William T. Couldwell, MD, PhD., Professor and Chair, University of Utah
  • 2007 – Chris Wallace, MD, Professor and Chair, Queen’s University