Students push for new neuroscience major

    Neuroscience? It’s a no-brainer.

    As early as next fall, students may have the opportunity to pursue a neuroscience major. Currently, undergraduates interested in studying neuroscience can only take related courses like neurobiology or psychology, which fail to capture all its the complexities.

    For more than a year, neurobiology Professor Catherine Woolley, students in the Neuro Club and faculty members from different departments have been working to create a neuroscience major.  Universities across the country offer a neuroscience major, and developments and initiatives in neuroscience are on the rise, including President Barack Obama’s BRAIN initiative.  

    The Northwestern major is in the proposal stage.

    Northwestern already has a neuroscience graduate program. Neuroscience encompasses numerous fields, from the biological structure of the brain to its psychological workings.  

    “Students are interested in studying the brain, but none of [the courses] satisfy the breadth and diversity of courses taught about the brain,” Woolley said. “We want to create a single yet highly flexible curriculum and a rigorous path for students interested in studying the brain.”

    Woolley chairs a committee for developing a neuroscience major. The students of the Neuro Club gave Woolley input in developing the major.  

    Designed to be interdisciplinary, the proposal for the neuroscience major allows students to concentrate on an allied field, similar to a track or a concentration. The proposed allied fields are  biology, chemistry, computation and systems modeling, human behavior and cognition, and language and human communication. For example, a student could be a neuroscience major with a focus on biology.

    “There are many different ways you can be in neuroscience,” said neurobiology Professor Indira Raman. “There are students with a variety of science interests.  This way, the neuroscience major will be different from most universities.”

    If approved, the major would include existing courses, new courses and new staff members.  However, it still needs to go through administrative approval.

    “I think in general, I’ve seen an increase in the neurobiology and neuroscience majors in universities,” said Jason Sanchez, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders.  “Especially here at Northwestern, there are lots of students interested in the Neuro Club.”  

    Communication sophomore and Neuro Club President Nicholas Hug hopes the major will be ready by Fall Quarter 2015.  If approved, he will try to pursue the neuroscience major.

    “It’s one of the most intriguing parts of the human body,” Hug said. “It’s part of who we are.  We understand so little about it.  Understanding the brain and consciousness is one of the questions that have been around since ancient Greece and will intrigue people for generations.”


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