Neuroscience major expected at SLU

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Program in process of hiring, developing curriculum

Neuroscience is set to become SLU’s newest offered major, after spending approximately five years as an unofficial contract major. According to Tony Buchanan, associate professor of psychology, the neuroscience major will most likely be available to students beginning in Fall 2016, although new faculty and staff should start to arrive by Fall 2015.

The College of Arts and Sciences approved the neuroscience major this past December and funding for the program has fallen into place in the last few months. This has set into motion preparations to transition neuroscience into a full interdisciplinary major, involving coordination between the biology and psychology departments. While neuroscience transitions into a full major, a limited number of students will still be able to apply to take a neuroscience contract major.

However, neuroscience is currently still a contract major, meaning that there is no set curriculum for neuroscience majors. Instead, students select their own relevant courses from either the biology or psychology departments, and then have them approved by a neuroscience mentor, of which Buchanan is one. However, this has led to an overload of work for those four neuroscience mentors, due to the demand for a neuroscience program.

The new neuroscience major will result in the hiring of one staff member and two new faculty members, which will help decrease the load on current professors. In addition, administrators will begin handling student records, a job that the professors take care of currently.

This additional help should provide students with better advising and more information, according to Buchanan.

According to Buchanan, neuroscience is a booming field and it encompasses a large amount of information.

“I attended the Society for Neuroscience meeting, and there are 30,000 attendees there. Those people study everything from the molecular basis of how a neuron works to the functioning of the human brain in diseases,” said Buchanan. “Neuroscience is such a huge field that there is a lot of demand for students who can work in it.”

Despite this demand, neuroscience is overlooked as an option for undergraduate study across the nation and this region. However, two schools that do have neuroscience programs are Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Emory University in Atlanta.

According to Buchanan, the neuroscience program that will begin at SLU has drawn from the neuroscience programs at both of these universities.

There will be some new courses offered when the neuroscience program is fully implemented. There will be a new neuroscience lab course taught in Macelwane Hall, a required two-semester

Introduction to Neuroscience sequence, and a senior-level neuroscience seminar. In addition, existing courses such as Brain, Mind, and Society, Neurobiology of Disease, Physiological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience will most likely become classified as neuroscience courses. Some of these courses will become required of neuroscience students.

In addition to providing a greater depth of courses related to neuroscience for which there is demand among students, Buchanan also hopes that the neuroscience major, which is a rare option at the undergraduate level of most universities, will become an asset to SLU.