New neuroscience program welcomes 70 incoming freshmen
The new bachelor of science in neuroscience opened to students in fall of 2019. One year later, it already has over 300 majors, including 70 incoming freshmen!
In addition to the Departments of Biological Sciences and Psychology, faculty in other departments, schools and colleges participate in the neuroscience program. As a fusion of two of the university’s most popular majors, it is not surprising that the program would be in high demand. There were only seven undergraduate neuroscience programs in the country in 1986, but this exploded to 251 programs by 2016. Nine other universities in Michigan, including Michigan State and the University of Michigan, also offer undergraduate programs in neuroscience.
Tom Fischer, a faculty member in psychology and long-time champion of undergraduate education at WSU, is the current director of the B.S. in neuroscience program. He took the lead a few years ago to write the proposal and steer it through the approval process. Now he is working to refine the program and keep pace with student demand. An exciting new development is the approval of a chapter of Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in neuroscience. The first students were inducted into the society on September 16. This is only the second chapter in the state of Michigan.
The Department of Biological Sciences is deeply involved in the neuroscience program. Our undergraduate advisors (Kim Hunter, Rebecca Russell, Antoinette Cunningham and Nora Alhussainy) advise the neuroscience majors. Two of our faculty, David Njus and Marianna Sadagurski, serve on the Steering Committee along with Chris Kelly from the Department Physics and Astronomy. And a number of biological sciences faculty (Justin Kenney, Mark VanBerkum, Joy Alcedo, Karen Myhr, Markus Friedrich and Miriam Greenberg) teach courses that are part of the neuroscience program.
The neuroscience program currently has two tracks – behavioral and cognitive neuroscience and cellular and molecular neuroscience – and more will be added. Building on foundational courses in biology, psychology, chemistry, physics and math, this major prepares students for advanced study in a variety of life science and health-related fields, professional degrees in medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, and physical therapy.
The field of neuroscience itself is exploding as new methods in molecular and cell biology have propelled research in this area. An aging population has also fueled an increasing emphasis on medical and social problems related to neuroscience. These factors are part of the great student interest in the neuroscience program, and we are looking forward to our graduates making significant contributions in these areas in the years ahead!