Northwestern adds neuroscience major for next fall

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

Northwestern has approved the addition of a neuroscience major that is scheduled to begin Fall Quarter.

The major, which will be housed in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, was approved Wednesday by the college’s faculty.

The process of creating the neuroscience major has been in the works for a while, said neurobiology Prof. Catherine Woolley. She said a nine-member committee was tasked with developing the major in February 2014.

“Neuroscience is a very rapidly growing field,” Woolley said. “There’s a lot of interest and excitement in understanding the brain — both how the brain functions normally and what goes wrong with brain functioning and a variety of brain disorders.”

The 25-credit program, which is being sponsored by the Department of Neurobiology, is divided into three parts: six neuroscience units, six units in allied fields and 13 units in related coursework. The neuroscience curriculum will include a combination of existing classes and newly created ones.

The allied fields include biology, chemistry, computation and systems modeling, human behavior and cognition, and language and human communication. Students must also complete laboratory work.

“Studying the brain appeals to a very diverse group of students,” Woolley said. “Some of whom may be oriented more toward the quantitative sciences, others who may be oriented more toward understanding complex human behavior.”

Woolley said she will be holding two informational sessions later this quarter for students who are interested in pursuing the neuroscience major.

Students also played a large role in the creation of the major, through the work of the NU Neuro Club. Weinberg junior Helen Chen, the club’s curriculum chair, worked with the faculty committee to provide student feedback as they developed the major.

Chen said when she arrived at NU, she was disappointed the school did not offer a specific neuroscience program. Instead, she majored in cognitive science and biology with a neuroscience concentration. However, she said she ended up having to take a lot more classes that she did not want to take.

“With the new neuroscience major, anyone who is coming in will have the opportunity to just take these neuroscience-focused courses and since neuroscience is so interdisciplinary, they can take a lot of other things that interest them as well,” she said.

Communication sophomore Nicholas Hug started the Neuro Club during Winter Quarter 2014, around the same time Woolley had been approved to start developing the neuroscience major.

Hug, who plans to switch to the major next fall, said the program is unique because students will be able to start taking neuroscience classes as sophomores.

“It means that you start in your field as early as possible,” he said. “In certain majors, you get to start to take major specific classes pretty early, but the way the bio major is set up at Northwestern, you don’t take neuroscience specific classes until your junior year. I wanted to be able to start taking neuroscience classes as soon as I got here.”

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