The Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Science assembles the talents of more than two dozen faculty members actively engaged in advancing the scientific study of brain, behavior, and cognitive processes. The undergraduate program introduces students to the major areas of contemporary psychology: clinical science, human cognition, developmental psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience. Clinical science studies human personality, emotion, abnormal behavior, and therapeutic treatments. Human cognition includes the study of processes such as perceiving, learning, remembering, attention and awareness, decision making, and the neural mechanisms underlying these processes. Developmental psychology examines human development from conception through adulthood. Social psychology examines interpersonal and intergroup relations and the influence of social conditions on behavior, cognition, and emotion. Neuroscience studies the structure and function of the brain and how nerve cells process sensory information about the environment, mediate decisions, and control motor actions.
The Department of Psychology offers a general program of study for students who desire a broad background in contemporary psychology, as well as an honors program for those who desire a greater immersion in psychological science. The department also offers a variety of opportunities for undergraduates to gain research experience through active participation in faculty research projects. Research involvement is encouraged as it provides direct experience with the important questions and methods associated with contemporary psychological science.
Psychology courses include broad introductory lectures, survey courses of the major areas in psychology, and more focused topics taught in both lecture and seminar formats. Recent examples include: General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology; Neuroscience; Personality; Emotion; Perception; Movement; Mind and Brain; Schizophrenia; Depression; Research Methods, The Visual System; Human Sexuality; Introduction to Clinical Psychology; Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Animal Behavior and Evolution; Health Psychology; Developmental Neuroscience. Our courses cluster in the SBS and MNS categories of AXLE.
The Honors Program in Psychological Sciences offers exceptional opportunities for involvement in the process of discovering and developing new knowledge. This two-year program includes special seminars and collaboration with a faculty mentor on an original research project. Applications to the honors program occur at the end of the sophomore year. Students completing this program receive Honors or High Honors in Psychology. The honors program especially benefits students planning graduate work in psychology or related fields. Examples of recent honors theses include:
Megan Anders, “The Temporal Features of Emotional Capture of Attention: Determining the Time Course of the Emotional Attentional Blink”
Alexa Curhan, “Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia Levels and Fluctuation in Children of Depressed versus Nondepressed Mothers”
Quela Royster, “Communication Differences in African-American Mother-Child Dyads when Mothers have Varying Degress of Depressive Symptomology”
Julia Zhu, “Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) on Performance Monitoring and Learning Rate in Schizophrenia”
Research: Directed Study and Independent Study courses offer additional opportunities for gaining research experience by collaborating with faculty on contemporary research projects. These courses are available for 1 - 3 credit hours. Information about current projects is available from the departmental office and via our website. Our department also has an excellent track record in assisting students in obtaining summer research fellowships through VUSRP (Vanderbilt University Summer Research Program).
VUPS: The Vanderbilt University Psychology Society is an active majors/minors association, but is open to anyone who is interested in psychology. Led by students, VUPS organizes discussions with faculty and guest speakers on issues relevant to psychology majors, has social events, and also coordinates community service projects. Recent events included a session for juniors and seniors on how to apply to graduate schools, an information session aimed at first- and second-year students on how to make the most of their experience in psychology at Vanderbilt, a student/faculty mixer, and a variety of community service opportunities.
Psi Chi: The Department supports an active chapter of Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honorary Society. Membership in Psi Chi is an earned honor that is for life. Psychology majors/minors can apply for membership after completing 3 semesters of college and at least 9 hours of study in psychology, with a minimum GPA of 3.6 in psychology and 3.5 overall.
Combined BA/MA 4+1 Program: The department offers the opportunity for students to earn a Bachelor’s degree (BA) and a Master’s degree (MA) in five years of study. This is a highly selective program with an intensive research emphasis. It is primarily intended for students who are considering a PhD or MD-PhD in a research-oriented graduate program in psychology, psychiatry, cognitive science, neuroscience, learning sciences, or related disciplines.
The program could also be appropriate for students interested in research-oriented programs in marketing and managerial decision-making offered by some business schools or research-oriented programs in law and human behavior offered by some law schools. The program does not provide applied clinical training.
Vanderbilt’s psychology majors go on to a variety of careers. Many continue research training in psychology at leading graduate schools in psychology and neuroscience; many others pursue professional training in law, medicine, and business; still others gain employment in areas such as teaching, consulting, and social work. A small sample includes:
Emily Drabant (BA 2003) received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University, and is Vice President of Business Development, Life Sciences, at 23 and Me.
Crystal Gibson (BA 2004) served in the Peace Corps for three years in Namibia, received her Master’s in Public Health from Yale University, and is an Applied Epidemiology Fellow at Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Zachary Cohen (BA 2009) is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at University of Pennsylvania.
Amir Aschner (BA 2012) is working with Teach for America in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Frances Christian (BA 2012) is a student at the University Of Richmond School Of Law.
Meredith Gruhn (BA 2012, MA 2013) is a doctoral student in clinical science at Vanderbilt University.
Kristen McCabe (BA 2012) is an MD/PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Sarah Helton (BA 2013) is a post baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Fellow at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Hannah Berg (BA 2014) is a post baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Meghan Collins (BA 2015) is a post baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The path-breaking contributions of Vanderbilt’s A&S Psychology faculty in clinical science, cognitive science, and neuroscience have been internationally recognized. We embrace opportunities to share our knowledge and findings with students in courses, research projects, and informal conversations. We are proud of our dual excellence in teaching and scholarship, and are especially proud of our history of engaging students in research. Comprehensive descriptions of faculty teaching and research interests can be found at the departmental website.
Jo-Anne Bachorowski, Ph.D.
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Psychology
307 Wilson Hall
Nashville, TN 37240
Phone: (615) 343-5915