The study of the nervous system is an interdisciplinary enterprise that draws upon a variety of scientific disciplines ranging from molecular biology and biophysics, to computational science and engineering, to the study of behavior and cognition. To meet the challenge of providing training for entry into this exciting and growing field, Vanderbilt offers its undergraduates an interdisciplinary major in Neuroscience.
The Neuroscience curriculum includes courses taught in a variety of departments and schools at Vanderbilt, as well as courses specifically designed for students majoring in Neuroscience. The courses include introductory survey lecture courses, specialized lecture and discussion courses, lab courses, and undergraduate research courses. Some recent examples: Biological Basis of Mental Disorders, Cellular Neurobiology, Biological Clocks, Psychopharmacology, Developmental Neuroscience, Neurobiology of Behavior, The Visual System, Social and Cognitive Neuroscience.
The Honors Program is designed to engage outstanding students in the neuroscience enterprise, not only as a didactic exercise, but also as a progressive, dynamic research venture. Students apply to the program by submitting an application and meeting with the Director of Honors. Honors students can expect direct involvement in all aspects of scholarship in the field of neuroscience, especially the excitement of new scientific discovery through research and experimentation.
The focus of the program is the research experience in the laboratory of the faculty sponsor. Research Experiences include all phases of the process including planning the project, learning the necessary techniques, doing experiments, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and communicating the outcome to other scientists in the form of a presentation and written report that constitutes the Honors Thesis.
Recent honors theses include:
Xuewen Gong. The effects of cocaine-withdrawal on sleep/wake architecture and qEEG (2016).
Cesar Vargas. Changes in cortical wiring in a mouse model of Autism (2016).
Sarah Millan. Investigating the Influence of treatment method and rs6265 on BMI in early stage Parkinson’s Disease (2016).
Allison Beers. Calcium Signaling Drives GABAergic Synaptic Remodeling in C. elegans (2017).
Joseph Balbona. Characterizing the role of swip-10 in the regulation of C. elegans dopamine neuron morphology. (2017).
Ellen Andrews. An Investigation of the Relationship Between Parietal Activity and Abilities of Math, Working Memory, and Inhibitory Control in a Sample of Typically Developing Third and Fourth Graders (2017).
One of the cornerstones of the undergraduate program in Neuroscience is the inclusion of laboratory experience. Such an experience gives the student a chance to see how neuroscientists study the brain and provides training in laboratory techniques that are used in neuroscience research. In Undergraduate Research courses, students actually participate in the laboratory research of one of the Neuroscience faculty on the Vanderbilt Campus. This provides a unique opportunity for the individual student to discover what research "is really like" and to learn "one-on-one" from some of the top neuroscientists in the world. In the laboratories of Vanderbilt neuroscientists, students have the opportunity to utilize state-of-the art equipment and techniques to study fundamental questions about how the nervous system works and how that knowledge can be applied to the treatment and prevention of brain disease and injury.
The major in Neuroscience is excellent preparation for entry into graduate programs in neuroscience, biology, or psychology, or as preparation for the study of medicine or dentistry. However, students with a major in Neuroscience are by no means limited to these disciplines. We have had students go on to obtain postgraduate training in law, business, health administration, and physical therapy. Others have gone directly into research activities in medical schools or at the National Institutes of Health. Neuroscience majors at Vanderbilt not only receive strong training in neuroscience, but they are well-grounded in the natural sciences. They also acquire skills in verbal and written communication of complex ideas and in abstract reasoning that open up opportunities in many areas both within and outside the sciences.
The Neuroscience Program utilizes expertise from several departments and schools within the University to provide a comprehensive background in the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics as well as a strong foundation in the fundamentals of neuroscience. We have more than 80 faculty involved in the program teaching, advising and mentoring students in independent research. Neuroscience faculty are nationally and internationally recognized for their commitment to teaching, research, and scholarship. A major strength of the program is in the breadth and depth of the expertise of its faculty who are enthusiastic and dedicated to teaching Neuroscience.
David Zald, Director
Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience
Wilson Hall Room 325
Nashville, TN 37235
Phone: (615) 343-6076