You are on page 1of 3

7/26/2015

Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine Buff Brains can now major in neuroscience

UniversityofColoradoatBoulder
CU:
Search: Search this Site

BuffBrainscannowmajorinneuroscience

NewsArchives

ByClintTalbott

Knowitsaplacebo?Themedicine
couldstillwork

Formanyyears,facultymembersintheUniversityofColoradosDepartmentofPsychologyand
Neuroscienceandotherdepartmentshavebeenaskingquestionsabouthowthebrainworks.Now,
undergraduatesattheUniversityofColoradowillhavetheopportunitytoparticipatemoreinthis
quest.
Forthefirsttimethisfall,CUstudentsdeclaredamajorinneurosciencethatwillbehousedinthe
DepartmentofPsychologyandNeuroscience.Nextspring,about40studentsareexpectedto
graduatefromtheprogram.
Scientistswhostudyhowthebrainworksarecalledneuroscientistsatermthatemerged50years
agotorecognizethatthestudyofthenervoussystemanditsrelationshiptothemindandbehavior
encompassesmanyfieldsofscience,includingmolecularbiology,biophysics,geneticsand
psychology.
Addingamajorinneurosciencemightseemanaturaldevelopmentforadepartmentwhosename
includesthetermneuroscience,butinatimeoftightbudgets,supplementingthecurriculumwas
nosmallfeat.
Thisnewmajorwascreatedbydrawingheavilyuponexistingcourses,theexpertiseofthefaculty
andanunexpectedformofassistance:socialmedia.
Inthespring,thedepartmentlaunchedanonline
surveytogaugestudentseagernesstodeclare
neuroscienceastheirchosenmajor.Werealized
therewasanexplosionofinterestoutthere,says
DonCooper,associateprofessorofpsychology
andneuroscienceandcodirectorofthe
neuroscienceundergraduateprogram.
About300studentssaidtheywantedtoenrollina
neurosciencemajor.Butsomehadbasic
questions,suchas:Whatisneuroscience?and
Howdoesitdifferfrompsychology?
Thosearegoodqueries.AsCoopernotes,the
linedelineatingpsychologyandneuroscienceis
anevolvingquestion.
Thefacultyknewstudentshadalongstanding
interestinneuroscience,notesJerryRudy,
collegeprofessorofdistinctionofpsychologyand
neuroscience.Infact,theuniversityhasoffered
anundergraduatecertificateinneurosciencefora
numberofyears.Buttheextentoftheinterestin
afullblownmajorwassurprising.
Thefirstcourseinneuroscienceenrolled46
students.Manyofthemwonderedwhichcourses
wouldcounttowardayettobeimplemented
neurosciencemajor.

CUBoulderclimbsinglobalacademic
rankings
SunsactivitymayaffectGreenland
tempsviaocean
NewHorizonsphoneshomefromPluto
ExcitementrisesforJuly14Pluto
encounter
TwoCUalumniwindigitalstorytelling
fellowships
AncientSouthAfricansusedmilkbased
paint
Newlichenspeciesdiscoveredincityof
Boulder
OthelloreturnstoShakespeareFestival
Earthquakeslinkedtohighrateinjection
wells
Moonengulfedinpermanent,lopsided
dustcloud
Bioinformaticshelpingtoanswercancer
questions
LocalplaywrightsHamletprequeldebuts
atBardfest
TheebbandflowofGreenlandsglaciers
PulitzerPrizewinningCUgraddebuts
newopera
CUinstrumentwilltraveltoJupiters
moonEuropa
Coloradosbiggeststormscanhappen
anytime
FindinganewstrategyforParkinsons
disease
Freshmencoauthorstudyontinyviruses
TedStark:Thecostumetechnologist

DonCooper,associateprofessorofpsychology
andneuroscienceandcodirectorofthe
neuroscienceundergraduateprogram

Academicadvisersdidntknowhowtoanswerthosequestions,Coopersays.Somepsychology
majorsneededmorecourseworkinareassuchasbiology,chemistryandmath.Atthesametime,
studentsmajoringinmolecularbiologyandintegrativephysiologytendedtobebetterpreparedfor
thecourseofstudyrequiredinneuroscience.
StudentsbeganemailingCooperwithquestions,sohesetupaFacebookpagetocongealthe
collectivewisdomofparticipants.HecalledtheFacebookpageCUNeuroscience,anditopened
thedoortorealtimediscussionswithinalargeanddisparategroup.
Cooperenvisionedsocialnetworkingasawayforpeopletogetanswerstocommonquestions
withouthavingtogothroughtheadvisingprocess.Whenthosequestionswereanswered,Icould
refineitandreferbacktoit.
Withinamonth,thepagesfanbaseballoonedto178.
Rudy,aformerchairofthedepartment,notesthatthesocialmediastrategyreducesoreliminates
someoftheworkloadonacademicadvisers.Manyquestionsstudentshavearegenericandcan
beansweredwithoutfacetofacecontact.Someareevenbetteransweredbytheirpeers,he
observes.
http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/2010/10/buff-brains-can-now-major-in-neuroscience/

1/3

7/26/2015

Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine Buff Brains can now major in neuroscience

Wewerefacedwiththisproblemofbudgetcuts,
andyetwewantedtoexpand.Wehadtogowith
themodelthatitwouldberevenueneutral,
Coopersays.
Thenucleusoftheprogramisatwocourse
sequence,IntrotoNeuroscience1and2.There
are2,300psychologymajorsand46slotsinthe
IntrotoNeurosciencecourse,approximatelythe
numberofexpectedgraduatesnextspring.

JerryRudy,collegeprofessorofdistinctionof
psychologyandneuroscience

Thismilestonehasbeenawhileincoming,butthe
seedsweresownin1996whenthedepartment
underwentaregularprogramreview.AsRudy
notes,theresultwasastrategicplanthat
recognizedthatneurosciencewasasignificant
componentofthemissionoftheNational
InstitutesofHealth,whichfundsmuchofthe
departmentsresearch.

Sothedepartmentsstrategichiringplanwas
designedtohiremorefacultywhoseresearchincludedastrongneurosciencecomponent.
Neurosciencewasalreadypartofthedepartmentsfocus,but,asRudyrecalls,Weneededto
embraceit.
Ofthe40facultymembersnowinthedepartment,abouthalfarestudyingthenexusofbehavior
andthebrain.
Untilquiterecentlywedidnthaveenoughfacultytosupportadepartmentbasedneuroscience
undergraduatemajor,Rudynotes.Recentfacultyhiresgavethedepartmentthehumancapitalto
launchthemajorinneuroscience.
OneofthosenewfacultymemberswasRyanBachtell,assistantprofessorofpsychologyand
neuroscience.AnotherwasCooper,whoaimsinhisteachingtoemploywhatneuroscientific
researchhasrevealedaboutattentionandlearningattheneuronallevel.Cooperintendstodesign
aneuropedagogicalapproachtopromotelearninginandoutoftheclassroom.
Inaddition,thedepartment,inconjunctionwiththeInstituteforCognitiveScience,alsohirednew
facultymemberTorWager,whohasastrongneurosciencecomponenttohisresearch.
AsRudynotesoftheundergraduateneuroscienceprogram,Cooperpusheditandpusheditand
madeitwork.BothCooperandRudyaddthattheyveenjoyedenthusiasticsupportfromthe
departmentscurrentchair,LewisO.Harvey,andthedean,ToddGleeson.
Priortolaunchingthemajorinneuroscience,othermembersoftheDepartmentofPsychologyand
NeuroscienceplayedacriticalroleindevelopinganinterdisciplinaryPh.D.programinneuroscience
thatenrollsstudentsfrommanycognatedisciplines.
Thisverysuccessfulgraduatedegreewascreatedundertheleadershipandcommitmentof
ProfessorsLindaR.WatkinsandStevenF.Maier,whoarebothUniversityDistinguished
Professors.ThedegreeisadministeredthroughtheCenterforNeurosciencethatMaierand
Watkinscreatedandcodirect.
Rudynotesthatanincreasingnumberofuniversitiesnowofferanundergraduatemajorin
neuroscience.AtCU,aselsewhere,itcanserveasapremedicalschooltrack.Anditspopularityis
evident.
ClementineSnow,aneurosciencemajor,describesherfieldofstudyasabrandnewbranchof
sciencetobediscoveredbymindscravingknowledge.Sofar,ImlovingallofthenewthingsIm
learninginmyintroclassandlovethefactthatthoseteachingitaregenuinelyinterested,shesays.
Thefactthatpartsofthecourseareonline,evenonFacebook,makesitveryaccessibleand
providesaneaseofusetothoseofusalreadyusedtothesystem.
FellowneurosciencemajorKyleSorensenconcurs,addingthatneuroscienceispopularbecauseit
allowsstudentstoexplorethehorizonsofknowledgeabouttheuniverseandwithinourcranium.
Suchinterestisevidentinsocietyaswell.Ifyoureadmagazinesandnewspapersandlookatwhat
scienceismosttalkedabout,mostofithastodowiththebrain,Rudysays.
Further,henotes,theSocietyforNeurosciencehasabout40,000members.
CUsneuroscienceprogramjustreceivedaGoogleAdWordsgrantfor$10,000permonth
indefinitelyinadvertising.Coopersaysthedepartmenthopestheexposurewillboostenrollment
intoCUandintotheneurosciencemajor,boostContinuingEducationenrollmentfordistance
learningandassistfundraisingeffortsforcoursedevelopment,facultyteachingawardsandstudent
scholarship.
OurmainchallengeiscontainingtheinterestatCU,Coopersays.Wecouldhave400majors.
Iassumewewill,Rudyadds.
http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/2010/10/buff-brains-can-now-major-in-neuroscience/

2/3

7/26/2015

Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine Buff Brains can now major in neuroscience

Formoreinformationontheundergraduatemajorinneuroscience,see
http://psych.colorado.edu/~nrsc/,checkoutCUNeuroscienceonFacebookat
http://www.facebook.com/pages/BoulderCO/CUNeuroscience/103780552990751?ref=ts,or
followtheprogramonTwitterathttp://twitter.com/CU_Neuroscience.Studentsmajoringin
neuroscience,whonicknamedthemselvesBuffBrains,alsohaveaFacebookpageunderthe
samemoniker:http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001225734777&ref=ts.
SimilarPosts:
ABriefHistoryofPsychology
Shytoddlersknowmorethantheyleton,studyfinds
Profsgettopcollegedistinction
CognitiveNeuroscience
Fourstudentswininternationalstudyawards
FacebookapptracksDNAforcommongood
Hierarchyofbiasseenindecisiontoshoot
Wellbeingisaskill,expertsatCUBouldertoexplain
Neuroscientistwinstophonor
Bridgingthegapbetweenresearchandclinicaltherapy

http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/2010/10/buff-brains-can-now-major-in-neuroscience/

3/3