University to Offer Neuroscience Major Starting in Fall 2016

Neurobiology Professor Peggy Mason will serve as director of the new major.

By Anjali Dhillon

Peggy Mason, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology, announced Tuesday on Twitter that the University will offer a neuroscience major for undergraduates starting this fall quarter. Mason also announced that she will be the director of the new major.

More information about the major and its requirements will be shared at town hall meetings at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 19 at an undetermined location and at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24 in BSLC 115. The first meeting is scheduled to give students a chance to learn about the major before they bid for classes.

Current third-years will not be able to participate in the major because of a required laboratory class that will not be available until the 2017–18 academic year because it will take time to organize all of the resources, equipment, and preparations. While Mason expressed regret over this limitation, she also emphasized the importance of such a course.

“A laboratory course in neuroscience is unbelievably thrilling. I took one. I remember almost every day and every experiment that I participated in that course 30-plus years ago. I loved it. It’s fundamental, it’s thrilling, it’s fabulous. Many, possibly most, undergraduate neuroscience majors have such a course, such a beast. So we felt it was important for us to offer such a course as well,” Mason said.

As director, Mason will oversee the curriculum, assess its functionality, and adjust the demands of the curriculum wherever needed.

“It’s all about the students. I want people majoring in neuroscience to form a cohesive cohort. I want them to know they are majors, and they know each other, and they know that they can come to me with issues,” Mason said.

The requirements of the major have been finalized and will involve roughly the same number of courses as a B.A. in the biological sciences, Mason said. A required course of the major will be a psychology course in sensation and perception. According to Mason, it is important to incorporate psychology into the study of neuroscience. New classes will be introduced along with the major, including Fundamentals in Neuroscience, a class designed to introduce students to the major.

Mason also expressed a desire to introduce more humanities topics, such as linguistics, to the major by possibly offering more electives later in the future. She has already received e-mails from her colleagues interested in giving courses in the neuroscience major.

“I’m also interested in hearing what the students have to say. This is going to be a work-in-progress. This is not going to come out of the box perfect. It’s here to serve the students, and also here to serve the neurosystem. The neurosystem is a large entity in my life, and I am never going to disrespect the neurosystem,” Mason said.

Currently Mason and her team are finalizing the neuroscience major page that will appear in the course catalog for students arriving in the fall.