A new neuroscience major will delve into the brain and behavior

Man wearing brain wave sensor net

A new interdisciplinary major made its debut at the UO this fall, when the College of Arts and Sciences rolled out a neuroscience major that will offer students an opportunity to dive deep into the study of the brain and behavior.

The new major primarily draws from biology, psychology and human physiology to help students explore how the nervous system functions. The new major builds on the UO’s strength in neuroscience as it complements the university’s Institute of Neuroscience, which is the research home for an interdisciplinary group of faculty members working together to explore cutting-edge neuroscience questions.

Students will be introduced to faculty expertise and coursework from that trio of departments to help them study the field of neuroscience, which seeks to understand how the brain impacts behavior, emotion and cognitive functions. Neuroscience also investigates what is happening in the brain that contributes to various health issues and neurological and psychological disorders like strokes, depression and addiction.

Students majoring in neuroscience will be required to hone advanced skills in programming or computational techniques or pursue research experience in one of the UO’s many neuroscience labs to equip them to apply what they learn in class to neuroscience research.

“The neuroscience major was developed in response to student and faculty interest in a major that is dedicated to studying the complex relationship between brain and behavior,” said Nicole Dudukovic, a senior instructor in the Department of Psychology, member of the Clark Honors College faculty, and the new program director of the neuroscience major. “Given the existing faculty excellence in neuroscience at the UO, it seemed like a no-brainer — pun intended — to create a neuroscience major.” 

Students also will take upper-division courses to better understand the three main branches of the field, which include molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and cognitive neuroscience. Their combined coursework and skills development will help students foster critical thinking and analytical reasoning through the major.

The field of neuroscience offers a number of pathways to graduates looking to use their academic career as a springboard into a professional one. Neuroscience majors can pursue a range of positions in scientific research, medicine, government, nonprofit and industry jobs. Neuroscience majors can also elect to continue their studies at competitive graduate programs around the world.

“We are part of a larger trend — neuroscience majors are popping up at many institutions across the U.S. — and are excited to be the first public university in Oregon to offer a neuroscience major,” Dudukovic said. “In creating this major, we thought about the kinds of qualities and level of preparation that faculty look for in prospective graduate students, and we designed the major so that it provides this kind of rigorous training.”

Students can pursue either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in the new major. Undergraduates or prospective students interested in the major can explore the degree requirements, sample academic plans and research opportunities through the major’s new website.

—By Emily Halnon, University Communications