New Neuroscience Major Added to Curriculum





The natural science department at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) will include a neuroscience major starting fall 2012. Currently students who want to study neuroscience can only take general science courses with the natural science major. However, this new major will be offered beginning next semester.

According to Joan Roberts, professor of chemistry at FCLC, and Donna Heald,  associate dean of the sciences at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), the neuroscience committee first met in 2004 and the neuroscience major was approved in 2011.

Donald Gillespie, associate vice president for institutional research, said, “The percentage of science majors has been gradually rising in recent years and includes students who listed natural science as their intended major, as well as students for whom it is a second major. The percentage of science majors was  three percent in fall 2003 and held steady at seven percent from 2008 through 2010.”

According to Heald, students who pursue the major will take nine foundation courses that include the disciplines of other courses. For example, two of the nine courses that will have to be fulfilled are a statistics course as well as a chemistry course, which can be fulfilled by taking existing courses from Fordham’s core, electives or by taking a new chemistry course.

Heald said students will have to take three track connective neuroscience courses, which are offered in the department of psychology, biology and natural science. In addition, Heald said that students can also specialize in certain areas, called tracks. The three tracks are a solid molecular track that emphasizes biology, a cognitive track that emphasizes psychology and a systems and computational neuroscience track that emphasizes computer science.

According to Heald, all students pursuing the major will have to participate in a research program that is two semesters long and a capstone seminar. The capstone seminar will allow students to come together during their last semester and share their research.

In total, students will need 16 courses including the research experience along with the one credit seminar to fulfill the neuroscience major requirements.

Roberts said that the new major will bridge the gap between as many fields of science related to the brain as possible. “Neuroscience is the most innovative and interdisciplinary scientific area of research for this century,” Roberts said.

The neuroscience major will be interdisciplinary, meaning that students will take classes that incorporate other subjects. Roberts said, “To truly understand all aspects of this field it is essential to have a background in genetics, molecular biology, physiology, anatomy and computer science. As well as that, students must have a background in neural networks, robotics, psychology, physics, neural imaging and chemistry.”

Tommaso Vagaggini, FCLC ’13, said, “A neuroscience major that incorporates different scientific disciplines in its curriculum would create very well-rounded minds and would allow students to explore relevant issues from equally important and interesting angles. I thus think that the new neuroscience major, in a similar way to the natural sciences major, will help students gain insight in the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of biological and medical studies and help them bridge the gap between different sciences.”

Roberts said that she believes the major will benefit any student interested in neuroscience and some other fields. “There are many recent applications of neuroscience in law and business and so would also be a benefit for those intending to continue on to receive an MBA or law degree,” said Roberts.

According to Roberts, students will not be able to double major or minor in neuroscience due to the requirements such as the research thesis and presentation. Roberts said that students from both FCRH and FCLC will be able to major in neuroscience and will not be required to travel in between campuses unless they devsire to do so.

“As our reputation grows, I’m certain that there will be a strong influx of students. With a neuroscience major as elegant as this one, we have very little competition from Columbia in the New York City environs,” Roberts said.

Some students look forward to the new major. Yzabelle Onate, FCLC ’15, said, “I love science and I think it’s a great opportunity to expand the science department especially for students who aren’t interested in just natural science. Also, this will help students who want to become neurologists.”

Other students aren’t particularly interested in the major, but still see its benefits. Devi Gopal, FCLC ’13, said, “Neuroscience wouldn’t really interest me mainly because my path aligns with ecology and zoology but I do know natural science students who love their neuroscience class and want to pursue it in graduate school.”