Neuroscience—An Interdepartmental Major

Professor: Beltz (Director)
Associate Professor:  Tetel, Conway
Assistant Professors: Gobes, Wiest
Visiting Lecturer: Bauer                                                                                                                                         Instructor in Neuroscience: Quinan

Neuroscience Advisory Committee: Ducas (Physics), Hildreth (Computer Science), Keane (Psychology), Ellerby (Biology).

Neuroscience explores how the brain and nervous system function to generate behavior, emotion and cognition. Neuroscience is highly interdisciplinary, integrating biology, psychology, chemistry, physics and computer science. Exploring the complexity of the nervous system requires analyses at multiple levels. Neuroscientists investigate how genes and molecules regulate nerve cell function (cellular/molecular neuroscience), explore how neural systems produce integrated behaviors (behavioral neuroscience), seek to understand how neural substrates create mental processes and thought (cognitive neuroscience) and use mathematics and computer models to comprehend brain function (computational neuroscience). In studying how the brain and nervous system function normally, neuroscientists also hope to better understand devastating neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Course descriptions for each department—Neuroscience, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics, and Psychology—can be found in the courses browser.

The major in neuroscience offers three areas of concentration:

  • Cellular and molecular neuroscience
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Systems and computational neuroscience

Students are expected to achieve competence in two of these three areas.

The major must include the following core courses:

  • NEUR 100
  • NEUR 200
  • NEUR 300
  • PSYC 205
  • BISC 110 or BISC 112 (for students who enter the College in the fall of 2009 or later)

Majors must elect three 200-level courses from two of the three areas of concentration:

  • Cellular/molecular neuroscience: BISC 219, 220, CHEM 211, 220, 222, or 223
  • Cognitive neuroscience: PHIL215, PSYCH 214, 215, 216, 217, 218
  • Systems and computational neuroscience: CS 232, MATH 215, PHYS 216, 222

Note that these 200-level courses have specific prerequisites that must be satisfied.

Majors must also elect three 300-level courses from two of the three areas of concentration, at least one of which must be a laboratory course:

  • Cellular and molecular neuroscience: NEUR/BISC 306, 315, NEUR 305, 332, BISC 302
  • Cognitive neuroscience: PSYCH 304R,314R, 315R+L,316, 319, 328
  • Systems and computational neuroscience: NEUR 320, 325, 335, CS 332

Any other 300-level courses must be specifically approved by the Director.

NEUR 250, 250G, 250H, 350, 350G, 350H, 360, and 370 do not count towards the minimum major.

A minimum of eight courses towards the major requirements must be taken at Wellesley. Normally no more than three units in neuroscience taken at other institutions may be counted towards the major.

Honors Projects

Senior thesis (NEUR 360/370) projects may be supervised by members of the various departments associated with the major. Students considering the senior thesis option are advised to consult with the Director of the Program during the fall of their junior year.

Graduate Study

Students wishing to attend graduate school in neuroscience are strongly encouraged to take CHEM 211/212, CS 112, MATH 115/116 and physics through PHYS 106 or PHYS 108.