Academic Department Introduction

Neuroscience explores how the brain and nervous system develop and function to generate our conscious experience and guide our behavior. The scope of neuroscience ranges from molecules within individual nerve cells to neural systems that span the brain and body. A student who likes biology, psychology, chemistry, or physics can study and apply all of these in neuroscience. Mathematical and computer models also offer increasingly useful insights into brain function. Our students regularly present at national meetings, including the Society for Neuroscience meeting.

Learning goals

  • Develop enough understanding of major neuroscientific concepts and experimental methods to be able to critically evaluate new results in the neuroscience literature and claims in the popular press.

  • Appreciate and be able to articulate the societal relevance of discoveries in neuroscience and their potential for improving human health and well-being.

Programs of Study

Neuroscience major

Students will take courses in three broad subfields of neuroscience: cellular and molecular neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and systems and computational neuroscience.

Course Highlights

  • This course will examine primary literature on neurodegenerative diseases. We will discuss primary research articles on various topics including, but not limited to, the underlying pathological mechanisms and clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Throughout the course we will address aberrant protein aggregation, genetic variants, and therapeutic treatments associated with these two neurodegenerative diseases. The course will consist of student-led presentations of primary research articles, in-class discussions, writing assignments, and a video essay. Learning goals for this course include enhancing scientific literacy, critically examining research inequities, building teamwork skills, and practicing self-reflection.
  • This course will build on basic concepts in neuroscience that were introduced in NEUR 100. Current issues will be examined within a broad framework that includes readings in cellular and molecular, cognitive, behavioral, and computational neuroscience. Topics such as sensory systems, learning, memory, and cognition will be covered. The accompanying laboratory is designed to expose students to basic methods and experimental approaches in neuroscience.

Research highlights

Neuroscience majors work with our world-class faculty and participate in substantive projects using cutting-edge equipment.

  • Professor Gobes shows samples on glass slides to two students.

    In the lab of Professor Sharon Gobes, students investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying animal behavior, using songbirds as a model system to study learning and memory.

  • Three students and Professor Courtney Marshall are in white lab coats gathered around a table. Two of the students pipette into trays.

    Professor Courtney Marshall’s lab investigates how pathological proteins aggregate, spread, and impair cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

  • A student pipettes into a container while another student and professor smile behind them.

    Professor Marc Tetel’s lab is studying the effects of diet, activity, sleep, and stress on the human gut and vaginal microbiomes.

  • Two students in a lab, one peering into a microscope and the other working on a computer.

    Professor Sara Wasserman’s lab is examining how the brain incorporates different internal and external environments to generate contextually appropriate behavior.

  • A student explains their research poster to another student in a poster session.

    In Professor Mike Wiest’s behavioral neurophysiology lab, students record neural activity from behaving rats to characterize neural substrates of attention and perception.

Opportunities and Community

Dedicated to equity, engagement, and belonging, we offer concrete opportunities for all students to join us as valued and respected members of our department. Students have many options to enhance and tailor their academic experience to their unique interests and career goals.

  • Seminars and panels

    Prominent neuroscientists regularly speak at Wellesley about their research and work. We benefit from our proximity to Boston’s hospitals, research centers, and biopharmaceutical companies. Participants from Wellesley and beyond discuss and debate vital issues for neuroscientists in academic and non-academic contexts. Recent talks have included “LGBTQ+ in Science” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Neuroscience.”

  • Neuroscience Club

    The Neuroscience Club is a welcoming community and support network for neuroscience majors, and a forum for all Wellesley students and faculty to learn about neuroscience.

  • Research

    We offer excellent research opportunities for students. Whether they are first-years new to lab work or seniors working on a thesis, students collaborate with neuroscience faculty on research projects in our labs. Research students can volunteer, get credit, or apply for a limited number of paid positions for work-study eligible students. In addition, our faculty mentor students in the Summer Research Program and advise students pursuing off-campus research opportunities.

  • Fellowships

    Two fellowships support students engaged in research in Francisco Quintana’s lab at the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and in leukodystrophy research in the Division of Neurology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Most of our majors proceed to medical school or attend top-ranked graduate neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology PhD programs. Other graduates work in industries that intersect with neuroscience, such as public health, patent law, or education.

Department of Neuroscience

Science Center
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Mike Wiest
Department Chair