Neuroscience is the interdisciplinary study of the neural underpinnings and consequences of behavior. Scholarship in neuroscience includes the philosophical inquiry into the nature of mind and experience, the empirical study of behavior, and the resolution of the molecular and cellular underpinnings of neurophysiology. The neuroscience curriculum at the College has been designed to highlight those resonances and counterpoints among different fields of study that yield new perspectives on the biological basis of consciousness and behavior. The major provides students the opportunity to develop strong foundational training in the natural sciences, philosophy, and psychology, as well as specific, rigorous training in the emerging core knowledge of neuroscience.
Neuroscience majors leave Muhlenberg with a proficient ability to carefully evaluate both neuroscience theory and data and locate these observations within the context of timely scholarship in the field. The critical skills required to complete this major will also foster creativity and proficiency in approaching problem solving, experimental design, and empirical analysis in neuroscience. In the broadest sense, graduates in neuroscience will confidently embrace the unknown, develop multiple strategies for generating new knowledge, and effectively articulate both what they do and don’t understand. Given the broad curriculum, faculty scholarly expertise, and the many opportunities for faculty-student research collaborations, neuroscience majors are especially prepared for careers in academia, industry, or the medical clinic.
A UNIQUE APPROACH
• Hands-on training
The neuroscience curriculum at Muhlenberg allows students to learn by doing. Students actively participate in course laboratories and learn to work hands-on with human electroencephalogram (EEG), research animals, and methods of neurophysiology and neuropharmacology. In past course lab projects, students have monitored the physiological properties of neural cells in invertebrates, performed behavioral and psychophysical assays in research animals, and defined the properties of specific neurotransmitter receptors. Students have full access to all laboratory equipment in specific courses and for independent research.
• Research collaborations with faculty
In addition to being outstanding teachers, our faculty are also dedicated and prolific research mentors. Many students elect to join a neuroscience faculty member’s lab and carry out research collaborations during their four years at Muhlenberg. Students often present the results of their research at both local and national meetings, including the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, and have co-authored research manuscripts with faculty. Our program has particular research strengths in the structure and function of neurotransmitter receptors, sensory neurophysiology, molecular and behavioral pharmacology, the neural basis of learning and memory, and the analytic and phenomenological foundations of consciousness and cognition.
• Cross-disciplinary identity
Our neuroscience classes are lively and diverse, and with good reason: students who major in neuroscience often have dedicated interests in not only the natural sciences, but also in the social study of human behavior, language, art, and performance. Neuroscience majors often double-major; the most common double-major combinations with neuroscience are philosophy, music, mathematics, English, theatre, dance, and chemistry. Thus our majors constitute a strong and diverse group on campus and are not easily parsed into a single discipline. Students enjoy the welcoming, inclusive atmosphere of our courses and the wide-ranging interests of both their faculty and their peers and leave Muhlenberg with rare exposure to the depth and breath of neuroscience - as well as its many interconnections with other bodies of knowledge.
I chose to major in Neuroscience because I was drawn to the questions of how complex thought emerges from an electrical tissue like the brain, and how simple cellular signaling events could give rise to such concepts as movement, speech, learning, and memory. Neuroscience by its very nature is interdisciplinary so the major is perfect for individuals who want to be challenged to think broadly among different disciplines.
-- Laura Sheard '07, Ph.D., pharmacology, University of Washington
As a neuroscience major, I learned to value the richness of unsolved questions and collaborative scholarship; to challenge traditional notions of scientific objectivity, academic fragmentation and oversimplification; to develop a snarky critical voice; and to explore intersections between power, social context, and subjecthood.
-- Sarah lling '10, Fulbright ETA Fellow in Colombia, 2010-2011