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Neuroscience

Image of retinal ganglion cells

Neuroscience is the study of nervous systems, touching diverse fields such as biology, psychology, biochemistry, philosophy and computer science. Students of neuroscience are also diverse. For example, some students are primarily interested in questions of how consciousness arises from the human brain, while others become fascinated with the inner workings of individual nerve cells, and still others with the development of these complex neural systems. Neuroscience students at Smith receive excellent preparation for a wide range of careers, including research, medicine, biotechnology, pharmacology and more. The breadth of neuroscience encourages learning about many areas of science.

Photo above: Retinal ganglion cells in the eye, stained with a dye crystal placed on the optic nerve. The dye dissolves in the nerve cell membranes and migrates back to the cell bodies and dendrites in the retina. The image was made by the late Stefan Bodnarenko, a professor of neuroscience at Smith.

Requirements & Courses

Neuroscience is the study of nervous systems, touching diverse fields such as biology, psychology, biochemistry, philosophy and computer science. Students of neuroscience are also diverse. For example, some students are primarily interested in questions of how consciousness arises from the human brain, while others become fascinated with the inner workings of individual nerve cells, and still others with the development of these complex neural systems. Neuroscience students at Smith receive excellent preparation for a wide range of careers including research, medicine, biotechnology, pharmacology and a variety of other careers. The breadth of neuroscience encourages learning about many areas of science.

Students who major in neuroscience graduate with deep knowledge of neuroscience and several well-developed skills. They learn fundamental principles about the nervous system at multiple levels of analysis, from molecular and cellular aspects through systems, behavioral and cognitive levels. They receive extensive training in scientific writing, data analysis and public speaking, including presentations in classes and often also at regional and national scientific meetings. All of our students engage in research-based laboratory work, either through research projects in our upper-level laboratory courses, or in many cases through one-on-one mentoring in a faculty research laboratory. Finally, students begin to read primary research papers in our sophomore methods course and then continue to develop their skills in analyzing and critiquing current articles in our upper-level courses and seminars. They graduate from Smith with the skills and understanding that prepares them for the next steps in their careers.

Advisers: Mary Harrington (Study Abroad); Virginia Hayssen (Transfer Students)

Required Core Courses

Take each of these core courses:
BIO 132/133 Cells, Physiology and Development + lab
CHM 111 (or CHM 118), CHM 222 Chemistry I and II
NSC 210 Fundamentals of Neuroscience or NSC 110 Introduction to Neuroscience
NSC 230 Experimental Methods in Neuroscience
MTH 201 / PSY 201 or MTH 219 or MTH 220 Statistics

Take two of these biology courses as part of the core:
BIO 200 Animal Physiology
BIO 202 Cell Biology
BIO 230 Genomes and Genetic Analysis

Advanced Lecture / Research Lab Courses 

Take three advanced courses, at least one of which must be a lab course and one a lecture course, from these options:
Lecture courses:
NSC 314 Neuroendocrinology
NSC 318 Systems Neurobiology
BIO 300 Neurophysiology
BIO 302 Developmental Biology
BIO 310 Cell & Molecular Neuroscience
BIO 362 Animal Behavior

Lab courses:
NSC 324 Research in Behavioral Neuroscience
NSC 328 Research in Systems Neurobiology
BIO 330 Research in Cellular Neurophysiology
BIO 303 Research in Developmental Biology
BIO 363 Research in Animal Behavior
PSY 320 Research in Biological Rhythms

Seminars 

Take one seminar from these options:

NSC 312 Seminar in Neuroscience
NSC 313 Seminar in Organismal Neuroscience
NSC 316 Neuroscience in the Public Eye
BCH 380 Topics in Biochemistry: Protein Misfolding
BIO 323 Topics in Developmental Biology: Regeneration
PSY 314 Seminar in Foundations of Behavior
PSY 315 Seminar in Autism Spectrum Disorders
PSY 326 Seminar in Biopsychology
PSY 327 Seminar in Mind and Brain: Alzheimer's Disease

Elective Courses 

Complete one elective course:
PSY 120 Human Cognition
NSC 125 Sensation and Perception
PSY 130 Clinical Neuroscience
PSY 227 Brain, Behavior and Emotion
PSY 230 Psychopharmacology

The neuroscience major requires 51-56 credits, depending on which courses are chosen. The S/U option may not be used for courses in the major. A student who places out of required courses with AP or IB credits is expected to replace those courses with others offered in the major. NSC 230 is not open to seniors.

The supplemental website for the neuroscience program provides links to syllabi and other information about selected neuroscience courses.

The neuroscience minor consists of 6 courses.

  • BIO 132 Cells, Physiology and Development, or the equivalent
  • NSC 210 Fundamentals of Neuroscience
  • NSC 230 Experimental Methods in Neuroscience
  • Three elective courses, chosen in consultation with the NSC minor adviser from courses that count toward the NSC major, and with at least 2 at the 300 level. 

PSY 202 can be substituted for NSC 230, but only if one of the 300-level elective courses is also a lab course. 

The supplemental website for the neuroscience program provides links to syllabi and other information about selected neuroscience courses.

Director: Adam Hall

NSC 430D Honors Project 
This is a full-year course. Credits: 4 
Normally offered both fall and spring semesters 

Please consult the director of honors for specific requirements and application procedures. 

Color Code

6 Core Courses 2 Intermediate Biology Courses 3 Advanced Courses 1 Seminar 1 Elective NSC or PSY Course Liberal Arts Electives Additional Premed Courses

Typical Neuroscience Schedule

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 111
or 118
CHM 222 NSC 230 (either semester) Statistics
(either semester)
Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Seminar
Elective Bio 132/133 Intermediate Biology Course NSC 210 Intermediate Biology Course NSC or PSY Elective (either semester) Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective

Neuroscience Major, Starting Chemistry and Biology in the Second Year

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
Elective NSY or PSY Elective CHM 111 CHM 222 Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Seminar
Elective Elective BIO 132/133 NSC 210 NSC 230 Elective Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Statistics (either semester) Intermediate Biology Course Intermediate Biology Course Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective

Typical Neuroscience Major Schedule Meeting Premed Requirements

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 111 CHM 222 CHM 223 CHM 224 and/or BCH 252 Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab Seminar
BIO 132/133 NSC 210 NSC 230 (either semester) Statistics (either semester) English NSC or PSY Elective Elective Elective
English MTH 111h Intermediate Biology Course Intermediate Biology Course Physics 115 Physics 118 Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective

Neuroscience Major Schedule, With Junior Year Abroad

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 111 or 118 CHM 222 Intermediate Biology Course Intermediate Biology Course Elective Abroad Elective Abroad Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab
BIO 132/133 NSC 210 Statistics (either semester) NSC 230 (either semester) Elective Abroad Elective Abroad NSC or PSY Elective Seminar
Elective Elective Elective Advanced Lecture or Lab Elective Abroad Elective Abroad Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Abroad Elective Abroad Elective Elective

Typical Neuroscience Schedule, With Honors

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
CHM 111
or 118
CHM 222 NSC 230 (either semester) Statistics
(either semester)
Advanced Lecture or Lab Advanced Lecture or Lab NSC 430 NSC 430
BIO 132/133 NSC 210 Intermediate Biology Course NSC or PSY Elective (either semester) Intermediate Biology Course Seminar Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective Elective

Neuroscience students and faculty present their research at national and regional conferences.

Neuroscience students at a conference in Long Beach, CA

Students at the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology in Long Beach, California.

Students at the Northeast Society for Developmental Biology in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Students at the Northeast Society for Developmental Biology in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Students have opportunities to travel to a variety of locations for conferences based on diverse subdisciplines.

A neuroscience student at a conference in San Diego

A student discussing her poster at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California. 

Neuroscience students with Professor Mary Harrington at a conference in Florica

Students with Professor Mary Harrington at the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms on Amelia Island in Florida.

Study Abroad is possible in neuroscience. Mary Harrington is the adviser; interested students should consult her study abroad advice page early in their academic careers to plan their programs.

Neuroscience students visiting Pisa in Italy

Smith students studying at the Danish Institute in Copenhagen visited Italy during their program’s travel break.

VISIT THE STUDY ABROAD WEBSITE

 

Neuroscience students in Panama

Students in Panama for a two-week course on animal behavior also learned about tribal use of herbal medicines.

  • Research by neuroscience faculty receives national attention. Professor Annaliese Beery's analysis of the over-reliance on male subjects in preclinical studies has led to new rules requiring the use of female as well as male subjects in experiments. Beery was awarded the 2015 Frank A. Beach Young Investigator Award from the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. which recognizes “a new investigator ... who shows exceptional promise for making significant contributions to the field of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.”
  • Professor Mary Harrington and Jean Chaffee Hardwick ’83 have each been president of Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, a national organization that fosters education and research in neuroscience for undergraduate students.
     
  • Professor Richard Olivo received the 2014 award for Education in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience, and two awards from Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, Educator of the Year in 2005 and a Career Achievement Award in 2012. Professor Olivo organizes a teaching workshop each year for the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, and he was Founding Editor of the Society's web portal for higher education, Educational Resources in Neuroscience (ERIN).
  • Professor Michael Barresi is co-author of an edition of Developmental Biology, the leading textbook in its field. Professor Barresi is a recognized pioneer in the use of instructional technology.
     
  • Professor Virginia Hayssen is the author, with Teri Orr, of Reproduction in Mammals: The Female Perspective. She was formerly senior editor of the Journal of Zoology (London), an international taxonomic journal.
     
  • The cover of an issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights an article in that issue by Professor Lisa Mangiamele. Her article concerns androgen receptors in leg muscles of a tropical frog that uses its legs for sexual signaling. Another journal cover features a study of isomers that modulate the GABA-A receptor, research conducted by Professor Adam Hall and a number of Smith students. Their paper was published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
     
  • Smith faculty members serve on review panels for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Beckman Foundation, and as reviewers for numerous journals.

 

Contact

Neuroscience
Sabin-Reed Hall
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-6598
Administrative Assistant:
Kristin Morse