College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

New Neuroscience Minor Meets Growing Demand for Education about the Brain

Current college students grew up in the Decade of the Brain, a time of intense focus on brain science from 1990 to 2000 that was encouraged in a Presidential Proclamation by George H.W. Bush. Since that time the scope and demand for neuroscience education has continued to grow.

The labs of University of Mississippi faculty members involved in neuroscience research are inundated with students interested in gaining knowledge and practical skills in neuroscience. The College of Liberal Arts responded by creating a new interdisciplinary minor in neuroscience that will begin in Fall 2011.

Lainy Day, the biology assistant professor who is director of the neuroscience minor, said the new minor will steer students to the best courses to develop their knowledge.  Because the courses include possibilities in exercise science, communicative disorders, biology, and psychology, as well as training in neuroscience related labs across campus, the minor will appeal to students who want applied training, as well as those looking for a more academic experience with focus in neurosciences varying from the molecular to the behavioral.

Day said students who have interests in psychological, biological, and practical aspects of the brain would normally minor in psychology or biology.

“These minors are great if your interest is broad,” Day said. “But for those with specific interest in neuroscience, the new minor will guide them to the correct courses. I believe that graduate schools and medical schools will better be able to recognize a student’s focus with the neuroscience minor than with the broader topic minors. Additionally, the minor’s emphasis on lab experience and courses using primary literature will prepare students well for graduate school and medical school. Lastly, students can spread courses and training experiences across departments and schools to suit their interests.”

Biology graduate student Madeline Coltharp sees the value in the new minor.

“I feel this minor could be very useful for biology majors, especially those going into medicine or other medical-related fields,” said Coltharp, who graduated from UM in 2010 with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Psychology. “It could give them an advantage over others who have never had a neuro class because it is a complicated system to master. It could also be useful for anyone going into a graduate program in neuroscience, neuroendocrinology, or even animal behavior. Outside of the biology department, many exercise science or psychology majors could greatly benefit from this minor, as well.”

Day said the goal of the minor is to expand the resources available to such students, to guide students in their quest to obtain neuroscience knowledge, and to spread the awareness and opportunities of neuroscience education to students who may not have come to the discipline on their own.