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Mount to Introduce Neuroscience Major in Fall 2020

hippocampus feature

Hippocampus in UV ray,

Mount St. Mary’s University will launch a neuroscience major in the Fall 2020 semester. The new Bachelor of Science degree will take an interdisciplinary approach to training future scientists who can apply a broad-ranging skill set to address problems whose resolution would enhance the human condition. These issues range from substance abuse to mood disorders to neurodegenerative disorders.

science-building-pod.jpgNeuroscience professionals are highly sought after in the marketplace. In just two years, between September 2016 and October 2018, the demand for bachelor’s-level neuroscience professionals rose by 42 percent, according to market research conducted by EAB Global, Inc. Professionals in managerial and research roles are in the highest demand regionally.

Neuroscience and data science majors were approved by the Mount St. Mary’s Board of Trustees in January, and then the proposals were sent to the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) for approval. MHEC approved the neuroscience program this week. A decision on the data science program is expected soon.

“These two majors are great fits for the Mount for two main reasons: First, because of the incredible faculty expertise we are so fortunate to have, and, second, because they both develop highly sought after skills sets that are in high demand in the marketplace,” said Kraig Sheetz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. “The Mount is recognized for our job placement success, and these majors will continue to validate that reputation.”

Focused on the study of the nervous system, the neuroscience major will be housed in the Department of Psychology, chaired by Associate Professor Caitlin Faas, Ph.D. Foundational courses in biology, chemistry, psychology and computer science will be applied in neuroscience-specific courses and research on topics from cell biology to human behavior and cognition. The program is primarily composed of existing coursework that leverages the expertise of current faculty, explained Faas.

“Our neuroscience program is unique with its computer science requirement – something that is sought by employers but not required by most other neuroscience programs,” said Assistant Professor of Psychology Angy Kallarackal, Ph.D., whose area of study is neuroscience. “Additionally, while all of the required courses are within the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, students will have the opportunity to integrate humanities subjects such as philosophy and political science into their studies – giving them a truly interdisciplinary experience.

Kallarackal, who proposed this new major and has been published in journals such as Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Neuroscience and Trends in Neuroscience, also points to the significance of the independent research project that all neuroscience students will conduct as part of their degree. “This is a great advantage we can provide over bigger schools due to our smaller faculty-to-student ratio,” she said.

Considering the broad reach of neuroscience, the curriculum has been designed to give students the opportunity to tailor their coursework to focus on a specific branch, including cognitive, behavioral, molecular/cellular and computational.