University introduces neuroscience major for 2018-19 academic year

Spencer Hall, a building that reflects Sewanee’s commitment to science instruction and research. Photo courtesy of Sewanee’s Flickr. 

By Colton Williams, Junior Editor

Beginning next academic year, the University will transition the neuroscience minor into a full major, and students who complete the course of study will be able to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.

Dr. Brandy Tiernan, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Neuroscience Program, said that the push for a neuroscience major has been in the works for many years, beginning with Dr. Helen Bateman, associate professor of psychology. Bateman was the first to vocalize a need for a neuroscience program, and worked with Dr. Jessica Siegel (now at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota) and other faculty members from the biology and chemistry departments in order to create the neuroscience minor.

Tiernan was hired in 2014 and began teaching in 2015. She was asked by Bateman and Dean of the College Terry Papillon about chairing the neuroscience program and helping to make the transition from minor to major. Just a few weeks ago, the proposal for the neuroscience major was approved.

In order to graduate with a major in neuroscience, students need to not only take classes with the neuroscience designation but also an array of courses from biology, chemistry, and psychology. In addition, majors will also have to choose three electives that come from lists that include the aforementioned departments and other fields such as statistics, philosophy, and physics.

In addition to Tiernan and Dr. Katharine Cammack, Assistant Professor of Psychology, the neuroscience department will welcome a neurobiologist, Dr. Christopher Shelley.

According to Tiernan, there are several students, both current and incoming, that are interested in pursuing the neuroscience major.

Tiernan said that she hopes students “realize the importance of neuroscience in several different fields. Neuroscience, after all, is a multidisciplinary area of study borrowing methodology from biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and medicine to better understand the brain and the nervous system.”

“Please don’t be afraid to give a neuroscience class a try,” Tiernan said as advice to students interested in the program. “It’s a fun field and you are bound to find something that you love.”

She added that interested students should email her for an appointment or stop by her office if they wanted more information.