If you love biology and have a strong interest in exploring the development and functioning of cells and the nervous system, then our Neurobiology AOC is a good fit for you. This program is particularly popular with students who are interested in medical school or attending graduate school in a wide variety of health-related fields, and New College has an excellent track record of graduate school placement in these areas.
As a Neurobiology student at New College, you will enjoy the small classes and intensive coursework that you would expect from one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. But you will also benefit from a flexible academic program that, through work with your faculty advisor, is designed to address your particular academic interests and goals. Of course, you will also work side-by-side with faculty who have attended the nation’s leading research institutions and who have recently earned grants and awards from such leading organizations as the National Science Foundation, the NAACP and the Rita B. LaMere Foundation.
Our program begins with a solid foundation in general biology and then extends into cell and developmental biology, with parallel consideration of organismal biology, biochemistry and genetics. Naturally following this preparation are courses in neurobiology/neuroanatomy and behavioral analysis to improve your understanding of how the nervous system works. Along the way, you may also investigate the way in which natural and synthetic environmental substances affect genetic, cellular, molecular and developmental processes as well as behavior of organisms by studying toxicology. Working closely with our expert faculty, you will also gain advanced understanding of experimental design and data interpretation and develop the analytic, research and writing skills that are expected at the graduate school and professional levels within the field.
Two tracks are available within our Neurobiology AOC, each designed to match the needs and interests of students within the program. Track 1 is designed for students who want to focus purely on Neurobiology and the Natural Sciences. This track features courses in Neurobiology, Brain Behavior and Evolution, and Vertebrate Neuroanatomy with at least two labs associated with these courses. Track 2 involves coursework in two of the above disciplines along with labs and a Social Sciences offering in Neurobiology. The latter might include Environmental Studies, Psychology, Anthropology or even Gender Studies, for example. Your faculty advisor can help you determine the track that is best for you.
In addition to standard coursework, tutorials and independent study projects (ISPs), students in New College’s Neurobiology program also enjoy internships and study/research abroad opportunities to extend their learning outside the classroom. In recent years, these have included NSF REU grants to assist Professors Amy Clore and Katherine Walstrom with their research, as well as to assist researchers at other leading universities across the country; internships at Roskamp Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory; and research on coral reef ecology in Panama and Honduras with Professors Al Beulig and Sandra Gilchrist.
Graduates in Neurobiology at New College have gone on to success as doctors, professors, medical and scientific researchers, marine and environmental ecologists and biologists, and a host of other occupations. And they have attended some of the nation’s top graduate programs, including Columbia, Northwestern, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Florida Medical School.
In pursuing an AOC in Neurobiology at New College, you have two optional tracks:
As with all majors at New College, students studying Neurobiology are required to complete a senior thesis or project prior to graduation.
For detailed requirements about our Neurobiology AOC, check out our general catalog.
Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Neurobiology:
Please note that this is only a sample list of the course offerings in Neurobiology. For a detailed list of classes by semester, click here.
Animal Behavior Lecture
Analysis of behavior integrating the concepts of levels of behavioral organization and the developmental history of behavior. The adaptive significance of behavior and its evolution in a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate animals will be considered. Social behavioral mechanisms will also be considered at selected levels of psychological complexity. Concepts and theories of behavioral ecology and the interface between behavior and ecology will be critically analyzed. The developing field of cognitive ethology and animal cognition will be reviewed and discussed. The overall approach of the course will be to contrast and compare formulations of ethology and comparative psychology with regard to their influences on methodology and the types of hypotheses generated by each viewpoint.
Animal Behavior Lab
Experimental techniques of behavioral analysis in laboratory and field will be introduced. Students will become familiar with the techniques of behavioral observation in the field in the ethological tradition. They will learn how to construct an ethogram, design a field study, analyze data and write a research article. Instrumental conditioning will be covered in the laboratory using the shuttle-box avoidance paradigm. A Coulbourn Instruments computerized stimulus presentation and data analysis system is available for use with fish as experimental subjects and other taxa as well. Students will be required to prepare grant proposals for independent projects that will be carried out during the second module.
Applied Bioinformatics Lab
In this computer laboratory class, we will explore practical methods to extract information from biological datasets using R and Bioconductor. Using data from current public repositories, we will apply techniques for data mining and classification to make and validate predictions about biological processes. The focus will be on developing a practical toolset for aggregating, reshaping, analyzing, and presenting biological data, combining information across data types where possible. In the second module, students will apply these tools in independent projects.
Squawk, whistle, bleat, chirrup, and click. Animals communicate in a wide variety of ways, with varying levels of control, and to suit multiple needs from territorial defense to courtship to synchronization. However, the frameworks employed to analyze these communication systems are surprisingly controversial, e.g., how important is the concept of information in analyzing animal communication? Might it be misleading us? In this small advanced seminar, we’ll read literature on animal communication theory as well as investigating some specific species’ communication systems.
Animal Learning and Cognition
The course will begin with a consideration of the foundations of animal learning in the 17th century philosophical debates concerning nativist vs. empiricist explanations of mind followed by a discussion of the influence of Darwin’s ideas on the evolution of intelligence. The remainder of the course will be divided between learning theory and cognition. Learning theory approaches to animal intelligence dominated the first half of the twentieth century and included such topics as habituation, sensitization, classical conditioning, and instrumental conditioning. Cognitive approaches have become more influential in contemporary studies of animal intelligence. We will discuss how these approaches have been applied to learning, memory, navigation, foraging, and timing.
Diseases and Disorders of the Nervous System
The major goals of the course are 1) to understand current theories of and basic research on the major disease of the human brain and nervous system, 2) to grasp the current state of knowledge regarding treatments or cures, and 3) develop critical scientific reading and writing skills. The course will provide students with a broad exposure to major neuropathologies. The topics to be covered will include common neurological and psychiatric diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and developmental disorders and infectious diseases that affect the nervous system. Each week we will focus on a different nervous system disorder. Classes will consist of an hour lecture followed by a 30 minute discussion of recent research, twice a week. Readings will be based on the fifth edition of “Principles of Neural Science” (2011) edited by Eric Kandel and selected primary research papers. Class evaluations will be based on the combination of participation, short writing assignments, performance on the midterm, final paper, and final presentation. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with the major challenges facing clinical neuroscience and feel comfortable writing about research
Introductory Psychology Seminar: The Sensory World of Animals
Animals exist in different sensory worlds than humans. For example, honeybees can locate their food sources using polarized light and homing pigeons navigate using the earth’s magnetic field. Dolphins discriminate objects and bats capture insects using reflected sound. Some fish detect changes in movements in water on a nanometer scale and sharks can detect electrical signals from the neural activity of prey. Students will be introduced to the behavioral and physiological evidence that provides a glimpse of these other worlds of animals. This is a writing-intensive course and part of New College’s Seminars in Critical Thinking; it is recommended to students who want to improve their critical thinking and writing skills.
An advanced course dealing with the general features of nervous systems and the principles of neural organization educed from a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate model preparations. The neural substrate of various behavioral adaptations will be considered as well as the role of sensory mechanisms in these adaptations. A detailed analysis of the adequate stimuli, transduction, coding and transmission characteristics of various sensory systems will be carried out.
An experimental analysis of the physiology of neural and sensory systems. Electro physiological stimulation and recording techniques will be utilized to study the operating characteristics of selected model preparations. A Power Lab system is available for online recordings, display and processing of neural signals. Each student will be expected to learn to operate the equipment and carry out individual projects. Lab partners schedule 3 hr sessions to fit in with their class schedule.
Principles of Bioinformatics
This intermediate level course will cover topics in the generation and analysis of large biological datasets, including sequence analysis, gene expression, protein folding, biological networks and databases, and biomedical applications. To better understand the processes that link genome structure and function, we will focus on common principles that apply regardless of data type or computational method. Students will also develop a grant application proposing methods to study a biological topic of interest.
Sensation and Perception
This course explores the sensory and perceptual processes involved in determining the properties of physical stimuli. Initially, we will discuss psychophysics, the study of the relationship between psychological phenomena and physical events. We will continue with reviews of vision and audition. A specific emphasis will be placed on applications of psychological and biological knowledge to perceptual analysis of two-dimensional visual images and music. No prior academic experience with art or music is required.
Sensory Biology of Fishes Lecture
This upper-level course will examine the anatomy, physiology, development, and evolution of the sensory systems of fishes and the behaviors for which they are utilized. We will explore vision, smell, taste, mechanoreception (lateral line, touch), hearing, electroreception, and magnetoreception. This course will consist of lectures and student-led discussions of recent research papers.
Sensory Biology of Fishes Lab
This hands-on laboratory course is designed to complement the topics covered in the Sensory Biology of Fishes lecture. We will explore the use of sensory information in fish behaviors, such as feeding, reproduction, and communication and learn how to quantitatively measure animal behavior. This course will be divided into units, as experiments are expected to require several lab sessions to complete. A written report of the results will be required at the completion of each unit.
Sensory Processes of Marine Mammals
Marine mammals reentered the aquatic world from terrestrial habitats. They evolved sensory systems adapted to this new environment. In this advanced seminar we will emphasize auditory, visual, and tactile senses, but will also consider chemical, electrical, and magnetic senses. We will focus on the sensory abilities of dolphins, seals and sea lions, and manatees, but also consider other animals including baleen whales, dugongs, and otters.
New College Neurobiology graduates are at work in diverse areas around the country and the world. Our graduates have gone on to medical and veterinary schools and explored careers in everything from psychology and medicine to speech pathology, nursing, brain injury and more. Here is a quick profile of one of our graduates:
Christine Hamilton-Hall, M.D., is a Maxillofacial & Cosmetic Facial Surgeon at the Aesthetic and Maxillofacial Surgery Center, in Darien, CT who graduated from New College in 1983. Dr. Hamilton Hall received her medical degree from Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons.
New College is proud of the many Neurobiology graduates who have contributed to the field. Here’s a sampling of what some of them are up to today:
Sample of Graduate Schools Attended by NCF Students in Neurobiology
Each academic experience builds toward your senior thesis project. It’s required for graduation, and our students tell us that while it’s demanding, it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Here are some thesis projects in Neurobiology:
“Reactive Oxygen Species Likely Induce Pro-Inflammatory Gene Transcription and P53 Activity Following Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation in Cultured Microglia” by David Hartmann
“Learning Under Stress: Separating the Effects of Allopregnanolone and Fluoxetine in Carassius Auratus” by Jeremy David Evans
“Similarity between the Morphological Chromatophore Systems Present in the Autonomic Vertical Banding Display of the Bluegill (Lepomis Macrochirus) and Selected Cichlids” by Avery Thomson
“A Functional and Structural Analysis of Cells in Mice Visual Cortex” by Jasmine Zeki
“Even More Fish on Prozac: Influence of the 5-HT6 Receptor and Stress on Learning and Memory Behavoir in Goldfish (Carassis auratus)” by Kevin Law
“A Possible Rejuvenation of Neurons Using Human Umbilical Cord Blood Through the Akt Pathway” by Vijay Mehta
“Synesthesia: An Exploration of the Behavior, Biology, and Individuality of Cross-Modal Experiences” by Blaine Farmer
“The Secret Life of Science” by Max Berman Ferretti
“Olfaction, Memory and Emotion: An Anatomical, Physiological, and Psychological Review of the Effects of Odors on the Human Brain” by Kristen Katherine Johannessen
“The Paths of Memory: A Neuroanatomical Model for Semantic Memory Retrieval” by Simon W. Davis
“A Comparative Electrophysiological Analysis of Visual Pathways through the Teleost Forebrain” by Luis Cabezas
“Preliminary Electrophysiology of tecto-telencephalo-tectal pathway in Lagadon rhomboides” by Joshua Lyskowski Morgan
“The Effect of Cortisol Administration on Learning and Memory in the Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides” by Wade Crawford
“Efferent and Afferent Connections of the Optic Tectum in the Squirrelfish, Holocentrus rufus” by Mandy Funderburk
“A Comparative Study of a Visually Important Pathway in Two Teleosts: Holocentrus rufus and Lagodon rhomboides” by Keith Teelucksingh
“Investigation of an Intrinsic Connection of the Hypertrophied Telencephalon of Squirrelfish” by Jason T. Deignan
“The Eves of Fishes: Ganglion Cell Densities in the Retina of the Teleost-Holocentrus Rufus and GnRH-ir and FMRFamide-ir Fibers in the Retina of the Elasmobranch- Raja Eglanteria, a Possible Terminal Nerve Projection” by James W. Custis, Jr.
“Sexual Dimorphisms in the Mammalian Brain: An Anatomical Study and Review” by Kate Chapman
The Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center boasts seven research labs and over 100 aquariums, anchored by a 15,000 gallon research and display tank. Each tank in the Living Ecosystem Teaching and Research Aquarium features a different captive ecosystem, several with a camera to send images to a streaming video server. Through a natural filtration system designed by students, the center draws and recycles water from Sarasota Bay. At Pritzker, students and faculty also design outreach programs to engage the local community in the world of science. Learn more.
The 56,000-square-foot Heiser Natural Sciences Complex includes teaching and research labs for chemistry, biochemistry, biology, bioinformatics, computational science, mathematics and physics. A state-of-the-art Optical Spectroscopy and Nano-Materials laboratory and a research greenhouse are part of the complex. Our chemistry labs, which include a 24-station teaching lab with transparent fume hoods, are well equipped for organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry projects, as well as for biochemistry and molecular biology. Within them, students have access to research grade instruments like a 60 MHz and a 250 MHz NMR spectrometer, several FTIR and UV-visible spectrophotometers, a fluorimeter, an inert atmosphere glove box, electrochemical equipment, a GC-MS, a room-temperature microwave spectrometer, and a real-time PCR.
A $9.7 million project added a third wing to the Heiser complex in 2017, housing labs, classrooms and faculty offices, increasing space by more than 50 percent.
The Heiser Natural Sciences Complex is also home to Soo Bong Chae Auditorium, a tiered lecture hall for the natural sciences named after the longtime New College mathematician.
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Some students participate in faculty programs in Panama and Honduras. Previously students traveled to Finland, Ireland and Germany through a FIPSE exchange program focused on the sciences. There is a MOU with Trier’s Umwelt Campus for exchange of students and faculty. Recently a new MOA opened with the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados for exchange of students and faculty.
Hands-On Research Opportunities
Neurobiology students have expanded their studies outside of the class through ISPs, tutorials and thesis work. We also explore research through lab experiments, literary analysis, debate and argument, field observations, mathematical modeling, participant interviews, data analysis, studio time, archival work, and more. As a Biology AOC you will get hands-on experience in lab experiments, field observation, modeling, data mining and analysis as well as historical research.
Here is a list of some of the projects our students are currently involved in: