The Neurobiology Major: our history and growth

Twenty years ago, the UW-Madison did not have a generally available Biology major, instead students selected one of many biology-related majors in the Colleges of Letters and Science (L&S) and Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). The Biology Major was first extended from the School of Education to students in CALS and L&S about 15 years ago. The Biology Major became very popular and grew to become one of the largest majors on campus. Options within the Biology Major were created to help students focus on specific disciplines within Biology, such as the Neurobiology Option. Surprisingly, the Neurobiology Option grew to become about 24% of the Biology Major.

The Neurobiology Major is similar to the Neurobiology Option, but has more flexibility and focus for students. As the field of neuroscience grows, more neuroscience courses are created that do not fit the goals of the Biology Major; Neurobiology Option. These classes include, brain imaging, neuroeconomics, and neuroscience principles in education, and cognitive neuroscience. Thus, the need for a separate major devoted to these unique courses within neuroscience emerged. The Neurobiology Major is one of several biological science programs available to UW-Madison undergraduates, and the existing Neurobiology Option within the Biology Major is being phased out (with its final graduates completing their degrees by the Summer 2019). Leaving the Neurobiology Major as the only undergraduate major on campus that is focused on the field of neurobiology and neuroscience

The Neurobiology major, which is within L&S, is housed in the Department of Zoology. The curriculum includes courses from departments within L&S (e.g., Zoology, Psychology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Biochemistry), and not in L&S (e.g., Neuroscience, Cell and Regenerative Biology, Kinesiology, and Educational Psychology). Also, faculty in these and a variety of other department on campus (e.g., Genetics, Neurology, Psychiatry, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurosurgery) support the Neurobiology Major by providing research experiences for undergraduates. The partnerships that we have with various departments and units across campus allows the Neurobiology major to maintain excellence in undergraduate research and teaching.