Kent State’s New Undergraduate Neuroscience Major Thrives

Kent State University introduced a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience in fall 2019, and since the launch, the major has had tremendous growth. Enrollment is projected to surpass majors that have been at Kent State for years.

“We currently have about 45 students enrolled in the major,” said Wilson Chung, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “It’s one of the most rapid-growing majors we have in our college.”

Chung said the creation of this major had been going on for nearly a decade. Throughout the decade, Kent State was working to acquire several neuroscientists and create enough coursework to be able to implement the major.

“Over the 10 years, Kent State recruited a bunch of neuroscientists, so now we are about 30 strong at Kent State,” Chung said. “We now have a critical mass to provide a strong curriculum in service of neuroscience teaching and research.”

A neuroscience degree can lead students toward many careers in research, education, administration and more. Kent State has designed its major to ensure students are prepared for any role they acquire after graduation.

The uniqueness of the major is the large number of faculty, especially faculty with federal research funding, make this a promising field of study for students looking to get involved in relevant research.

“Most of our faculty have either the National Science Foundation or Natural Institutes of Health funding,” Chung said. “This is important because we have faculty who have cutting-edge research labs, and they are doing neuroscience work that is incredibly important.”

Additionally, the major has a diversity of research labs, which provides a training spot for the neuroscience students to do hands-on activities that are directly connected to actual ongoing neuroscience research.

That is part of the appeal for freshman neuroscience major Isobel Archer, who was in Chung’s research lab.

Archer expressed that the lab was intimidating at first because it is a professional lab, but since she joined, she has been able to jump right into hands-on experience.

“The lab is helpful because my classes are very structured,” Archer said. “In the lab, Dr. Chung will give me a range of concentration and how much of it we will need. The lab makes me think quickly on my feet and has helped me learn and be prepared for anything thrown at me.”

Archer has been able to do a lot within her first two semesters as a neuroscience major, and she added the major is extremely guided and helpful, thanks to her professors. 

“All of the professors are there to talk you through the process,” Archer said. “The neuroscience seminar I had to take my first semester was especially helpful because it not only explored all of the research labs but educated us on the careers we can go into and what we need to do after graduation.”

Chung structured the class to have research lab principle investigators (PIs) come in and highlight what to do, so students can have a direct line and know exactly who to talk to to get into a research lab.

“I ensure incoming freshmen can get essential experience and know what kind of research they can do while at Kent State,” Chung said. “Also, not all neuroscience undergraduate students are interested in doing research, so the introductory class is designed to help them figure out what they want to do or if this major is really for them.”

One student who is certain about the major is Joshua Saegesser, a senior double majoring in bio pre-med and neuroscience. Saegesser came to Kent State from Chicago, Illinois, due to the implementation of the neuroscience undergraduate bachelor major.

In his sophomore year of college, Saegesser founded the Neuroscience Club to help promote interest in the neuroscience major as it was becoming a reality.

Saegesser said during club meetings, professors in the neuroscience major come in and talk about the major, the research and the classes they teach.

“Anyone who is interested is welcome to come in, talk to the professors, meet them and learn about their research,” Saegesser said. “Students do not have to be enrolled in the major to come.”

Saegesser predicts that the major will continue to see tremendous growth within the next couple of years.

“The major has only been here for a year, and it’s already surpassed majors that have been here for a decade,” Saegesser said. “It’s bound to grow fast.”

The major is an addition to the university’s program and focus, which is to have brain health research be a focus point at Kent State, and right now, Chung and faculty are continuing to innovate and work on improving the curriculum for the future.

Learn more about the neuroscience bachelor program at http://catalog.kent.edu/colleges/as/psys/neuroscience-bs.

POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2020 - 1:34pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 7, 2020 - 4:33pm
WRITTEN BY:
Andriana Ruscitto