Just as nervous systems arise from neurons and glia, a new neuroscience program arises from component parts. At Hope College, those components have been slowly developed over the past 50 years. The first faculty member at Hope College with an interest in neuroscience was hired as a member of the Department of Psychology in and began teaching a course on perception soon thereafter. This course continued until , when it was replaced by a course in Cognitive Psychology. Physiological Psychology and Animal Behavior courses began in following the hiring of a physiological psychologist.
Another early course offering related to neuroscience was Fundamentals of the Human Nervous System which was taught by a biologist at Hope from to By , there were six faculty members at Hope with an interest in neuroscience who included neuroscience content in their courses and did neuroscience related research. Through the courses taught by these faculty and through their research programs, students at Hope College were learning many of the components of neuroscience, albeit in an unfocused way. Moving from faculty members with interests in neuroscience to a program in neuroscience required planting the idea and allowing time for wide ranging discussions.
A hallmark of the HHMI supported program was the hiring of a faculty member in biochemistry and molecular biology, who was appointed as a member of both the biology and chemistry departments. With this appointment, we began our commitment to working more deliberately across departmental boundaries, a necessity if one is to develop a neuroscience program. By the time we were invited to apply for another HHMI award in , the Division of Natural Sciences at Hope had seen the benefits of cross-departmental programs and was further aware of the importance of neuroscience at the undergraduate level.
We requested funding from HHMI to support the start-up costs of another faculty member who would hold a joint appointment in biology and chemistry, but this time in the area of neurochemistry. This individual would teach a course in neuroscience and would be charged with developing a neuroscience program at Hope. This neuroscience hire was possible because the Department of Psychology had, by that time, expressed strong interest in being involved in a neuroscience program and indicated that a future hire would be made in that area. This was critical to our success as we had decided that no minor in neuroscience was possible at Hope without the full involvement of the Psychology Department.
In , Hope hired Dr. Leah Chase, a neurochemist whose research area is in the area of hippocampal electrophysiology and neurochemistry. She brought to Hope College a background in neuroscience and enthusiasm for developing a neuroscience program. The first course in neuroscience at Hope, offered in , was a lecture course entitled Introduction to Neuroscience that was cross-listed as both a biology and a chemistry course.
The course reached its maximum enrollment on the first day of registration, confirming our expectation that there was significant student interest in neuroscience among Hope students. The minor is seen as an excellent complement to divisional and departmental efforts to enhance interdisciplinary science training at Hope College other areas include Mathematical Biology, Environmental Science, and Bioinformatics and is serving as a model for the development of additional interdisciplinary programs, such as Computational Sciences and Modeling, in the Natural Science Division.
The guiding philosophy of science education at Hope College is that students learn science best by doing science. Thus it was important to us that the initial neuroscience course have a laboratory component. This proposal was informed by studies Fortenberry, ; McNeal et al. We, thus, decided that the laboratory component of the neuroscience course would be based on investigative laboratories, wherein students are first trained in a scientific technique and then use that technique to answer a question which they have posed. This approach was well established as an effective active learning technique Woodhull-McNeal, ; Zamer, ; Sundberg and Moncada, ; McNeal et al.
Further, we decided that we would use the project lab approach, in which students spend several weeks on a single project of their own design McLean, ; Henderson and Buising, ; Sundberg et al. The student-designed projects would build on techniques the students learned doing structured lab exercises, with each exercise ending in a simple student-designed experiment to test a hypothesis that closely followed the structured lab. During the last five weeks of the course, students would carry out a major project based on their own hypothesis and experimental design. With funds from that grant and additional funds beyond the required matching funds from Hope College, we purchased equipment for six extracellular and intracellular electrophysiology stations which interface with our previously owned computerized data acquisition systems.
We also purchased equipment for behavioral analyses. In addition, we incorporated the MetaNeuron program Newman, into the course. We found that students in the neuroscience course, without a laboratory, scored an average of The students in the course, with the laboratory, scored an average of In addition, there were no differences in the distribution of the students from biology, chemistry, and psychology in the courses.
The two courses were taught by the same professor using the same outline and syllabus. The final exam questions were similar, but not exactly the same. These data suggest that the implementation of the lab component of the course had a significant effect on the ability of the students to formulate hypotheses, design experiments, and evaluate data.
Concurrently with the development of the laboratory component of the neuroscience course, Dr. Chase was awarded a Towsley Research Scholar Grant from Hope College that provided her with support to begin to develop a neuroscience program at Hope College. The Towsley Research Scholar Program is a competitive program open to all tenure-track faculty in their third year at Hope College.
In addition, during this time, the Department of Psychology began its search for a faculty member with expertise in neuroscience who would serve as a key contributor to the neuroscience program. In , Dr. Charles Behensky, who works in the areas of neural substrates of language processing and computational models of categorization, was hired to fill this position. The third core faculty member for the neuroscience program, Dr. Gregory Fraley, was hired by the Department of Biology in Fraley works in the area of central regulation of energy balance and reproduction using rats as experimental models.
We want to stress that 1 the release time provided by the Towsley Research scholar program and 2 the commitments of the Biology and Psychology Departments to the neuroscience program through these hires were essential to the success of the program. A neuroscience program task force was assembled in to develop the framework for the neuroscience program. Deliberate efforts were made to invite participation of faculty from many departments in multiple divisions so that the neuroscience program would be interdisciplinary and inclusive to all students.
Thus, the final task force included faculty from eight departments, including Philosophy, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Nursing, and Education. In its first meetings, the committee decided to develop a minor program rather than a major program in neuroscience. In addition, the committee decided the purpose of the neuroscience program was not to prepare students for a graduate career in neuroscience. The interdisciplinary nature of the program was of significant importance to the committee as there was broad interest in the program from faculty across departments, and it was important to the faculty that all students could participate in the program.
This report calls for reevaluation of the current status of the undergraduate biology curriculum. In the report, particular emphasis is made on building a more interdisciplinary and quantitative-based science curriculum that would better serve future scientists. Hence, the committee agreed that the neuroscience minor program would be an excellent forum to introduce students to the process of collaborative, interdisciplinary study. Taking these ideas into account, the task force developed five objectives for the neuroscience minor at Hope College. Students will be able to develop hypotheses, design experiments, carry out these experiments, and interpret data for a question related to a neuroscience problem.
Students will be able to access, read, and gain insight from reading the primary neuroscience literature. The task force then set to work developing a curriculum that would fulfill the aforementioned objectives. The other interdisciplinary minor programs at Hope College served as excellent models.
In addition, the committee reviewed several notable undergraduate neuroscience programs at liberal arts colleges, including Oberlin, Davidson, Macalester, Haverford, and Pomona Colleges. Chase also visited Professor Dennison Smith at Oberlin College and discussed the development of their very successful neuroscience program. The committee deliberately decided that no prerequisites would be specified for the neuroscience program so that it would be accessible to any student from any discipline.
However, those students with majors outside of psychology are strongly encouraged to take Introduction to Psychology to fulfill their Social Science General Education Requirement, and majors outside of biology are strongly encouraged to take Human Physiology as a flagged course prior to taking the Introduction to Neuroscience. A curriculum proposal containing an outline of the program and a description of the courses and associated assessment plans was written in the fall of and submitted to the Hope College Curriculum Committee.
This proposal was discussed at the December Curriculum Committee Meeting and was officially accepted in January of A brief description of this program is given below. Specifically, the minor program promotes the process of discovery and inquiry-based learning and is rooted in one of the greatest strengths of Hope College, its research program. The neuroscience minor program can be broken down into three educational levels, introductory, intermediate, and advanced, with each level having its own specific objectives.
In addition, students are allowed to tailor their own specialized program to match their specific interests in neuroscience. The Neuroscience minor consists of a total of 21 credit hours, including both core courses and flagged courses from several departments. NSCI Neuroscience Journal Club : junior-level neuroscience journal club 1 credit; must be taken a total of two times. The students are encouraged to complete their flagged courses prior to taking the capstone.
This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience and serves as a foundation for the neuroscience minor. It is the only course in the minor in which the primary objective is to teach students the fundamental principles of neuroscience Table 2.
The course consists of two minute lectures and one, three hour lab period each week. The course begins with an historical perspective on the origin of neuroscience that is followed by a one week unit on the philosophy of the mind taught by a member of the philosophy department. Students are subsequently introduced to the basics of cellular, molecular, and systems neuroscience and nervous system organization.
Eventually, students explore more complex behavior and cognitive topics including motivation and reward, memory, learning, attention, and language. The textbook for this course is Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain by Bear et al. Neuroscience Minor Courses and Objectives. In the laboratory, students learn experimental techniques that are fundamental to the area of neuroscience. Lab exercises focus on electrophysiology specifically the intracellular recording of resting membrane potential in the crayfish muscle, extracellular recording of action potentials in the crayfish motor neuron, and sensory neurons from the Crawdad Lab System , neuroanatomy, human senses and vision, language lateralization, and EEG recording.
In addition, students complete a set of related labs that are interspersed throughout the semester that focus on the effects of gonadal steroids on brain structure and function. Early in the semester students perform ovariectomies on female rats and implant steroid capsules containing estradiol, testosterone, or vehicle. Several weeks later in three different lab periods, students compare 1 sexual behavior as measured by expression of lordosis and 2 spatial-learning behavior as measured in the Morris Water Maze in these same rats.
Ultimately, students examine the effects of hormone treatment on 1 expression of long term potential in the CA1 region of the hippocampal slice and 2 microstructure of the brain. In all of the labs, significant emphasis is placed on the scientific method, development of hypotheses, experimental technique, and data analysis in order to fulfill the third objective of the minor and prepare students for the capstone research course. The use of statistics and scientific writing is also emphasized.
The journal club was developed to fulfill several objectives of the minor program, most significantly teaching students how to read the primary neuroscience literature critically Table 2. In addition, this course was designed to prepare students for the Advanced Neuroscience Research Courses by 1 exposing the students to current important questions in the neuroscience literature, 2 allowing them to gain a historical perspective of select, fundamental topics in neuroscience, 3 demonstrating the application of several experimental techniques to important scientific questions, and 4 giving them practice evaluating scientific data and drawing conclusions based on the data.
To accomplish these objectives, significant student participation is required in the form of classroom discussion for one hour each week. These are a set of inquiry-based courses in which students with different academic majors work together in four-member teams to complete self-designed neuroscience research projects.
The projects are directly related to a general neuroscience theme chosen by the instructor. Together, these courses serve as the capstone course in the neuroscience minor program. Students are expected to integrate and apply their knowledge and experimental expertise they obtained in all of their courses to the design of their research project. Students write project proposals during the first four weeks of the first course, and they complete their experimental work during the remainder of the first semester. In the second semester, students focus on writing a formal manuscript describing their research results.
During the first semester, the students meet for one, three-hour lab session each week and one, one-hour group meeting each week. In the second semester, students meet for one hour each week to discuss scientific writing and for peer review. We were pleased to discover that the program we developed would address all of the education objectives that were identified by Dr. Eric Wiertelak, past president of the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, as education goals for undergraduate neuroscience programs Wiertelak, These goals include 1 awareness of critical natural science and psychological principles, 2 awareness of experimental methodology, 3 ethics, 4 awareness of historical trends and theoretical perspectives that inform the field of neuroscience, 5 advanced awareness of a particular area or areas of study within neuroscience, 6 critical thinking and independent thought, 7 and effective communication skills Wiertelak, Although we did not explicitly list goals 4—7 as objectives of our program, they are emphasized throughout the curriculum we developed.
Specifically, students are introduced to historical trends in NSCI Introduction to Neuroscience, and advanced study is accomplished both in the upper level flagged courses as well as the capstone research experience. Critical thinking and communication skills are emphasized throughout the neuroscience curriculum and the general education curriculum of Hope College.
Thus, the newly developed program should lead to student gains in each of these identified skill areas. In the spring of , the first Introduction to Neuroscience course was offered. There were 21 students initially registered for the course, and 18 students completed the course. The students included one freshman, 14 sophomores, one junior, and one senior representing majors in psychology 6 , chemistry 4 , biology 2 , nursing 1 , religion 1 , education 1 , and physics 1.
Fifteen of the students were eligible to continue in the minor program. Currently, ten of these students representing all the aforementioned majors with the exception of the Education major are still involved in the program, and are taking flagged courses in addition to the journal club courses this year. In the spring Introduction to Neuroscience class, 12 sophomore students, representing majors in biology, chemistry, and psychology, have enrolled in the course. In the spring Introduction to Neuroscience course, a student survey was given at the beginning and the end of the semester to probe students' self-assessment of their disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills in science.
Students were asked to assess their confidence in 23 different areas, giving themselves a score of 1 not confident to 5 extremely confident for each category. In addition, the skills they were least confident in are emphasized in the subsequent journal club courses. Areas in which students reported significant gains are shown above. In the process of developing this minor program, we have learned some valuable lessons that we feel are important for anyone considering developing any new program at their institution.
One of the most important steps in the development of any program is finding someone who is passionate and who will enthusiastically embrace the challenges that will certainly emerge. If this individual is a junior faculty member, it is important that the individual seek and rely on helpful advice from more senior colleagues about navigating the college offices. In addition, serving on the college curriculum committee would be useful to learn about the structure of academic programs at the institution and about writing successful curriculum proposals.
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