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Psychology and Neuroscience

The department offers majors in Psychology and Neuroscience, and a minor in Psychology. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes approached from physiological, cognitive, behavioral, social, and applied perspectives. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, and integrates knowledge from the fields of biology, chemistry, the cognitive and social sciences, computer science, and allied disciplines. Students in both majors receive training in the scientific approach as it has been applied to the study of such topics as: the structure and function of the nervous system, perception, learning, motivation, memory, development, social influence, attitudes, organizational behavior, and mental disorders and treatments. Understanding how these topics have been investigated scientifically requires the development of critical thinking skills, quantitative reasoning skills, and speaking and writing abilities necessary to communicate research knowledge to others, as well as an appreciation for the ethical issues involved in research and practice. These skills are developed throughout the curriculum for the Psychology and Neuroscience majors; and demonstrated competence in the Statistics and Research Methods is essential for success in both areas of study. Our majors have gone on to successful careers in research, counseling and teaching, medicine, business, journalism and law.

Course Catalog

Requirements for a major


Total courses required 11.5
Core courses BIO 101, CHEM 120, CSC 121, PSY 100, PSY 214 or MATH 141
Other required courses

BIO 382; PSY 300 or PSY 301; NEUR 320; NEUR 341

Two courses with at least one at the 300 or 400 level from: BIO 203, BIO 241, BIO 320, BIO 325, BIO 314, BIO 315, BIO 335, BIO 381, BIO 385, BIO 415, CHEM 240, CHEM 343, CSC 233, CSC 320, CSC 330, CSC 360, KINS 254, KINS 350, KINS 410, NEUR 348, NEUR 349, PHIL 234, PHIL 360, PHYS 270, PHYS 370, PHYS 380, PSY 232, PSY 256, PSY 280, PSY 281, PSY 330, PSY 331, PSY 348, PSY 349, PSY 350, PSY 380, PSY 381, SOC 315.

For students planning to attend graduate or professional school, independent or student-faculty collaborative research is highly recommended for Neuroscience majors. Relevant experience can be gained through an on/off campus summer research placement or by conducting student-faculty collaborative research during the academic year.

Number 300 and 400 level courses 5
Senior requirement and capstone experience

NEUR 480/481 Senior Capstone (1 cr. or 2 cr.)

For the Senior Capstone, Neuroscience majors will complete a grant application that describes a novel program of research. The grant application will conform to NIH F31 Individual NRSA for PhD Students (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms_page_limits.htm#fell) and be completed in the fall or spring of the final year.

Students wishing to conduct an empirical thesis should complete NEUR 480 in the Fall semester and NEUR 481 in the Spring semester. NEUR 481 will involve the collection of data for an experiment proposed in NEUR 480. The results of this research will be reported in a manuscript and in an oral presentation.

Additional information

No more than two courses from off-campus programs can count toward the major. Neuroscience majors are encouraged to also take courses in physics and additional courses in computer science depending upon their career interests.

Writing in the Major

Writing in the Neuroscience major is distributed across the curriculum beginning with introductory core courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, and psychology, and continuing in upper level courses representing multiple disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of Neuroscience means that students should learn to communicate their science to varying audiences. As an example, writing for an audience grounded in the biological tradition can be quite different from writing for an audience grounded in the psychological tradition. The requirement to complete 300 level coursework in Biology and Psychology will ensure that students are exposed to, and gain experience with, communicating to audiences in two of the principle disciplines related to Neuroscience. Within these courses, students will gain experience writing a variety of different kinds of documents (e.g., laboratory reports, reports the findings of an empirical study, integrative reviews of the literature). For instance, laboratory reports represent a key writing component of required 300 level coursework in Biology and Psychology. Additionally, an integrative review of the literature is a fundamental component of the grant application written for the Neuroscience Capstone. Given the deep public interests in Neuroscience, it is also important that majors learn to responsibly communicate the findings and implications of science to a lay audience. The development of this skill will begin in Neuroscience and Behavior (PSY 300/301), be reinforced in the Junior Neuroscience Seminar (NEUR 320), and represents a component of the grant application written for the Neuroscience Capstone (NEUR 480/481). As an example, in the Junior Neuroscience Seminar, students may be asked to identify a recent empirical article related to their interests and prepare a press release describing the results of the study for a lay or general professional audience.


Total courses required Ten
Core courses PSY 100, PSY 214, PSY 215
Other required courses The content area core requires four courses:
  • Two courses should be chosen from PSY 280, PSY 300 or PSY 301, PSY 330 or PSY 331, PSY 380 or PSY 381, PSY 350
  • Two courses should be chosen from PSY 260 or PSY 261, PSY 290, PSY 232, PSY 360.

The laboratory component requires two psychology laboratory courses at the 200-level or above, in addition to PSY 215 (Research Methods).

Number 300 and 400 level courses Four
Senior requirement and capstone experience Majors must satisfy their senior requirement by completing the thesis for either PSY 493 (one-semester thesis) or PSY 495 and PSY 496 (two-semester empirical research and thesis) with a C- or better.

The major also requires successful completion of a departmental comprehensive examination. The exam is administered in sections to senior majors in PSY 493 and PSY 495. Performance on the exam is part of the grade in PSY 493 or PSY 495. To certify for graduation with a major in psychology, students must earn a 70 percent or better on all sections of the exam.

The senior capstone experience in psychology has two basic components: breadth of knowledge and focused in-depth investigation. You will demonstrate breadth of knowledge by successfully completing a comprehensive exam, given in three parts that cover major areas of the field (e.g., cognitive, developmental, learning, personality, physiological, social). You will also have the opportunity to pursue an area of psychology in greater depth by completing a senior thesis. One thesis option allows you to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of your senior year. The other thesis option is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. All students will publicly present their work. Both options allow you to apply the skills and knowledge that you have acquired over your first three years, and pursue a topic in which you are most interested.

Additional information Psychology majors must complete a total of two courses in the natural sciences, computer science, and/or mathematics outside of psychology. MATH 135 does not meet this requirement.
Recent changes in major The senior requirement was changed from completing the seminar with a C- or better to completing the seminar thesis with a C- or better. Effective Fall 2010.
Writing in the Major

Writing in the psychology major is accomplished in many ways, using multiple methods. As a science that engages in active communication with colleagues at the regional, national, and international level, in conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications, psychology requires critical reading of the literature and writing in the major, using discipline-specific (APA) style. In courses spanning the curriculum from Introductory Psychology to the upper 300-level courses, students write short opinion papers, critical reviews of popular media, reviews of research articles, and reports of empirical findings. Special focus on the mechanics of formal writing assignments as appropriate in our discipline is a critical part of a required core course in the major, Research Methods (PSY 215). In addition, each student major is required to take two additional laboratory courses that provide significant experience writing laboratory reports and major project papers. In these courses and others (e.g., the senior capstone experience), development of writing skills includes a mix of one or more of the following: feedback on multiple drafts, conference meetings with faculty advisors, and collaborative writing with peers and peer review. Finally, the senior capstone experience (PSY 493/495) includes a thesis on a topic chosen by the student. One thesis option allows students to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of your senior year. The other thesis option is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. Both options of the APA thesis represent a culmination of skill-building for writing in the major that prepares students for graduate work in any area of psychology and other careers such as law, medicine, social service, and business. The thesis is certified by the department and deposited in the departmental archives. Thesis findings are sometimes presented at regional or national conferences, or even published in peer-reviewed journals.

Requirements for a minor


Total courses required Five
Core courses PSY 100
Other required courses The department will consider PSY 214 or PSY 215 to be a 300-level course for the minor (if a student so chooses).
Number 300 and 400 level courses Two