Neuroscience is a newer major at the University of Maryland. However, neuroscience as a discipline has been taught at the University for several decades. The Neuroscience and Cognitive Sciences (NACS) Ph.D. program was established in 1996 followed by an undergraduate Neuroscience minor in 2006.
In response to continued undergraduate interest and campus investment in neuroscience-related education and research, the University moved forward with plans to create an undergraduate major. In 2018, Neuroscientist and BSOS Dean, Gregory Ball, assembled and chaired the committee that created the academic curriculum for the Neuroscience major. The committee consisted primarily of neuroscience faculty at the University of Maryland, along with knowledgeable academic administrators. This committee considered the course structure and content of a number of other neuroscience undergraduate programs around the country.
The first course for the Neuroscience major, Introduction to Neuroscience, was offered as a pilot through the Psychology department in Fall 2019. During the same semester, the University also began accepting applications from prospective students for Fall 2020 admission into the Neuroscience major, a Limited Enrollment Program (LEP). In Spring 2020, the first Neuroscience-coded courses were offered—NEUR200: Introduction to Neuroscience and NEUR305: Neural Systems and Circuits.
In Fall 2020, the major celebrated its first semester with officially declared Neuroscience undergraduates. The inaugural class was comprised of approximately 100 students, including first-semester freshmen and transfer students as well as UMD students who added the Neuroscience major to their studies. During Fall 2021, we offered all 4 core courses in the NEUR series for the first time ever, as well as two Neuroscience-specific sections of UNIV100. We also welcomed Neuroscience students back to campus, after a long period of only online courses and events, with our First Annual Fall Welcome.
We had our first four graduates of the program in December 2021. In Spring 2022, we held our first annual Neuroscience Field Day to honor our fall and spring graduates. We also presented two students with the Dr. David Yager for Excellence in Undergraduate Neuroscience Research. This award is given to a NEUR student who has invested in, and excelled at neuroscience research. The intent of this award is to help support experiential learning opportunities for rising NEUR seniors involved in research. Ideally funds would be used to help support activities such as: conference attendance, visiting a lab, or graduate school applications. In the future, it will be presented to one rising senior but for the inaugural award, we selected a graduating senior and a rising senior.
In Fall 2022, we launched the Neuroscience Honors Program, and offered NEUR389H: Neuroscience Honors Seminar for the first time.
We are excited to see how the Neuroscience major continues to grow on the University of Maryland’s campus!