A brain or nervous system illness or injury, including Alzheimer’s, autism, addiction, anxiety, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s and spinal injury, will affect one in three Canadians in their lifetime. As such, understanding the brain and nervous system to address neurological and mental health disorders is one of the most pressing scientific challenges of our time.
That’s why the Faculties of Health and Science have joined forces to create an interdisciplinary undergraduate Neuroscience program at York University.
Former Associate Dean of Students Alex Mills (Faculty of Science) and Associate Dean of Learning, Teaching, and Academic programs Susan Murtha (Faculty of Health) worked collaboratively with Chairs, undergraduate program directors, faculty members with expertise in neuroscience, and educational developers in the Teaching Commons to build a program that is offered by two departments, one school, and two faculties.
The program gives students access to renowned researchers working in many different areas of neuroscience. And the program’s small size encourages collaboration among students, faculty members and community partners as they investigate the development, structure and function of the nervous system including the ways it can change.
Professor Denise Henriques, a neuroscientist whose home program is the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, has been selected as the program’s inaugural coordinator.
“My colleagues and I are excited to share our innovative research programs and expertise with undergraduates who share our fascination with how the brain works,” said Henriques.
After graduation, students will be prepared for a number of academic and career options, such as medical school, graduate school in the neuroscience field, and for a multitude of careers in clinical research, analytical laboratory work, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, science advocacy and science communications.
“The Neuroscience program has several unique features,” says Michael Scheid, current associate dean of students in the Faculty of Science. “Based on their interests, students can choose one of three entry pathways by selecting biology, kinesiology and health science, or psychology as their home program. Then, the adventure begins with a solid science curriculum in first year, including the keystone course Frontiers of Neuroscience.”
Each year then builds on the successes of the prior year building neuroscience knowledge and research skills. Murtha explains that “following this foundation, students delve deeper into neuroscience fields by choosing courses from three streams: cellular/molecular, cognitive/behavioural, or systems neuroscience. Students then put it all together with a stimulating research-based capstone course in fourth year.”
The capstone course will involve students either conducting an individual research project or participating in a team-based research project that has direct relevance to current research in neuroscience. There are more than 20 core neuroscience researchers who will be able to supervise these students covering a myriad of topics that involve how the brain uses sensory information to form and store knowledge and plan action, and the factors that can contribute to brain development and malfunction.
Throughout the program, students will be immersed in experiential education. The program emphasizes hands-on learning and uses methods of assessment that match these experiences, such as interviews, case-studies/simulations, team critical reflections and the capstone project.
The program is currently recruiting and accepting students for Fall 2020. Only students applying directly from high school can be considered at this time. However, once all the new courses are fully launched, the program will be able to grow and consider applications from all students who qualify.