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April  26, 2010

Survey results in new neuroscience major

When Augustana students said they were interested in studying the brain, Dr. Ian Harrington and Dr. Erin Stoffel leaped at the chance to bring a new major to Augustana-neuroscience. After receiving a very positive response in a student survey, the faculty approved the new neuroscience major for the fall of 2010.

Neuroscience tries to understand how people think, feel and behave by studying the brain. The field was developed about 40 years ago and combines aspects of biology, psychology, computer science, chemistry and even philosophy.

Harrington and Stoffel, both assistant professors in Augustana's psychology department and co-directors of the neuroscience major, are looking forward to introducing students to neuroscience. "What I think makes neuroscience so well suited to Augustana is that it draws on the sciences and humanities," said Harrington. "We hope to encourage our students to appreciate the brain in a broad context."

The coursework for the major is flexible, which allows students to pursue their interests within the field. In addition to biology and psychology students, several philosophy majors are interested in the ethical side of neuroscience-whether humans' brains are "wired" to make certain decisions or whether people can choose. "One of the great opportunities we have at a liberal arts college is to encourage our students to approach issues from all sides and to be thoughtful and deliberate about their efforts as they do so," wrote Stoffel and Harrington in the proposal for the new major.

Although the neuroscience major will be new, Augustana has had connections to neuroscience through related academic programs. Brad Carter, a biochemistry major and the 2006 Glenn T. Seaborg Award winner, pursued studies in neuroscience at the University of Michigan after graduating from Augustana. "I am excited about creating a home for the students who come to Augustana interested in neuroscience," said Stoffel.

The major is a 39-credit program and will include courses from the psychology, biology and philosophy departments, including brain and behavior, neuroanatomy and philosophy of mind. Students in the program will also choose from a number of supporting science classes in biology and chemistry and will complete a senior inquiry project. For more information on Augustana's academic program and other areas of study, please visit





Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833