Majoring in Neuroscience at Amherst

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The Neuroscience major consists of science courses in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology, plus senior comprehensives, which in some years includes attending neuroscience seminars. Neuroscience majors may also choose to do a senior honors research project in the laboratory of a Neuroscience faculty member or affiliated Biology faculty member (and in some cases a faculty member from UMass). Here are our Learning Goals, information on Study Abroad and thoughts on Animal Experimentation.

Requirements for the major

Applying to the major

Students must apply to enroll in the major. Amherst College requires enrollment in a major prior to the start of Fall classes in their junior year.

Interested majors should submit to the chair of the Neuroscience Program a 2-3 page application prior to 5 PM on the last day of classes in the spring semester of sophomore year (typically declaration occurs after the completion of NEUR-213). Students will be notified during the early summer prior to starting their junior year. The application must include:

  1. Your reasons for wanting to be a neuroscience major.
  2. Your plan for future coursework for the neuroscience major (refer to major requirements and sample schedules).
  3. Your grades in all your science and math courses to date.
  4. Any other pertinent information for the faculty.

IMPORTANT: Submit your application together with a Major Declaration form signed by you and your current advisor to the current Chair of the Neuroscience Program (found on the Neuro Faculty & Staff webpage). The Neuro Program will then forward this form to the Registrar following acceptance to the major. This is not meant to be a scary process, rather it is to encourage you to think about what is required for the major (in terms of coursework and other components of the major) as well as a chance for your teachers to learn why you wish to study in such a terrific field!

Important points about the major

  • MAJORING: To major in Neuroscience, it's necessary to get started with general science courses in the first year (see these sample course schedules of recent Neuroscience majors).
  • INTRODUCTORY COURSES: All prospective Neuroscience majors must take Behavioral Neuroscience with Lab (NEUR-213) in the Spring of their sophomore year. In the Fall of either sophomore or junior year, all neuroscience majors must take Neurobiology (NEUR-214). Note: It is not possible to major in Neuroscience if these introductory courses are not completed before Spring of junior year. 
  • STUDY ABROAD: Potential neuroscience majors may signup for a study abroad program prior* to their enrollment in the neuroscience major. Please note that it is critical to discuss your study abroad plans with both your current advisor and a neuroscience professor.  (*approved by the study abroad office; See the Study Abroad page)
  • DOUBLE MAJORING: Majoring in Neuroscience and another discipline is possible, but difficulties and problems sometimes arise. (see the Double majors page)
  • PRE-REGISTRATION: Majors must preregister for all courses they will use to satisfy requirements for the major, rather than to assume that they will be guaranteed entry into a course during the add/drop period if they did not preregister for it (e.g., you must preregister for NEUR-213, NEUR-214 etc..).
  • GRADES: Any course in which a student has not received a letter grade better than "D" may not be counted towards the Neuroscience major.

In addition to being a rewarding major, Neuroscience is one of the more academically demanding majors at Amherst College. Neuroscience has a large number of required courses, and among the largest number of required laboratory courses. We point this out not to discourage anyone from majoring, but so that students have a realistic view when considering enrolling and are aware that scheduling can be difficult.