Neuroscience is a new major offered by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. This major is a subdiscipline of the biological sciences that combines new cutting edge technological advancements from a number of areas in order to understand the complex functioning of the brain. Students are encouraged to obtain greater academic breadth through interdepartmental course selection.

The undergraduate major in Neuroscience emphasizes knowledge and awareness of:

  • The various systems within the brain that control specific components of behavior, learning/memory, sensation, and thought;
  • The basic principles of molecular and cellular biology and biochemistry;
  • Mathematics sufficient to facilitate the understanding and derivation of fundamental relationships and to analyze, manipulate, and model experimental data;
  • The structural organization and function of the nervous system including an understanding of intracellular and intercellular signaling.

In addition, students completing the major in neuroscience are expected to acquire the ability and skills to: 

  • Read, evaluate, and interpret information on a general scientific level; 
  • Use computational modeling simulations and appropriate analysis to describe the results of scientific investigations verbally and in writing.

Neuroscience Certificate

The Neuroscience Certificate encourages undergraduate students at the University of Colorado (Boulder) to take courses in basic science while providing a means to specialize in neuroscience. Since this area of the biological sciences is cross-disciplinary, interdepartmental course selection is possible and encouraged.  Although the Certificate is not equivalent to a major, it does demonstrate that you have completed an academic program beyond your major and one which demonstrates that you have interdisciplinary breadth in neuroscience. Students cannot do both the Neuroscience Major and the Neuroscience Certificate. Neuroscience students must choose one of the other. Please visit the Neuroscience Certificate website for more details.

A degree in neuroscience provides a pathway to many interesting and challenging careers. Several examples are listed below and a more complete listing is available at http://psych.colorado.edu/~nrsc/

  • Biological Scientist: Most biological scientists specialize in a specific field, such as botany or biochemistry (among others.) Job growth of around 21 percent is expected over the next ten years.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist: Due to an aging baby-boom generation and medical advances that improve the survival of premature infants and trauma patients, job growth is expected to be faster than other occupations.
  • Physician or Surgeon: Job prospects for physicians and surgeons are expected to be very good, especially for those willing to work in underserved rural and low-income areas.
  • Veterinarian: A 33 percent employment increase is expected over the next ten years, due partially to the increase in concern over food and animal safety. Employment opportunities are good in cities and even better in rural areas.
  • Physical Therapist: Job opportunities are expected to be good for physical therapists in all settings, but especially in hospital, skilled nursing, and orthopedic settings where the elderly are treated.
  • Scientific Research and Development: Growth is expected to be particularly strong in biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Overall prospects appear to be favorable for those with degrees preparing them for scientific research.
  • Neuroscience nurse: Nurse who cares for patients with neurological disorders and assists other neuroscience-related health care professionals. This is a relatively new but growing field.

Preparation for Graduate Work

The neuroscience major provides a strong background in the fundamentals of the mechanisms underlying brain function and how is supports behavior, cognition and emotion. However, it is important to appreciate that most neuroscience careers will require additional post-undergraduate training. 

If you wish to pursue graduate work in any field of neuroscience there are several endeavors that you will need to begin as an undergraduate. Since you will need letters of recommendation from your professors, we advise that you get to know them early. You can do this by attending public talks they may give or by working on projects they may sponsor.

You will also need research experience. Volunteer to work with faculty on research projects, or pursue an honor’s thesis or other independent research. The psychology and neuroscience advising office in Muenzinger D243 can provide information about research and volunteer opportunities and advise you on how to pursue departmental honors. For more information, check out the web site at http://psych.colorado.edu/~nrsc/.  

Career Services (www.colorado.edu/career) helps students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU-Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation. Meet individually the staff to discuss major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.

The department is committed to a scientific approach to neuroscience. Facilities that support the program include excellent laboratories, on-campus research centers and institutes, including the Institute of Behavioral Genetics (IBG), the Institute for Behavioral Science (IBS), and the Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS). The quality and breadth of the undergraduate program is enriched by independent research opportunities and seminars available through these institutes.

The department also offers two undergraduate certificate programs: Neuroscience and Behavior and Cognitive Science. The program in neuroscience and behavior offers cross-disciplinary training for students in psychology, integrative physiology, and biology.  (Neuroscience majors cannot also earn a Neuroscience certificate.) Completion of this program demonstrates that you have interdisciplinary breadth of knowledge in the biological sciences. The program in cognitive science is cross-disciplinary for students in psychology, linguistics, philosophy and computer science. This program provides students with interdisciplinary knowledge of the cognitive sciences.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596, or find the website at: http://enrichment.colorado.edu/urop/.

Please speak with your advisor for specific recommendations; the following is intended to be a general outline only and there may be flexibility to this plan.
 

Neuroscience 4-Year Plan
Average 30 credits per year

 

First Year – Fall Semester
MCDB 1150 with 1151, 1161, 1171, or 2171
(4): Molecular Biology with lab (Preferred course to fulfill ancillary requirement.  Taking a two credit lab will fulfill Genetics lab requirement).
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Lower Division Written Communication)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Ideals & Values)
Elective/MAPS (3): (example: if needed pre-requisite for MATH1300 or CHEM 1021 as preparation for General Chemistry.  Speak to an advisor if you need both preparatory courses).
Elective/MAPS (3)   
 

First Year – Spring Semester
MCDB 2150 with 2151
(4): Principles of Genetics and Lab (Preferred course to fulfill Genetics requirement.  Taking a two credit lab for Molecular Biology fulfills this Genetics lab requirement).
MATH 1300 (5): Calculus I (Most common choice, see Degree Audit for others)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: U.S. Context)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Human Diversity)


Second Year – Fall Semester
CHEM 1113 with 1114
(5): General Chemistry 1 (Part one of required ancillary CHEM sequence.  BCHM/CHEM Majors: “for-majors” CHEM courses also count. Discuss with your advisor.)
NRSC 2100 (4): Intro to Neuroscience
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Lower-Division Literature & the Arts)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Historical Context)
 

Second Year – Spring Semester
CHEM 1133 with 1134
(5): General Chemistry 2 (Part two of required ancillary CHEM sequence.  BCHM/CHEM Majors: “for-majors” CHEM courses also count. Discuss with your advisor.)
NRSC 2200 (2): Lab Techniques in Neuroscience
NRSC Statistics/Computation course (3-4): (See Degree Audit for choices.  Check for pre-requisites.)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)


Third Year – Fall Semester
NRSC Core 4000 level course
(3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
NRSC Core 4000 level course (3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
MCDB 3135 (3): Molecular Cell Biology 1 (Check for pre-requisites)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisitions (ex: Upper-Division Written Communication)
Elective/MAPS (3)
 

Third Year – Spring Semester
NRSC Core 4000 level course
(3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
CHEM 3311 (4): Organic Chemistry 1 (Most common choice, see Degree Audit for additional choices.  Talk to advisor about good choices if interested in Graduate/Medical School or working in the Biotechnology Industry)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)


Fourth Year – Fall Semester
NRSC Upper-division Elective course
(3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
NRSC Upper-division Elective course (3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Upper-Division Literature & the Arts)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)
 

Fourth Year – Spring Semester
NRSC Upper-division Elective course
(3): (Three courses required, see Degree Audit for Choices)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Contemporary Societies)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)


Notes:

  • The major should be declared in the middle of the second year.
  • MATH 1150 Pre-Calculus is preparatory course for Calculus I courses MATH 1300 or 1310.
  • CHEM 1021 Intro to Chemistry is preparatory for CHEM 1113 and 1114.
  • MCDB 1161, 1171, or 2171 are also approved Molecular Biology requirement.  If one of these 2 credit labs is earned, it satisfies the lab requirements for both 1150 and 2150.
  • ​NRSC majors do not usually need to be concerned about additional Natural Science or Quantitative Reasoning & Mathematical Skills Core area requirements.  Required major courses fulfill these core areas.