Course 9 Joins School of ScienceBy Gabriel J. Riopel
Institute administrators expect that the recent transfer of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences into the School of Science will help students and faculty alike, as well as facilitate additional collaboration with the Department of Biology.
The switch was announced at the Oct. 20 faculty meeting by Provost Mark S. Wrighton and Faculty Chair Robert L. Jaffe.
"The central reason for making this administrative change is to better fulfill the interests and potential of students and faculty in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences," Wrighton said, adding that the move was not taken as a cost-cutting action.
"The brain represents the greatest present frontier in science," said Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau. Research and education in neuroscience naturally point toward moving the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science (Course IX) into the School of Science, he said.
A faculty committee in the School of Science will recommend any possible changes to the department by late December or January. The committee will consider frontier issues in neurosciences and how they can best be pursued at MIT.
Collaboration with biology
Wrighton and Jaffe hope the move will encourage collaboration between the Course IX and the Department of Biology in research and educational programs. Birgeneau said that there was particular potential in neurobiology.
The move will also make faculty promotion evaluations more like those in the School of Science, Wrighton said. "This will better serve the interests of both the Institute and junior faculty." he said. There may also be joint faculty appointments in areas where the two departments overlap.
The department will remain in its current location, mostly in Buildings E25 and E10. Later, some cognitive scientists who are located in separate buildings may move closer to the rest of the department, Birgeneau said.
Wrighton said that Course IX's collaboration with the biology department will facilitate some space reallocation. However, Birgeneau said that no part of Course IX will be transferred into the new biology building (Building 68) upon its completion in 1994.
Any possible curriculum or research program changes are as yet undetermined. However, Birgeneau said that undergraduate education in brain and cognitive science will improve over time. The study of brain and cognitive science has been oriented mainly toward graduate students, he said, adding that the richer set of offerings in the School of Science could help increase the importance of undergraduate education as well.
The Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology, which originally housed Course IX, will continue to be used by the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and other units of the college. Wrighton noted that it will continue to focus on life science-oriented academic activities.
Students pleased, indifferent
Graduate and undergraduate student response to the transfer has been mixed.
Graduate students were basically pleased with the move. "On the whole it's a good thing," said Diana K. Smetters G. She noted that the department has a "basic science outlook" which is more consistent with the School of Science.
Furthermore, the procedures within the School of Science, such as that of tenure, will be easier, especially in regards to the joint appointments with the Department of Biology, she said.
On the other hand, many Course IX undergraduates were not even aware of the proceedings since they were not formally notified as the graduate students were.
Krista L. Tibbs '95 said she was not aware of the proceedings at the Oct. 20 faculty meeting.
Rebecca J. Hill '95 said that the move "doesn't make a difference."
Professor Emilio Bizzi, the head of the department, could not be reached for comment.