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Course IX Restructures Undergraduate Program

By Ian Chan
Staff Reporter

The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences is revamping its undergraduate program this fall, reorganizing its concentrations, and adding a new undergraduate program in neuroscience.

The addition of the neuroscience systems concentration "simplifies and expands the undergraduate program" to accommodate the "accumulating body of knowledge and increasing research interests in neuroscience," said Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Mriganka Sur, also a co-chair of the department.

The new neuroscience concentration introduces seven new courses which will target specialty subjects like learning and memory, vision and audition, and movement.

Course IX restructures programs

The department's addition of the systems neuroscience concentration is part of a larger restructuring of the undergraduate program. The department has moved from five concentrations down to four, the new one of which is neuroscience.

Two of the remaining concentrations fall under the cognitive science core. Both the language program and the experimental cognitive science program are older undergraduate programs and contain most of the same courses as before.

The final concentration, computation, fits into both core areas and focuses on computer modeling of both cognitive science and neuroscience.

Current undergraduates will have the option of choosing between the old and new concentration programs to fulfill their requirements.

Sur said that future additions might include a molecular neurobiology concentration. He noted that one of the new offerings, Cellular Neurobiology (9.09J/7.29J), is a course offered jointly with the Department of Biology.

The restructuring of the programs was accomplished without any cancelations of old classes, Sur said.

To make the changes, the undergraduate concentration was able to borrow from MIT's neuroscience graduate program, Sur said. The development of the new concentration involved increased participation of graduate professors, in addition to some newly-hired faculty members.

Concentration proves useful

Sur said that the new neuroscience concentration better prepares undergraduates for graduate neuroscience studies because of the faculty's link with the graduate program.

Professor of Brain and Cognitive Science Alan V. Hein, the academic officer for department, said that 100 percent of Course IX undergraduates who seek admission to medical schools get into at least one, and most get into more.

Since the neuroscience concentration is a new addition to the department, there is no data on the number of students involved in the concentration. There are about 75 undergraduate Course IX majors in total.

Freshmen interested in the neuroscience track should take Animal Behavior (9.20), a humanities, arts, and social sciences distribution class, Hein said.

Several Course IX majors expressed satisfaction with the new options. "I'm glad that Course IX now has a biological aspect of neuroscience," said Ellen H. Kardas '99.