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Undergraduate Education in Neuroscience

We are in an era of intense interest in neuroscience, the field of scientific inquiry focused on elucidating how the brain gives rise to cognition, learning, and behavior. The Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience degree is an interdisciplinary major administered by the Department of Biology and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, in cooperation with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. Our curriculum ensures that students have broad exposure to the study of neuroscience, from molecules and cells to behavior and cognition. Additionally, students will be required to have sufficient grounding in cognates, such as chemistry and physics, to provide them with a deeper understanding of the methods and discoveries of neuroscience. Those Neuroscience majors who wish to continue their studies in graduate (Ph.D.) or medical (M.D.) school will be rigorously prepared to do so through our integrated curriculum. Neuroscience majors will have the opportunity to pursue Honors research in the major, working in the laboratories of top neuroscientists across campus, including all members of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. 

Undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in neuroscience research have ample opportunities to gain valuable experience working in the laboratories of Iowa Neuroscience Institute faculty, through independent study and honors research programs within their majors. Engagement of students from underrepresented groups in neuroscience research is supported by the NIH-funded Iowa Biosciences Academy, housed within the Biology Department. Talented students interested in neuroscience outreach can also become fellows of the Latham Science Engagement Initiative of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, through which they can pursue projects focused on engaging our community in thinking about how science impacts their daily lives, informs policy, and can be used to address societal challenges. Students studying neuroscience are also encouraged to explore the Certificate in Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) offered by the Iowa Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. This certificate program can be pursued alongside a major and offers a strong curriculum in epidemiology, biostatistics, and translational research, to help transfer scientific discoveries from "bench to bedside".

Undergraduate students at the University of Iowa and those from many other colleges and universities can also pursue intensive summer research on campus as part of the Interdisciplinary Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). The Iowa Neuroscience Institute plans to sponsor additional slots for SURP students in order to foster outstanding undergraduate neuroscience research on the University of Iowa campus.

Graduate Education in Neuroscience

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience, supported by an NIH T32 training grant, provides a multidisciplinary foundation in the conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of the nervous system, emphasizing original, independent student research leading to a PhD. The program offers a flexible curriculum including coursework in both molecular/cellular neuroscience and cognitive/systems neuroscience, and features over 80 faculty from four colleges with whom students can pursue their thesis research.

Students have opportunities to gain teaching experience as well, and are fully supported (tuition, fees, competitive stipend) during their entire time in the program, which currently averages five years. Graduates of the program have been highly successful, with many becoming tenure-track neuroscience faculty at top institutions or pursuing neuroscience research in the biotech industry. 

Medical Student Education in Neuroscience

The Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa offers many opportunities for students pursuing the MD to engage in neuroscience research. The NIH-funded Iowa Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) provides training for both the MD and the PhD in an environment that integrates graduate research training with clinical studies. Iowa MSTP students can pursue their graduate thesis work in several graduate programs in which Iowa Neuroscience Institute faculty participate, including interdisciplinary graduate programs in neuroscience, genetics, or molecular and cellular biology, and departmental graduate programs in anatomy and cell biology, biochemistry, integrated biology, biomedical engineering, biostatistics, molecular physiology and biophysics, or pharmacology. 

All medical students can participate in summer research through the Iowa Medical Student Research Program (IMSRP), which offers around 200 dedicated faculty mentors who are enthusiastic about working with students in their research activities. A yearly Medical Student Research Day provides an opportunity for students to present their research to the broader scientific community at the University of Iowa. 

Outreach: Promoting Neuroscience Research on Campus, in the State of Iowa, and Beyond

Major goals of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute are to integrate and support neuroscience research on the University of Iowa campus, to provide a framework that will encourage research collaborations among Iowa Neuroscience Institute faculty and with colleagues at other institutions, and to convey the excitement of neuroscience research to the public, both within the State of Iowa and nationally.

To pursue these goals, the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will sponsor multiple annual events, including both intensive workshops and seminars for Iowa Neuroscience Institute researchers and visiting scientists of international renown, and public outreach events including artists, writers, and intellectuals whose work touches on how neuroscience can inform and improve the human condition. Iowa Neuroscience Institute faculty will also reach out to state and local legislators, educators, and community leaders to advocate for the importance of neuroscience research for the promotion of human health and the well-being of our communities.