Frequently Asked Questions



Q.  What does NUCC stand for?

A.  The Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.


Q.  How do I get a concentration advisor?

A.  Please email [email protected], and say that you have decided to concentrate in Neuroscience.  You will automatically be assigned to an advisor.  If you have not yet decided but simply want to talk to someone about your course selection you can also arrange this through the office.


Q.  Can I choose my own advisor?

A.  No.  All faculty in the Department serve as concentration advisors and we try to distribute the advising load evenly among them.  Your concentration advisor is the individual primarily responsible for monitoring your progress through the concentration and for completing the necessary forms  He or she will co-sign the Student/Advisor Agreement and will certify to the Registrar that you have completed the concentration, when and if you do.  However, all faculty in the Department are available for consultation about specific aspects of your concentration and you should feel free to call on them.


Q.  I am a freshman who has just taken NEUR0010. What is the usual sequence of courses that I should take if I am thinking of being a Neuroscience concentrator?

A.  The three core courses of the Neuroscience concentration are NEUR0010, NEUR1020, and NEUR1030.  We would recommend that you take NEUR1020 and NEUR1030 as a sophomore and use the spring semester of your first year to take basic science background courses. 


Q.  I am a sophomore who has just taken NEUR0010.  What is the usual sequence of courses that I should take if I am thinking of being a Neuroscience concentrator?

A.  As a sophomore who has just taken NEUR0010, you would probably want to enroll in NEUR1020, and then take NEUR1030 in the first semester of your junior year.  NEUR1020 and 1030 are prerequisites for many of the upper level classes offered in the neuroscience department and for obvious reasons these should be taken sooner rather than later.  Your selection of other courses really depends on the particular area of neuroscience which you have chosen for your focus.  You should ask your concentration advisor for help in course selection.


Q.  I am really interested in neuroscience but I don’t like Chemistry or Math. Is there some way I can be a Neuro major without taking these classes? 

A.  No. The Neuroscience concentration only awards the degree of ScB and all students must do the basic science background courses or their equivalents.


Q.  Can Organic Chemistry be used as one of the four additional neuroscience classes?

A.  No. It can only be used to fulfill the Chemistry requirements in your background courses.


Q.  Can Chem0100 be used to satisfy one of my chemistry requirements?

A.  No.


Q.  I want to go to medical school.  Is Neuroscience a good concentration for this?

A.  Yes. 70-80% our concentrators go to medical school after graduation.


Q.  I need to get letters of recommendation for med school/grad school/summer fellowship/etc. How do I find someone to write me a letter?

A.  Contact the faculty member who is most familiar with you; for example your concentration advisor, or the director of a course in which you did well.  Give the person you are asking at least one month’s notice before the due date.  Make life easy for the reviewer by providing all the necessary paperwork, stamped addressed envelopes for the return of the letters where necessary, a resume if needed and a statement about why you are applying for this fellowship/graduate program etc.


Q.  Can I change my course selection after declaring my concentration?

A.  Yes.  But, it is your responsibility to clear any changes in your concentration courses with your concentration advisor.  You have signed a statement that you will do so.  Beware of the frenzy of shopping period when students tend to forget about their concentration requirements.  If you fail to take and pass the required courses, you will not graduate.


Q.  There are only a limited number of NEUR1930/1940 courses offered and I need to satisfy the critical reading requirement. What should I do?

A.  As enrollment in critical reading courses is always limited and because the courses offered vary from year to year, it is important to carefully follow announcements for upcoming seminars.  You must pre-register for these and you should sign up for the following semesters’ seminars in the Neuroscience office starting on the first day of pre-registration.  Also, see the answer to the next question.


Q.  Can I use a course not on the list to satisfy the critical reading course or laboratory requirement?

A.  Maybe, but in order to do so, you must file a petition to fulfill your critical reading course using a course not specifically approved in this handbook. This form can be obtained from the Neuroscience office.  NUCC will consider each request individually.


Q.  I want to do NEUR1970. When should I begin to look for an advisor for my independent study project and how do I choose an advisor?

A.  Most students take NEUR 1970 as juniors and seniors, but as soon as you have decided that you want to do a neuroscience independent study project you should identify those areas of neuroscience that are particularly interesting to you. It is never too soon, but it can be too late. Some labs are harder to get into than others, so inquire early to avoid disappointment. The only faculty who are pre-approved to sponsor NEUR 1970 are members of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.


Q.  Can I do my independent study with Professor Notinthensgp who is in the Center for Neurokinesis?

A.  The only faculty who are pre-approved to sponsor NEUR 1970 are members of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. However, if you want to do an independent study project with, for example, a faculty member in another department in the Division of Biology and Medicine who has never sponsored a NEUR 1970 student, you can but your sponsor will have to first fill the NEUR 1970 Sponsor Application and turn it in concurrently with your Independent Study Form.  In some cases you could also register for BIOL 1950/1960. With the approval of your concentration advisor you can use BIOL 1950/1960 toward your concentration as one of the four thematic elective courses or to satisfy the neuroscience lab requirement.


Q.  I got permission last year for Independent Study from both NUCC and my sponsor.  Do I have to get permission again this year to continue my Independent Study?

A.  Yes, you need to get written permission from your independent study sponsor and NUCC to enroll for NEUR 1970 even if you enrolled for NEUR1970 the previous semester.  However, you do not need to re-describe your research project.

Q.  I am interested in working in a laboratory over the summer.  How can I do this?

A.  Spending a summer in the laboratory in which you are going to do an independent study project is a great idea and is strongly encouraged.  There are also some great research opportunities at other universities - if you can bear the thought of being away from Providence for the summer.  You can get information on applying for summer research fellowships from Dean Thompson’s office in Arnold.  UTRA fellowships (undergraduate teaching/research assistant ships) are available on a limited basis for summer work at Brown.  Summer fellowships generally provide you with a stipend to cover your living expenses.

Q.  I’d like to try for honors.  What do I need to do?

A.  In order to be considered for honors you must obtain a GPA of at least 3.3 within the neuroscience concentration, submit a thesis, and present the results of your research at the Undergraduate Research Day in the spring.  NUCC will formally review your thesis and decide if it merits honors.  Simply writing a thesis is no guarantee of receiving honors. The composition and content of the thesis must also be of a high standard. See page 12 of the brochure for further information about Honors.


Q.  Can I get honors in Neuroscience if I’m taking BIOL1950/1960?

A.  Yes.  In order to be considered for honors you do not have to have taken NEUR1970.  But the thesis project which you undertake outside of the Neuroscience program should have a clear neuroscience focus and must be pre-approved by NUCC.  If you have any doubts about the suitability of a project which you are planning to pursue for honors, you should submit a description of the project to NUCC before you invest time and effort in the work (preferably before the deadline for honors application).  The committee can give you feedback and, if necessary, you will be able to make appropriate modifications.


Q.  I want to double concentrate. Are there any restrictions I need to be aware of?

A.  Yes. Excluding the background courses, no more than two courses can overlap between the two concentrations. Be aware that a combined A.B./Sc.B. requires 5 years residency. Also, it is important you also check with a concentration advisor for your non-neuro concentration, as they may have different restrictions than we do.


Q.  If written permission is required to take a course, who do I get it from, and how?

A.  Written permission should be sought from the course director.  For NEUR1970 complete the form on pages 15-16 of this brochure, with your signature and that of your sponsor, and give that to the Department secretary (Sidney Frank Hall Room 315), who will give it to NUCC.  You will be notified of approval on Banner.  


Q.  What do I do if course enrollment is limited?

A.  Enrollment is usually limited for Neuroscience laboratory and seminar courses.  There is a sign-up sheet for limited enrollment classes in the neuroscience office.  You should check with the office or the course director about when the class list will be decided upon.   Seniors are given preference for limited enrollment classes.


Q.  What are the “equivalents” of required background courses in Biology, Math, Physics and Chemistry? Does AP credit count?

A.   If Brown has awarded you official advanced placement for a required course, this will automatically satisfy the Neuroscience concentration requirement for that course. If you have taken the AP or IB exams in high school, it is your responsibility to see that the scores are reported to Brown by the testing agency. They must appear on your internal transcript to be accepted for concentration credit. If they are not there, we will assume that you do not have them. In order to get AP credit to appear on your internal transcript you must submit a request in ASK.


  • Students with AP, IB, or other exam credit for Biology 0200 satisfy the BIOL 0200 concentration requirement.  Students may also place out of BIOL 0200 by passing a placement examination, in which case evidence must be provided to the Department of Neuroscience that this has been done.


  • The Physics Department has an elaborate system for awarding advanced placement credit in its courses (  If you have been awarded advanced placement credit for the equivalent of PHYS0030 or PHYS0040 by the Physics Department, you must provide documentation of this to the Department of Neuroscience.  Note: ENGN 0030 and 0040 may be used to substitute PHYS 0030 but you will still need to take PHYS 0040.


  • A required basic science course requirement can be waived if you provide a statement signed by the faculty member responsible for the course stating that you have had the equivalent course or experience.  


Q.  Can I use AP Statistics Credit to satisfy the concentration’s statistics requirement? 

A.  Students declaring a Neuroscience concentration as of Spring 2010 may no longer use AP Statistics to satisfy the statistics requirement.


Q.  Can I get concentration credit for summer courses?

A.  It depends.  Some summer courses can count toward the Neuroscience concentration and others cannot.  For example, NEUR0010 and NEUR1600 are offered as summer courses by the Department of Neuroscience and can count as concentration courses.   However for courses taught at other institutions, Brown may refuse to accept transfer credit for courses that are not equivalent to existing Brown courses.  Awarding concentration credit for courses taken elsewhere may require approval of the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  If you plan to take summer courses related to your concentration, you should read the section in this brochure about using transfer credit to satisfy concentration requirements and discuss your plans with your concentration advisor. 


Q.  I am a Neuroscience concentrator and I want to spend a semester or year abroad.  Will I have time to do this and still satisfy the concentration requirements? Can courses taken abroad be used to satisfy my concentration requirements?  

A.  It depends.  Spending some time abroad is a great educational activity but requires careful planning to avoid problems with completing your concentration.  The best strategy is to arrange your schedule at Brown so that you can complete the concentration here and not have to worry about it when you are overseas.  It is often not possible to know in detail what courses you may be able to take at a foreign institution.  For this reason it is good to have a back-up plan for completing the concentration at Brown in case things do not work out as you had hoped during your time abroad.  If you are thinking about studying abroad, you should read the section in this brochure about using transfer credit to satisfy concentration requirements and consult with your concentration advisor and the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.  


Q. What’s the deal with the WRIT requirement?

A. The university requires that all students take two writing, or WRIT-designated, courses while at Brown. The first should be taken during your First and Sophomore years, and the second one during your Junior or Senior year. Importantly, students must complete their WRIT requirement by the end of their 7th semester. Currently our concentration does not accept written work samples to fulfil the WRIT requirement. So you must make sure that you enroll in one of these courses by then. The WRIT courses do not have to be part of your concentration courses, and can be from any department as long as they have a WRIT designation. However we do offer some WRIT-designated neuroscience courses, including NEUR 1040 Intro to Neurogenetics, NEUR 1600 Experimental Neurobiology, and NEUR 1930N Region of Interest. To find other WRIT courses you can select this as a search filter in the Courses at Brown webpage. Here is more information from the university about the writing requirement.


Q. Which courses can be taken as electives?

A. The goal of the four thematic electives is to allow the students to explore courses that are thematically related to their interests in neuroscience. These do not have to be neuroscience courses, but the student has to be able to justify how they fit overall within the concentration as a whole. They also need not follow a single theme.  Electives ideally should be upper-level courses (so that they have at least 1 prerequisite), that have substantial neuroscience content, even if they are not taught directly by our department. Students often take a variety of CLPS, Applied Math or Biology courses that meet these criteria. But in some cases, courses such as genetics, cell biology, or CS courses can also be counted as electives, especially if the other electives they chose have a substantial neuroscience content. Thus, it is best to look at the concentration as a whole when discussing electives with your concentration advisor. The general rule is as follows: if you take your lab course and the four electives, at least three of those should have a strong neuroscience focus. Thus if you take BIO 800 (Physiology) as your lab course, then three of your electives have to have a strong neuro focus, the other one can be less related (eg. genetics). If you take Neuroanatomy, for example, as your lab course, then two electives have to have a strong neuro focus, the other two could be more tangential. That said, all your electives could be neuro focused, and that would be preferable. Organic chemistry cannot be used as an elective.  You can always refer to NUCC if you and your advisor need some assistant approving a slate of electives.

For your reference here is a list of electives, List 1 contains courses (from Neuro and non-Neuro departments) that have no problems meeting the criteria of neuro-focused. List 2 has courses people have taken, but where you would have to look at the whole concentration in order to decide if they make sense. There are always new courses that are not on the lists, so this list should be used with caution, as you really want to explore the full curriculum: