Independent Study

In addition to the formal courses offered in the Department of Neuroscience, there is the opportunity for undergraduates to conduct independent work under the supervision of our faculty. There are two levels of independent work available: Independent Study Course and Independent Neuroscience Research. Each of these usually involves registering for NEUR1970. Honors in Neuroscience, described below in detail, requires maintenance of a distinguished academic record in course work of the concentration and completion of a thesis meriting the Honors designation.

I. Independent Study Course

In consultation with a faculty sponsor, students may organize independent study courses which cover material not available in regular courses. These independent courses might be reading projects or a combination of book work and some laboratory work. The sponsor will determine the type and amount of work and the manner in which performance is evaluated. Keep in mind that there are a variety of courses both in our department and in other departments that cover a wide array of neuroscience topics. Please talk to your concentration advisor before considering an independent study course to make sure there isn't already a suitable course offered. 

II. Independent Neuroscience Research

Undergraduates have the opportunity to apply to work with a Neuroscience faculty member to learn techniques used in current neuroscience research and to conduct a research project developed in consultation with the faculty advisor.  These projects take a variety of forms including laboratory experiments, field work and mathematical and computer modeling.  The student plays a major role in designing and performing the research project.  Because research projects typically take two or more semesters to complete, the decision to conduct an independent research project is a significant commitment on the part of both the student and the advisor.  Be prepared to devote from 10-20 hrs/wk to your independent research project.  Since there are a limited number of positions within each lab, there sometimes are more students interested in conducting research than there are positions.  It is advisable to begin looking for a position in a lab at least one semester before you would like to begin.  Research advisors may require that you work in their lab for a summer or semester prior to beginning the Independent Neuroscience Research project.  This serves as a trial period in which both you and the faculty sponsor can decide whether to progress to a joint research project.  Most projects require at least two semesters of research plus a summer.  Performance in Independent Neuroscience Research is assessed by reports (of a type specified by the advisor) at the end of each semester.  The report after the final semester of research is a major paper describing the background, methods, results, and significance of the research project. 

III. Arranging Independent Study in the Department of Neuroscience (NEUR1970)

1. Start your search for a faculty sponsor by consulting members of the Department of Neuroscience and the Neuroscience Graduate Program Faculty. These are individuals that have prior approval to sponsor NEUR1970. Choose potential advisors doing work in the area(s) you are interested in. Generally it is best to call a faculty member and make an appointment to discuss the possibility of working with them. If you would like to do an independent study with a sponsor that has not previously sponsored NEUR 1970,  your sponsor will have to first fill the NEUR 1970 Sponsor Application and turn it in concurrently with your Independent Study Form. 

2. Once you have tentatively arranged an independent course or research project with a faculty sponsor, the project must be formally approved by the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. On the Independent Study Form, found in the Neuroscience Undergraduate brochure or on the main undergraduate page, describe the project you wish to undertake and obtain the signature of your faculty sponsor. Submit your proposal to the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (Sidney Frank Hall, Room 315) at least 1 month before you wish to begin the project.

3. Enrollment in NEUR1970 is closely regulated by the Department. Once your project has been approved, you will need to check with your advisor to see if he/she has approved you for enrollment on Banner.  In addition, for each continuing semester of research under these course numbers, you will need to have your faculty sponsor sign a new Independent Study Form.  You do not need to describe the project again.  Take this form to Sidney Frank Hall, Room 315, and check to see if you have been approved on Banner.  [While all this may sound overly elaborate, it is our way of insuring that your faculty sponsor is both authorized and willing to direct an undergraduate research project for the Neuroscience concentration.]

*One summer of research can be used in lieu of one semester of NEUR1970.  Please see your concentration advisor for approval.

IV. Using Independent Study to Satisfy Concentration Requirements

In addition to background science courses and three core neuroscience lecture courses, the Neuroscience Concentration requires one laboratory course, one critical reading course and four elective courses thematically related to Neuroscience. Independent Study may be used to replace required courses as follows.

Regardless of how many semesters of independent study are taken, only one of the required courses in a student's concentration program may be replaced by independent study.

The required laboratory course OR the required critical reading course may be replaced by two semesters of Independent Neuroscience Research (NEUR1970). Independent study other than NEUR1970 may be used to replace the required lab course or the required critical reading course, but this needs to be specifally approved by your concentration advisor. The requirments for two semesters may be waived, if the student has spent a summer doing research in the same lab as the independent study. In this case only one semester will be required.

With prior approval of the concentration advisor, independent study may replace one of the four thematic electives.


Any questions concerning appropriateness of research for concentration credit or Honors should be addressed to the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.