Hold your neurons: Expanded undergraduate neuroscience program is a brain nerd’s perfect fit

UBC has introduced a new undergraduate neuroscience specialization for bachelor of science students.

Introduced for the 2022/23 academic year, the program is a collaboration between the Faculties of Science, Arts and Medicine. The program is interdisciplinary in nature, with students slated to take courses on neuroscience, biology, psychology and more.

“I wasn't really sure what to expect from [the program], especially from a completely new program. You don't really know what you're getting yourself into,” said Tanisha Kadia, a second-year student in the program. “But it's really fun. I wouldn't want to be studying anything else.”

The Faculty of Science has offered a behavioral neuroscience specialization since the 1970s, which has been folded into the new program. But changing times called for something more.

“Neuroscience has moved on beyond just behavioral neuroscience,” said Dr. Steven Barnes, director of the undergraduate program in neuroscience, in an interview with The Ubyssey.

After 30 years in development, a recent "perfect storm” made the program's introduction possible, according to Barnes. He said that based on a survey sent to students in fields related to neuroscience, more than half of respondents said they were likely or very likely to take this program, if available.

“The fact that there was student demand was critical for driving the university to support this [program],” Barnes said.

The foundational knowledge that students cultivate in the program can prepare them for a future with UBC’s esteemed graduate program in neuroscience, but Barnes emphasized that the specialization isn’t meant as a feeder to graduate school.

"We realize that the vast majority of our students are going to go into [a] health science profession," he said. With this in mind, the program is designed to give a broad spectrum education in neuroscience, with exposure to academia, industry and healthcare professions.

After second year, students can choose one of two streams. The cellular and molecular stream has more of a biological emphasis and the behavioural and cognitive stream has a greater focus on psychology. Regardless of the stream, there is a lot of freedom for students.

“There's lots of experiential learning opportunities in [the program],” said Kadia, noting a course where her study group chose to look at the longevity of relationships forged on dating apps.

To further experiential learning, the program includes a capstone course. Students in their final year will have the opportunity to develop a thesis, giving them the benefits of an honours program but without the extra tuition costs, said Barnes.

“There's no reason that students should be required to spend that extra money to get a quality education,” he said.

Students can apply to be in the program during the specialization application period. For students thinking about entering the program, Kadia recommends it.

“If you're looking for a degree that gives you freedom but is also very applicable to everything … I would say neuroscience is the way to go,” she said.

A previous version of this article listed the application deadline as May 1, reflecting the date on the official neuroscience undergraduate website. This applies only to a small percentage of applicants. The article was updated on March 14 at 12:10 p.m.