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UBC considering new interdisciplinary neuroscience program

A new interdisciplinary neuroscience program between the faculties of science, arts and medicine is in the making. The working group that has been developing the new bachelor’s of science — which was first proposed by students in the UBC neuroscience club — is currently seeking feedback from UBC’s student body.

A survey was disseminated to UBC’s life sciences students on September 5 to gauge interest in the program. Survey questions asked about students’ opinions of the program, whether they would have taken the program if given the option, as well as general demographic questions. It cited the rapid growth of the field of neuroscience as the catalyst which led to the program’s proposal.

According to the survey, in addition to learning the fundamentals of neuroscience, students will be able to tailor their degrees according to their interests after their second year. However, they would be advised to concentrate their coursework in either cellular and molecular neuroscience or behavioural and cognitive neuroscience.

“The program will also include opportunities for co-op learning, and a requirement of community-based experiential learning,” the survey read.

Dr. Steven Barnes — senior instructor, associate head of undergraduate affairs in the department of psychology and one of the faculty members who have been overseeing the creation of this program throughout the past year — affirmed that allowing opportunities to gain work experience is a priority for the program.

“[We are] very concerned about students getting experience in the lab, and also outside of the lab... We also want to make sure that there is some exposure of students to clinical neuroscience,” said Barnes.

According to the survey, UBC hosts over 110 faculty members in neuroscience-related research, spanning the three faculties of arts, science and medicine.

“There’s a long history of collaborations with arts and sciences but also science and medicine ... I think it’s really an advantage to tap into the research that’s happening in all three faculties and the broad expertise there,” said Dr. Sara Harris, associate dean academic of the faculty of science, regarding the interdisciplinary aspect of the program.

Barnes estimated that the program will be ready by the winter of 2021. However, he emphasized that it is currently too early to tell when the exact completion date will be.

“It is still very early days for this program proposal. The curriculum isn’t even fully defined yet as we need student and industry feedback before we can work out those aspects of the program,” he wrote in an email to The Ubyssey.

According to Barnes, the program will need approval from the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, UBC’s Science Curriculum Committee and UBC Senate before being implemented. Given that, there may be changes before the program is available.

“It’s going to be an exciting opportunity. The fields that are really critical in human society are always changing, and currently, neuroscience is one of those areas,” said Harris.