New Undergraduate Neuroscience Degree Blends Biology and Medicine

January 24, 2023 | News, UToday, Alumni, Medicine and Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Tyrel Linkhorn

In response to surging interest in the field of brain research, The University of Toledo has launched a new undergraduate neuroscience major.

A joint effort of the UToledo colleges of Medicine and Life Sciences and Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the new degree program provides students a unique opportunity to learn not only how the brain works but also train alongside established biomedical researchers who are working to solve pressing questions about complicated brain disorders.

Dr. Robert Smith, left, and Dr. John Plenefisch.

“Neuroscience is wildly popular right now,” said Dr. Robert Smith, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosciences in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “The brain really is one of the last frontiers in biomedical research. The things happening in immune therapies and cancer biology are 50 years ahead of the brain. This is an area that’s untapped and full of opportunities.”

Though UToledo has long had a doctoral neuroscience program, this is the first time the University has offered a baccalaureate degree in the field.

Students will spend their first two years on UToledo’s Main Campus building foundational scientific knowledge, and then spend the next two years on the University’s Health Science Campus, where they’ll dig into more advanced subjects like neuropharmacology and medical neuroanatomy.

That combination of biology and medicine­ — with the program residing partly within the College of Medicine and Life Sciences — sets UToledo’s program apart from others.

“Most undergraduate neuroscience programs are a combination of biology and psychology. They don’t include a medical component,” said Dr. John Plenefisch, associate dean in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. “This partnership gives us something different from what most universities are offering and makes for a much stronger program for our students.”

Smith and Plenefisch said graduates will be well-positioned for jobs in an array of fields, including biomedical research, medical device development and biotechnology.

The program also will serve as an excellent foundation for students interested in going on to graduate or medical school.

“The vision for a student studying neuroscience at The University of Toledo isn’t just sitting in a classroom learning about brain circuits and synapses. They’re actually going to study it in the lab, asking and answering the biggest questions in translational neuroscience, doing experiments that no one else has done before,” Smith said. “If you’re interested in medical school or professional school, how great is that? It’s a unique opportunity that students wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

The new undergraduate neuroscience major went live in spring 2023. Recruitment is underway for the first full cohort of students to enroll in fall 2023.

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