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Becoming a Neuroscience Major

In considering whether to major in Neuroscience, what factors are most important? 

The undergraduate Neuroscience major at Queens College is a 55-credit honors, research-based BA degree designed for talented students with a strong interest in neuroscience.  Because all required courses can be taken by any student meeting the respective departmental requirements, the major is intended specifically for students who are very interested in obtaining research experience in the area of neuroscience.  Thus, in addition to the course requirements, all Neuroscience majors must submit a written thesis based on their research and make an oral presentation in a public forum.  This rigorous training in neuroscience research is designed specifically to make students more competitive for post-graduate programs in neuroscience-related fields (e.g., MA, PhD MD or MD/PhD programs), or employment within neuroscience laboratories and companies in the private sector.

I already have a BA  Can I still get a Neuroscience degree from Queens College?

Yes, Queens College has a second BA program.  However, you should talk to the Neuroscience Director to determine whether you really need the degree and to find out how long it will take before making your decision to pursue a second BA.

What do I have to do to apply to be a Neuroscience major?

Unlike other majors at Queens College, you cannot simply declare Neuroscience as your major–you must go through an application process.  Before applying to the major, check the admissions requirements.

To get an application, click here.

Can I submit my application at any time?

No.  Applications are accepted and reviewed each semester, with application due dates of October 1 and March 1 (or first business day after those dates if they fall on a weekend). 

When I declare my major, what is the difference between Neuroscience-Biology and Neuroscience-Psychology?

The Biology/Psychology difference is only for administration purposes. Because there is no Neuroscience Department, the program is “divided” between the Biology and Psychology Departments. This “division” is purely administrative and has no practical effect—the curriculum and program requirements are the same for all neuroscience majors.

Do I need to have research experience to apply to the Neuroscience Major?

No, you can apply without research experience. However, you are strongly encouraged to begin speaking with potential mentors and finding a laboratory that you would like to do research in as soon as you think you may want to be a Neuroscience major. Although we do not now limit student acceptances based on the number of potential spaces available in labs, this may become a consideration as the program continues to grow. You will be at an advantage if you have already secured a place in a research lab by the time of your application.

Who do I ask for a letter of recommendation?

If you are already working in the laboratory of a Neuroscience faculty member and you would like to stay in that lab for your thesis work, this mentor would be the best reference to include on your application. You only need to include their name, email address, and phone number. You do not need to ask them for a letter. If you have not conducted research on campus, but have experience at another institution, the lab head there would be a good person to ask for a letter. If you don’t have lab experience, ask a faculty member who knows you if you can include their name as a reference (on campus) or to write you a letter (off campus).


Completing the Major and Taking Classes

What do I have to do to have Psychology or Biology as my co-major or minor? 

To declare any other major, you’ll need to fill out the necessary paperwork from the Registrar’s Office and have it signed by someone in the Departmental office.  Please note that the Psychology Department allows students to double-major in both Psychology and Neuroscience, while the Biology Department generally does not allow students to double-major in both Biology and Neuroscience.

If I want to register for a course, who do I see?

You should be able to register yourself via CUNYFirst into any class.  However, if classes are full, you’ll need to check with the academic department giving that class.   The Director of the Neuroscience major has no authority to register any student in any class.  Therefore, all registration matters must be taken up with the appropriate Departmental personnel (in Psychology, Biology, or Chemistry).

Can I perform research in any laboratory on campus to fulfill my research requirement?

No, the research requirement can be fulfilled only by doing research with a member of the Queens College Neuroscience faculty.  To see who is on the Neuroscience faculty, click here.

What requirements are most likely to delay my graduation and how do I avoid delay?

The most common source of delays for students arises from sequences of courses with prerequisites.  When planning your schedule, always prioritize courses that are necessary for later courses that you need.  For example, Bio 105, Bio 106, and Bio 286 are pre-requisites for many other Biology courses.  Similarly, Psych 101 is a pre-requisite for all other Psychology courses and Psych 107 is required for Psych 213W.  If you need Organic Chemistry for medical school, it is also wise to take Chemistry early. 

Another thing to attend to is course scheduling because not all courses are offered every semester and many psychology courses fill to capacity very rapidly.

A list of all the Neuroscience core and elective courses, along with their pre-requisites and important scheduling information can be found here.

Finally, keep in mind that it is usually a bad idea to take more than two difficult laboratory courses in the same semester.

Will it count if I take a course at another institution?

Yes, courses taken at other institutions can transfer but ONLY as long as the Department involved transfers that course in as the SAME course number as used for the Neuroscience curriculum.  Otherwise, it will not count.  Therefore, just to be safe, you should check with the relevant Department before you take a course at another school.

If I take more than the 12 elective credits would those additional credits count towards my neuroscience GPA?

While taking more neuroscience courses is as good thing if you can fit more into your schedule, only those courses needed to meet the requirement of 12 elective credits will be counted in your GPA.



When should I begin my laboratory research?

As soon as you have an interest in possibly being a Neuroscience major you should begin to find a lab and start research.

How do I look for a laboratory to work in?

One of the most important decisions that a Neuroscience major can make is which laboratory to join.  The Neuroscience major allows students to conduct research in almost any Queens College laboratory that either asks Neuroscience-related questions or uses techniques commonly used in Neuroscience research.  Most of the laboratories in the Biology Department, all of the behavioral neuroscience laboratories in the Psychology Department, and many other laboratories, especially in Chemistry & Biochemistry, qualify.  Information on the research interests of the Neuroscience faculty can be obtained from their departmental web sites (accessible from the Neuroscience Faculty page).  Students are advised to seek advice and final approval from the Neuroscience major Director or Deputy Director before deciding which laboratory to join.

How do I join a lab?

1. Spend some time looking through the faculty web pages to find research that interests you.
2. Send emails to the faculty heads of labs you would like to join.
In your email say that:
· You have been to their website.
· You are a Neuroscience major, or are interested in becoming a Neuroscience major.
· You are interested in working in their lab for course credit and/or to conduct thesis research.
· Include: your year, major, GPA, whether you have research experience, and if so, doing what, where, with whom.
· Include: how much time you could spend in the lab per week and for how many semesters
· Attach: non-official transcript
3. Ask if they have room in their lab and if they would like to meet with you.

How much time can I expect to be doing research?

Your research mentor will determine how much work is necessary for you to complete your thesis so you should discuss this with them very early in your work or before joining a lab. If you take research credits for your laboratory work, you will be expected to spend a minimum of 3 hours a week in the laboratory per credit. However, as in graduate school and professional research, conducting research is not a 9:00-5:00 job and you will be expected to spend as much time in the laboratory as possible. The most successful theses (i.e., those presented at conferences and published) are often the product of years of research and result from spending significantly more time in the lab than is required by course requirements. It’s in your best interest to discuss the realistic expectation of your time commitments with your mentor.

Can I get academic credit for my research activities?

Different faculty members have different rules and different criteria for allowing students to get credit for working in their labs so the first thing to do is discuss this with your research mentor.  Although Neuroscience majors MUST receive three (3) credits of research to graduate, they may receive additional research credits, which would be elective credits toward graduation with a Queens College degree (120 credit total). 

When figuring out the number of research credits to take (1, 2, or 3), keep in mind that students are generally expected to spend at least 3 hours in their laboratories per week for each credit received.  For example, a student taking 3 credit hours should be in their laboratory at least 9 hours per week.

How do I go about getting credit for my research activities?

There are two general mechanisms by which a Neuroscience student can receive research credit:

1.  Departmental independent study:  Most departments at Queens College offer course credit for independent study and allow research to qualify in this category (e.g., Psych 391, Bio 390).  To receive this credit, you must first get the permission of your mentor and fill out the required independent-study forms for the home Department of your research mentor.  Ask your mentor or their Departmental office about the forms.

2.  Honors in Mathematics & Natural Science:  If you are part of the HMNS program, you will be expected to receive credit for research participation starting with your second semester in the program.  For details about the HMNS program, click here.

What to do I do if I am unhappy in my lab?

Lab assignments are never permanent.  If you are unhappy in the lab you’ve selected, you can always switch to another lab as long as you have time to complete one year of research within that lab.



Is there a Neuroscience graduation ceremony?

Yes.  The Neuroscience major conducts a separate graduation ceremony, which is usually held in the afternoon of the day when Queens College holds the evening Baccalaureate ceremony.

Can I participate in the spring graduation ceremonies if I won’t be graduating until the end of the summer?

Yes.  Summer graduates are welcome to participate in both the Neuroscience major and College spring graduation ceremonies.



 Office Information

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, there are currently no regular in-person office hours. For all matters, please send an email to the director or deputy director listed below.
Director: Giuseppe Cataldo, PhD

Psychology Department
Office: Razran Building, Room 267

Deputy Director: Carolyn Pytte, PhD
Psychology Department
Office: Razran Building, Room 368


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