1. How do I know if the Neuroscience Major is for me?
To thrive in our program, you should be deeply interested in how the nervous system works, and be excited to learn about it from the ground up, starting with single cells and molecules and progressing to behavior and disease. This is essential, because you will be devoting six courses (22 credits) of required coursework to this subject. You should also be the type of person who is interested in the mechanisms of biological processes. When you hear a cool story about something the brain does, do you immediately wonder how that works? Finally, you should be excited to work in a talented group of your peers, willing to cooperate with them to challenge yourself to master difficult and rewarding material.
If you are attracted to our program because it is small and because it will help you get into medical school, but are not really that interested in the brain, then the Neurobiology Major is probably not for you. You would be better served studying a subject of interest. Neuroscience is not a premed major though many of our graduates pursue health care.
2. What does it mean that the group of students admitted to the major each year takes all required courses as a group?
Students accepted into the major Autumn Quarter must start the program the following Winter Quarter. The group immediately enrolls in Neusci 301 Winter, 401 Spring Quarter, 302 Autumn Quarter of the following academic year, 402/403 Winter Quarter and finally 404 Spring Quarter. Since the courses are open only to Neuroscience majors, you will be with the same group of students throughout the sequence of required courses, and your registration in those courses on that schedule is guaranteed. Students in each year of the program get to know each other well and find a sense of community that enriches their entire university experience.
3. Do I have to take all of the required Neuroscience courses, or can I choose only those that interest me?
Neuroscience students must take all of the required courses (NEUSCI 301,302 (with lab), 401,402,403, and 404). Hence the word “required”. This reflects our belief that the excitement of this field reflects the many approaches that can be taken to the study of the brain.
4. Although I enjoy the laboratory components of my courses, I was often frustrated because there just wasn’t enough time in one lab session to really explore the subject. Should I consider a major that has such an intense laboratory component to its introductory courses?
Absolutely yes! Many of our lab exercises run for 2-3 weeks, giving you a real chance to learn the methods and explore in your experiments. You may even have the chance to design a new experiment and try it. (This isn’t true only of Neuroscience. Many of the advanced courses in the biological sciences work that way.)
5. What is the faculty/student ratio in the laboratories of the introductory courses?
Each laboratory section has a maximum 18 students, working in pairs or groups of 3. Each section is run by a graduate teaching assistant. A second TA is present for most of the lab, especially during difficult procedures. The professor teaching the class will be in most laboratory sessions for part of the time, as will the lecturer who is in charge of running all the labs. So, when experiments get tough, you can expect 3-4 instructors working with the 6-7 lab pairs.
6. Do your TA’s know anything about neuroscience?
Oh yes. Our TAs are excellent and very knowledgeable. They are students in the Neuroscience Ph.D. program, one of the best and most selective neuroscience graduate programs in the world. They are very good.
7. I am interested in joining a lab and doing independent research. Can I do this in the Neuroscience Major?
Absolutely! We strongly encourage this and will help place you in a lab that interests you. Most of our students do independent research, and it is a requirement for the honors degree. See the Research page and the lists of Faculty for more details.
8. I plan to study abroad while pursuing my degree at UW, will this impact my Neuroscience admissions and/or degree pursuit?
We recommend students study abroad during their first year or two at UW prior to applying to Neuroscience, once enrolled in the major you commit to completing the six core courses as offered. Though we have approved students pursuing opportunities abroad in the past, our advice is to consult with our advisor early in your academics to create a plan.
9. Can I major in Neuroscience and another subject at the same time?
Yes. Many of our students major in more than one subject. These have included Biochemistry, Microbiology, Political Science, Music, BioEngineering, and others. This may require careful planning and you should consult with advisers closely to ensure that course schedules in your two programs are compatible with both departmental and UW policies.
10. I am interested in the field of neuroscience, but don’t want to major in it. Can I take or audit your courses?
We normally do not allow audits or students not in the Neuroscience major to take our classes. Our introductory classes are limited by lab spaces and our advanced classes depend on information in the introductory courses. Our instructors can admit a few non-majors at their discretion. Keep in mind there are Neuroscience courses offered through other departments as well.
11. Can I transfer to UW from another university or college and pursue the Neuroscience major?
Absolutely, first you must gain admission to UW. We have admitted many students from both 4- and 2-year colleges. Post Baccalaureates are eligible as well.
12. I was not one of the top students in Biology 220, and my grade was only a 3.4. Do I have a chance of getting into the major?
Traditionally a grades of 3.4 or above in the introductory biology classes have been competitive, similarly a 3.4 overall cumulative UW GPA.
13. My freshman year grades were poor, however my grades in my second year are improving, will this trend improve my chances of admission?
Often freshman struggle in their transition into college, consistent improvement in your STEM classes can increase your competitiveness of admission.
14. There are circumstances in my life and my undergraduate career that I feel should be taken into account when you judge my application, but I don’t feel comfortable describing them in writing on the application. What should I do?
Make an appointment and discuss your situation privately with the Director or advisor. Often life circumstances can impact your grades. You may share these circumstances on the application, which is viewed only by our admissions team.
15. I’m really interested in this program but I’m scared that I can’t compete with all the high achieving students.
You can only improve by being around people who are at least as smart and motivated as you are. We are a small program that provides a lot of personal mentoring and help. If your prior performance is good enough to get in, you’re good enough to thrive in our program. Please discuss your hesitations with us.
16. What kinds of career opportunities can I pursue with a Neuroscience Degree?
Many of our graduates have successfully pursued careers in health care, likewise many pursue a PhD and careers in research. Other career pursuits of our alumni include law, technology, biotech, education, many of our graduate are employed locally in a who’s who of organizations including, Microsoft, Google, Meta, Amazon and the Allen Institute for brain science.
17. I would like to take a gap year and work in a lab abroad. Is this possible?
We encourage it and we can help you arrange those opportunities. Neuroscience graduates have spent a gap year working in laboratories in England, France, Germany, Argentina, Japan, and other countries. All have found it a very rewarding experience. Also many pursue postbaccalaureate positions at the NIH, and gap year positions in health care as they prepare to apply to health care programs.
18. You didn’t answer my question!
Sorry. Contact us directly and we’ll be happy to answer your question.