FAQ

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 about learning 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 courses 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 something you are interested in.

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 in the Autumn Quarter must start the program the following Winter Quarter. The group takes Nbio 301 in the Winter, 302 in the Spring, and the sequence of four 400-level courses the next year. 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 NBio courses, or can I choose only those that interest me?

NBio students must take all of the required courses (Nbio 301,302, 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 12-14 students, working in pairs. 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 neurobiology?

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 take a year abroad before my last year at UW. This prevents me from taking the advanced NBio courses the year after the                  introductory courses. Can I still be admitted to the major?

Most likely, yes. The advanced courses are not limited by lab spaces, so it is possible to add one or two extra students from the previous year. Please discuss this with us at the time of admission because it requires some planning on our part. The disadvantage is that you will not be with your cohort in the advanced courses.

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. A double major with a program in the College of Engineering can be extremely rewarding, but requires especially careful planning of schedules. Make sure you consult with advisers in both programs very early.

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 NBio major to take our classes. Our introductory classes are limited by lab spaces and our advanced classes depend on information in the introductory courses. There are many excellent neurobiology classes on campus that are not part of the NBio major.

11. Can I transfer to UW from another university or college and pursue the Neuroscience major?

Absolutely. We can only admit students to the NBio major, not to the university. If you are transferring solely to enroll in the NBio major, consult with the Director first, to see if you are likely to be admitted to the major. Exceptional students can be guaranteed admission before deciding to enroll at UW. Also, consult with our program adviser about whether your coursework elsewhere fulfills our prerequisites. Sometimes, students transferring from 2-year institutions find the transition to UW difficult. We recommend starting at UW well before applying to the NBio major.

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?

Yes. A GPA of 3.4 and a similar grade in Biology 220 places you in the range of our admitted students in most years if your grades in other courses are similar. Of course, the higher your grades are, the better your chances of admission, and the average GPA of admitted students changes each year, usually upward.

13. My freshman year grades stink, but the next year I shaped up and good grades since then, including good grades in introductory Biology courses. Will my poor first year grades eliminate me from consideration?

Not necessarily. Point this out in the statement you write on your application. We will take a look at your transcript and consider this factor in our decision.

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. We of course cannot keep confidential things that are considered in the admissions process, but only a few faculty will see your application, and the Director can advise you as to what information you should include.

15. I’m really interested in this program but I’m scared that I can’t compete with all of those high-achieving students you have.

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 does and NBio degree lead to?

As in many of the programs in the biological sciences, the majority of our students go on to medical school. However, we have a significant number of students who decide to pursue a PhD in neurobiology or enter a combined MD/PhD program. Other postgraduate programs that NBio students have pursued in the past several years include those in dentistry, physical therapy, K-12 education, law, and others. Our students have a very high rate of success in being admitted to the programs of their choice.

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. NBio 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.

18. You didn’t answer my question!

Sorry. Contact us directly and we’ll be happy to answer your question.