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How do I Choose the Best Neuroscience Department?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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There are four things to consider when looking for the best neuroscience department: appropriate focus, small class size, research opportunities, and support staff. A neuroscience department can be found in a wide range of universities, community and career colleges. Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. The topics included in this field include structure, development, genetics, and pathology.

Neuroscience is a growing field, with research departments available in most top research universities. There are two types of neuroscience departments available: research and teaching. The research programs are typically funded by government and outside granting agencies, providing opportunities to conduct research into specific functions or topics. These research projects are typically multiyear and involve a wide range of specialists, ranging from neuroscientists to biologists.

Teaching departments focus on providing instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Sharing of knowledge, development of research skills, and providing support for other institutes is the primary focus of these types of departments. As most graduate programs are heavily research focused, these programs are often limited to the undergraduate level.

A neuroscience department teaches a combination of theory and practical skills. The lower the number of students in the class, the more individual attention the instructor can provide to each student. Take the time to ask questions, and gain as much knowledge as possible. The best neuroscience department includes access to laboratory equipment and the ability to conduct experiments.

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Research opportunities are critical to the best neuroscience department. When comparing departments, look at the number of grants awarded in the past two years, the total number of applications, and the number of consecutive research projects under way. Look at the breadth of topics in the published research, areas of specialization, and the quality of the work produced.

Support staff is critical when looking for the best neuroscience department. Department administrators, research accountants, development staff, and other support personal are critical to the success of any department within a research institution. The amount of staff available is an indication of the size, success, and support of the department within the institution.

All research academic institutions require support staff who are dedicated to identifying and new research funding opportunities. Grants and research funding is available from a wide range of national, international, commercial, charitable, and government-funded agencies and associations. The application requirements, time lines, areas of focus, and amount of funding vary widely. Research is a very competitive industry and provides the funding necessary to advance the study of neuroscience.

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bagley79
Post 7

I am currently looking at different neuroscience programs. My interest is in genetics and I think this is an area that offers a lot of potential.

Because this field is so competitive, I was wondering how hard it is to get neuroscience jobs once you are done with your schooling.

It seems to make sense that if you went to a college that had a lot of research opportunities, your chances of being hired would be much greater.

SarahSon
Post 6

There are so many exciting things happening in the field of neuroscience. This is an ever-changing and growing area that is full of potential.

My daughter is not a neuroscience graduate, but her training is in writing grants and getting funding.

Because there are so many research opportunities, they need to be approved and funded. She works with the neuroscience department in preparing the grants, and researching potential funding options for their department.

The people who have their degrees in neuroscience don't have the time to fill out the paperwork, research all the options and worry about making deadlines. Their time is better spent in the lab or in teaching.

julies
Post 5

@LisaLou - Those are some good suggestions you listed. I think that both the quality and quantity of support staff they have available is also very important.

You could be enrolled in one of the best neuroscience programs, but if they don't have enough quality support people to help, you could find better programs for your money.

Because there is a combination of theory and practical skills, it takes more than just one good professor.

My son-in-law is working on his neuroscience PhD and has been surrounded with good support people during the whole program.

Now he is able to take that information he has learned and work with others who are just starting out in the program.

This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The teachers continue to learn and grow, and the new students get quality support from someone who can really help them.

LisaLou
Post 4

I think one of the most important things to consider when choosing the best department of neuroscience is the track record of that particular school - specifically in the neuroscience field.

Many of the top notch universities are credited with some exciting ongoing research, and that is what I would want to be a part of.

After narrowing down those with the best reputations, I would look at the class size. If you are in a huge class, your chances for one-on-one interaction are much less.

Because there is so much more involved than just text book reading, you want to be able to interact and be as active as possible in learning outside the classroom.

Having access to the lab where you can conduct experiments and put your knowledge into action is also very important. If you never have the chance to test what you are learning, it won't do you nearly as much good.

Ivan83
Post 3

I am interested in brain chemistry specifically. Would I need to focus more on neuroscience or should I try to get involved with a biochemistry department? There is sometimes so much overlap between the sciences and their particular areas of focus that it can be hard to know how best to plan for your future career.

jonrss
Post 2

There is lots of great information related to graduate schools online. There are a number of objective organizations that rank the quality of various graduate departments based on empirical measures. It is had to guarantee that their choices really are the "best" programs, but you can have faith that their choices are well researched and accurate.

tigers88
Post 1
Neuroscience is a specialization but there are still many different sub-fields within neuroscience that a new student could choose to focus on. Anyone considering a program should do some preliminary research and figure out what area of neuroscience most interests them.Tthey should then pick a school based on who offers the most academic opportunities with that sub-field.

There is nothing worse than being in an intense academic environment and not being able to study the things that interest you. I have heard horror stories from friends that have been in science departments at other schools and some of them have had to slog through years of reading and research on topics they didn't truly have a passion for. The only was to study is to study what interests you.

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