Neuroscience, Academics | Earlham College
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Understanding the brain and the nervous system

Overview   |   Meet An Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Policy on Animal Research   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


Neuroscience at Earlham focuses on understanding the brain and the nervous system, seeking to answer questions about the brain, behavior, thought, memory, emotion, or neuropsychiatric disease.

You will have unparalleled access to and attention from our Biology and Psychology faculty who will know you and who will use their resources and networks to help you find and follow your career path.

Required courses for the major introduce students to the fundamentals. They are followed by exploration of special topics in advanced courses chosen to best serve your interest.

You will conduct original research in your courses, work with faculty on research projects, and then complete an in-depth neuroscience research project in your senior year.

Paid summer internships are available at the Stark Neuroscience Research Institute of the Indiana University School of Medicine.

More from the Neuroscience Department:


In an anatomy and physiology course, students perform a dissection of a human cadaver, including an examination of the human brain and spinal cord. Seeing, holding, and dissecting a real human brain is an amazing experience that few undergraduates can get.

Neuroscience majors pursue graduate studies in medicine, other health professions, veterinary medicine or graduate study in cellular, molecular, behavioral or systems neuroscience.

Recent graduates have gained admission at Georgetown, Indiana and Purdue universities as well as the Southern College of Optometry. Yim Rodriguez ’14 earned a full-tuition scholarship to the prestigious Munich Brain Course at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität.

Our alumni pursue a wide variety of careers including medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy and scientific research.

Meet An Earlhamite

Laura Ladlow
Physical Therapy and Yoga

Laura Ladlow ’12 recalls dynamic and powerful classes from science courses to Earlham Seminars. She also studied in Tanzania and participated in sports, the Outdoors Club, student government and Dance Alloy.

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Ashley Chabot
Doctoral Student in Physiology

Ashley Chabot '13 hopes to enhance the lives of those affected by childhood illness. In her science classes, the Maine native developed the hands-on lab techniques that enable her to feel comfortable with skills that she uses now as a graduate student.

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Meredith Faller
Exploring Beyond Her Major

Meredith believes a liberal arts education at Earlham provides the freedom to choose one's own academic adventures and doesn't pigeonhole one into a Pre-Med track.

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Our Faculty

Beth Mechlin
Associate Professor of Psychology

Bob Rosenberg
Professor of Biology

Policy on Animal Research

Senior Research (PSYC 486) students can work with an animal if the student:

  1. has substantial previous experience with their study species, to the point where they can work independently or with minimal guidance;
  2. and a faculty member with the species expertise has agreed on working together and on funding for the animals (even if a small cost is paid by the student);
  3. has their research project designed and approved by IACUC prior to the beginning of their Senior Research course term;
  4. has completed all the training requirements for animal research at Earlham (Moodle Page: Animal User Guide), including medical evaluation, before the beginning of their Senior Research course term; and
  5. has the approval of one of the Senior Research (PSYC486) professors for the term they will be doing the research.

Plan of Study

Planning Ahead

Students planning to major in Neuroscience should speak with a faculty member in Biology or Psychology early in their undergraduate career. Faculty will help lay out a four-year plan that includes required courses, elective courses that support the specific neuroscience area of interest, opportunities for off-campus study and possible internships. Early consultation is important to sequencing of several courses so study remains an option off-campus. In general, students should take CHEM 111 in their first semester, CHEM 221 and BIOL 112 in their second semester, and BIOL 341 in the fall of their Sophomore year. Students should take BIOL 242 in their Sophomore or Junior year. Students should begin taking courses in psychology by the end of their Sophomore year. A summer research experience is highly recommended and faculty will work with students to identify appropriate opportunities.

Original Research Project

After thorough grounding in the fundamentals of Biology and Psychology followed by exploration of special topics in advanced courses, the Capstone Experience for the Neuroscience major is the completion of an original research topic that integrates Psychology and Biology. For example, student projects have investigated the relation between infant attachment style, response to a novel situation, and stress measured by salivary cortisol. Another student examined drug-induced changes in aggressive display in male Siamese fighting fish. A third project measured small facial muscle movements in response to happy or angry faces and the subsequent identification of facial expressions of emotion in briefly presented images.

General Education Requirements

Many of the required courses for the Neuroscience major fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning component of the Analytical Reasoning Requirement of the General Education Requirements.

The Major

Students generally complete 44 (12 courses plus a 1-credit seminar) for the Neuroscience major.

Students interested in post-graduate study, including medical school, should review entrance requirements of the programs in which they are interested, since many programs require physics, calculus and additional chemistry courses. Students interested in taking Biochemistry are reminded that the prerequisites for this course are CHEM 111, 221, 321 and 331. Students interested in Animal Behavior, Ornithology, Biology of Insects and/or Vertebrate Zoology are reminded that Ecological Biology (BIOL 111) is a prerequisite.

With approval from Neuroscience faculty, specialty courses that are offered on an occasional basis may substitute for one or more of the elective courses.

  • Majors are required to complete the following courses:
    • BIOL 112 Cells, Genes and Inheritance
    • BIOL 242 Topics in Neuroscience
    • BIOL 341 Cell Physiology
    • BIOL 345 Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System
    • CHEM 111 Principles of Chemistry
    • CHEM 221 Organic Chemistry I
    • PSYC 245 Research Methods and Statistics
    • PSYC 250 Brain and Behavior
    • PSYC 353 Behavioral Neuroscience
    • PSYC 486 Research Project
  • At least one of the following:
    • PSYC 347 - Racism and Public Health 
    • PSYC 351 – Learning and Memory
    • PSYC 363 Developmental Psychopathology
    • PSYC 366 Cradle and Grave
    • PSYC 376 Health Psychology
    • PSYC 378 Psychoactive Drugs and Behavior
  • At least two of the following courses, totaling at least seven credits:
    • BIOL 111 Ecological Biology
    • BIOL 200 Epidemiology
    • BIOL 226 Biological Diversity
    • BIOL 251 Introduction to Nutrition Science
    • BIOL 343 Immunology
    • BIOL 346 Vertebrate Zoology
    • BIOL 347 Anatomy and Physiology of Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Renal and Digestive Systems
    • BIOL 348 Ornithology
    • BIOL 351 Human Genetics and Genomics
    • BIOL 357 Animal Behavior
    • BIOL 362 Biology of Insects
    • BIOL 383 Bioinformatics
    • BIOL 451 Evolutionary Biology
    • BIOL 461 Microbiology
    • BIOL 464 Advanced Cell Physiology
    • BIOL 466 Molecular Genetics
    • BIOL 467 Neuropharmacology 
    • BIOL 481 Internship, Field Study and Other Field Experiences
    • CHEM 351 Biochemistry
  • These courses are also recommended depending on student interest, but not required:
    • MATH 120 or 300 Statistics
    • MATH 180 and 280 Calculus A and B
    • PHYS 120 or 125 Physics I
    • PHYS 230 or 235 Physics II
    • CS 112 or CS 128 Computer Modeling/Programming
    • CS 290 Computational Science


Required Courses

An overview of cell structure and function and the principles of inheritance, including such topics as transmission genetics, DNA structure, central dogma, regulation of gene expression, meiosis and mitosis, protein function, cell cycle and recombinant DNA techniques. Lab emphasizes inquiry-based experiments and contemporary techniques. Offered Spring Semester.

For declared and prospective Neuroscience majors (sophomore and above). Discussion of recent neuroscience articles in popular and scientific journals. Prerequisites: BIOL 341 or permission of the instructor.

BIOL 341 CELL PHYSIOLOGY (4 credits)
An examination of basic principles of cell physiology. Topics include thermodynamics, enzyme mechanisms, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, coupling of ATP hydrolysis to cellular reactions, regulation of protein function, membrane structure, cell signaling, and neural and muscular activity. Lab emphasizes inquiry-based experiments and contemporary techniques. Prerequisites: BIOL 112 and CHEM 221 or consent of the instructor. Offered Fall Semester.

An in-depth study of the structures and functions of human nervous, sensory, muscular and endocrine systems. Each system is covered at the molecular, cellular, organ and organism levels. Labs include extensive hands-on studies of human anatomy. Prerequisite: BIOL 341. Offered Spring Semester.

An internship organized by the student in consultation with the adviser. Internships must be approved by relevant faculty before the experience takes place. Credits for the experience must be negotiated between the adviser and the on-site supervisor. For this experience to be counted toward the Neuroscience major, the focus of the experience must be on Neuroscience.

Core principles and interesting applications of chemistry combine to provide a conceptual understanding of chemistry. Principles of atomic and molecular structure, molecular energetics and classes of chemical reactions reviewed. Aspects of gas behavior, basic photochemistry and acid-base chemistry are applied to the study of environmental chemistry issues such as stratospheric ozone, the global greenhouse effect, acid rain and photochemical smog. Lab work includes the synthesis of compounds, the study of aqueous ions, simple calorimetry, titrations, basic IR, visible and UV spectrophotometry, and studies of acid rain. (A-QR)

Introductory course designed for chemistry and biology majors as well as pre-health professionals. Focuses on basic structural and reactivity aspects in organic chemistry and their relationship to pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals and biological systems. Topics include stereochemistry, substitution, elimination and addition reactions. Weekly three-hour laboratory provides hands-on experience with modern organic methods and techniques. Prerequisite: Grade of C or better in CHEM 111 or consent of instructor. (A-QR)

Introduction to experimental design and the analysis of research data in psychology. Topics include methods for observing, measuring and describing behavior. Students will learn to use the statistical software SPSS in data description and analysis. (A-QR)

An introduction to the psychology and the neuroscience of learning and memory in humans and non-human animals. Students in lab will dissect sheep brains, simulate neuronal function, and carry out learning and memory experiments. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or above.

Advanced seminar examines the physiological mechanisms underlying a variety of psychological processes. Extensive reading of primary source materials. All students prepare a major seminar presentation and paper. Prerequisite: PSYC 245. Also listed as BIOL 353. (AY)

All majors are required to design and conduct an independent empirical research project as part of the comprehensive exam. Usually these will be experimental  or correlational research designs; however, qualitative projects can be undertaken. A student interested in performing qualitative research should take PSYC 354.

More Course Descriptions

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.