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I need information please

Hannah Dvorak-Carbone hdvorak at cns.caltech.edu
Mon Oct 26 12:47:03 EST 1998

In article <70ucad$3mj$1 at supernews.com>, brownr at southwestern.edu says...
>I am an undergraduate student at Southwestern University, a small liberal
>arts college in Texas.  I am a freshman and considering postgraduate studies
>in neuroscience.  I need information on preparation and what schools are
>best.  I am not sure what subdiscipline I would like to pursue, and any
>information on the different subdisciplines would also be greatly

Dear Rob,

I'm sure you realize that you've asked a very, very broad question.  Let me 
throw out a few comments in response to some of your points.

Preparation: Since you're at a liberal arts college, take advantage of this 
opportunity to broaden your mind; don't just focus on what you think you need 
to take to get into grad school.  Having said that, though, there's definitely 
a variety of courses that you may find help you out later.  Biology, of course, 
along with enough chemistry and biochemistry to help you understand how a cell 
works; computer science or some other class that will make you learn some 
programming; electrical engineering, preferably with a laboratory component 
that will get you comfortable with building your own electronic apparatus; 
mathematics, including differential equations, linear algebra, and statistics.

What schools are best: Periodically, a journal like "Science" will come out 
with a list of the top ten neuroscience departments, or some such.  This can be 
of some help in guiding you towards a program with a good reputation.  However, 
the most important factor in choosing a graduate school is that there be at 
least one faculty member there with whom you would like to work.  As you get 
closer to applying, you'll have a better of idea of the fields you're 
interested in, and you can look through the literature, see who's doing what 
you want to do, and look into joining their lab.

Subdisciplines: Neuroscience is a huge, multidisciplinary field, covering 
everything from molecular biology (e.g. using site-directed mutagenesis to 
understand the structure-function relationships of membrane channel proteins) 
to cellular biology (e.g. developmental studies tracing the migration and 
division of particular neuronal populations) to physiology (e.g. intra- or 
extracellular recording from individual neurons or populations) to behavioural 
studies.  Not to mention genetics, cognitive science, medicine, neural network 
theory...  But there's no need to worry now about which you're going to pursue. 
Most graduate programs have a rotation system, meaning that in your first year 
you're expected to spend a few months in each of several labs before deciding 
on which one is right for you.

Hope some of that helps.  Good luck!

- Hannah Dvorak-Carbone
Division of Biology, Caltech

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