FSU Neuroscience program confers first undergraduate degree

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Austin Burns is the first FSU student to earn an undergraduate degree in neuroscience.

Florida State University’s Neuroscience Program celebrates a milestone with its first student ready to graduate in the new undergraduate major.

Austin John Burns, a 22-year-old from Weston, Fla., Will cross the stage at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center on Friday, December 13, for the first of two FSU’s early fall ceremonies.

“It’s very exciting,” Burns said. “I’m happy to be the first and I think it’s the start of a great program here. This is a great step in the right direction for FSU and for our new neuroscience program.

According to FSU’s registrar’s office, nearly 2,700 students graduate this semester: 1,989 will receive bachelor’s degrees, 587 will receive master’s / specialty degrees, and 99 will receive doctorates. Burns is one of 706 graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lisa Eckel, professor of psychology and director of the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, said this historic moment is the first in a long series for the growing program, which launched in fall 2018 with 45 students.

“This is an important milestone that validates the college’s commitment and all the work that has gone into creating this exciting new major,” Eckel said. “Enrollment has grown rapidly – we now have a total of 305 neuroscience majors. This growth, which has exceeded our expectations, reflects the keen interest of students in brain functions and careers in science, medicine and health-related fields. “

Burns said he had always had a passion for science, but his interest in studying brain function in particular was inspired by a cause close to his heart.

“Back in my freshman year in high school my mom was diagnosed with epilepsy,” he said. “It motivated me to do all kinds of brain research. I want to be a doctor now, so neuroscience was the perfect path for me. “

Burns was drawn to the state of Florida early on because of the university’s high-caliber research programs.

“As soon as the FSU announced the program’s release, I was basically the first person to meet with the advisor,” Burns said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Now that his undergraduate degree in neuroscience is complete, Burns is aiming for medical school.

To date, FSU is the only member of the state university system to offer a formal degree in neuroscience to undergraduate students. Frank Johnson, chairman of FSU’s psychology department and former director of the neuroscience program that led the new undergraduate major, said the push for the new course of study was fueled by interest from undergraduates cycle and the success of the university’s doctoral neuroscience program, which has been in place since the early 1990s.

To help launch the new undergraduate program, four new faculty members with a background in neurobiology were hired in the departments of Biological Sciences and Psychology. Johnson said the close and successful working relationship between the two departments sets the FSU program apart and paves the way for the future.

The undergraduate major offers students the opportunity to learn more about the physiological mechanisms of the brain and how they give rise to behavioral functions. Various courses are offered in several departments of the College of Arts and Sciences, including Biological Sciences, Psychology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Statistics.

Because neuroscience is a rapidly evolving field driven by new discoveries in research, students are also encouraged to gain hands-on laboratory research experience through directed individual studies and have a dedicated academic advisor to help them on their way to graduation.

“The unique multidisciplinary scope of the neuroscience degree prepares students for a wide variety of STEM-related careers, such as researchers, technicians, educators, and healthcare professionals,” Eckel said. “There is also a growing demand for neuroscience specializations in areas other than STEM, including law, business, economics and religion. “

For more information on the FSU Neuroscience Program, visit neuro.fsu.edu.


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