Division of Biology and Medicine
Department of Neuroscience

Undergraduate FAQs

Browse the FAQ for commonly-asked questions about undergraduate neuroscience.

The Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

Please request an advisor by emailing neuroundergrad@brown.edu and say that you have decided to concentrate in Neuroscience. You will automatically be assigned to an advisor. If you have not yet decided but simply want to talk to someone about your course selection you can also email neuroundergrad@brown.edu.

No. All faculty in the Department serve as concentration advisors and we try to distribute the advising load evenly among them. Your concentration advisor is the individual primarily responsible for monitoring your progress through the concentration and for completing the necessary forms. He or she will co-sign the Student/Advisor Agreement and will certify to the Registrar that you have completed the concentration, when and if you do. However, all faculty in the Department are available for consultation about specific aspects of your concentration and you should feel free to call on them.

The three core courses of the Neuroscience concentration are NEUR0010, NEUR1020, and NEUR1030. We would recommend that you take NEUR1020 and NEUR1030 as a sophomore and use the spring semester of your first year to take basic science background courses.

As a sophomore who has just taken NEUR 0010, you would probably want to enroll in NEUR 1020, and then take NEUR 1030 in the first semester of your junior year. NEUR 1020 and 1030 are prerequisites for many of the upper level classes offered in the neuroscience department and for obvious reasons these should be taken sooner rather than later. Your selection of other courses really depends on the particular area of neuroscience which you have chosen for your focus. You should ask your concentration advisor for help in course selection.

No. The Neuroscience concentration only awards the degree of ScB and all students must do the basic science background courses or their equivalents.

No. It can only be used to fulfill the Chemistry requirements in your background courses.


Yes. 70-80% our concentrators go to medical school after graduation.

Contact the faculty member who is most familiar with you; for example your concentration advisor, or the director of a course in which you did well. Give the person you are asking at least one month's notice before the due date. Make life easy for the reviewer by providing all the necessary paper work, stamped addressed envelopes for the return of the letters where necessary, a resume if needed and a statement about why you are applying for this fellowship/graduate program etc.

Yes. But, it is your responsibility to clear any changes in your concentration courses with your concentration advisor. You have signed a statement that you will do so. Beware of the frenzy of shopping period when students tend to forget about their concentration requirements. If you fail to take and pass the required courses, you will not graduate.

As enrollment in critical reading courses is always limited and because the courses offered vary from year to year, it is important to carefully follow announcements for upcoming seminars. You must pre-register for these and you should sign up for the following semesters' seminars in the Neuroscience office starting on the first day of pre-registration. Also, see the answer to the next question.

Maybe, but in order to do so, you must file a petition to fulfill your critical reading course using a course not specifically approved in this handbook. This form can be obtained from the Neuroscience office. NUCC will consider each request individually.

Most students take NEUR 1970 as juniors and seniors, but as soon as you have decided that you want to do a neuroscience independent study project you should identify those areas of neuroscience that are particularly interesting to you. It is never too soon, but it can be too late. Some labs are harder to get into than others, so inquire early to avoid disappointment. The only faculty who are pre-approved to sponsor NEUR 1970 are members of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

The only faculty who are pre-approved to sponsor NEUR 1970 are members of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. However, if you want to do an independent study project with, for example, a faculty member in another department in the Division of Biology and Medicine who has never sponsored a NEUR 1970 student, you can but your sponsor will have to first fill the NEUR 1970 Sponsor Application and turn it in concurrently with your Independent Study Form.  In some cases you could also register for BIOL 1950/1960. With the approval of your concentration advisor you can use BIOL 1950/1960 toward your concentration as one of the four thematic elective courses or to satisfy the neuroscience lab requirement.

Yes, you need to get written permission from your independent study sponsor and NUCC to enroll for NEUR 1970 even if you enrolled for NEUR 1970 the previous semester. However, you do not need to re-describe your research project.

Spending a summer in the laboratory in which you are going to do an independent study project is a great idea and is strongly encouraged. There are also some great research opportunities at other universities - if you can bear the thought of being away from Providence for the summer. You can get information on applying for summer research fellowships from Dean Thompson's office in Arnold. UTRA fellowships (undergraduate teaching/research assistant ships) are available on a limited basis for summer work at Brown. Summer fellowships generally provide you with a stipend to cover your living expenses.

In order to be considered for honors you must obtain a majority of "A" grades in courses required for the concentration, submit a thesis, and present the results of your research at the Undergraduate Research Day in the spring. NUCC will formally review your thesis and decide if it merits honors. Simply writing a thesis is no guarantee of receiving honors. The composition and content of the thesis must also be of a high standard.

Yes. In order to be considered for honors you do not have to have taken NEUR 1970. But the thesis project which you undertake outside of the Neuroscience program should have a clear neuroscience focus and must be pre-approved by NUCC. If you have any doubts about the suitability of a project which you are planning to pursue for honors, you should submit a description of the project to NUCC before you invest time and effort in the work (preferably before the deadline for honors application). The committee can give you feedback and, if necessary, you will be able to make appropriate modifications.

Yes. Excluding the background courses, no more than two courses can overlap between the two concentrations. Be aware that a combined A.B./Sc.B. requires 5 years residency. Also, it is important you also check with a concentration advisor for your non-neuro concentration, as they may have different restrictions than we do.

Written permission should be sought from the course director. For NEUR 1970 complete the proposal form for Independent Study (On pages 15-16 within the Neuroscience Concentration brochure), with your signature and that of your sponsor, and email to neuroundergrad@brown.edu. It will then be reviewed by NUCC and you will be notified of approval.  Once you are approved, please request an override from your sponsor via Courses@Brown.

Enrollment is usually limited for Neuroscience laboratory and seminar courses. There is a sign-up sheet for limited enrollment classes in the neuroscience office. You should check with the office or the course director about when the class list will be decided upon. Seniors are given preference for limited enrollment classes.

If Brown has awarded you official advanced placement for a required course, this will automatically satisfy the Neuroscience concentration requirement for that course. If you have taken the AP or IB exams in high school, it is your responsibility to see that the scores are reported to Brown by the testing agency. They must appear on your internal transcript to be accepted for concentration credit. If they are not there, we will assume that you do not have them. In order to get AP credit to appear on your internal transcript you must submit a request in ASK.

  • Students with AP, IB, or other exam credit for Biology 0200 satisfy the BIOL 0200 concentration requirement.  Students may also place out of BIOL 0200 by passing a placement examination, in which case evidence must be provided to the Department of Neuroscience that this has been done.
  • If you pass MATH0100 or MATH0170, you have in effect placed out of MATH0090 and fulfilled the mathematics requirement of the concentration. If you have no AP credits in math but pass a course in Mathematics (MATH) or Applied Mathematics (APMA) that has MATH0100 as an explicit prerequisite, you have satisfied the Neuroscience concentration requirement.
  • The Physics Department has an elaborate system for awarding advanced placement credit in its courses (http://www.physics.brown.edu). If you have been awarded advanced placement credit for the equivalent of PHYS0030 or PHYS0040 by the Physics Department, you must provide documentation of this to the Department of Neuroscience. Note that simply taking and passing PHYS0040 does not satisfy the concentration requirement for PHYS0030. Other equivalents: ENGN 0032 or ENGN0030 or PHYS0050 or PHYS0070 can replace PHYS0030; PHYS0060 or PHYS0160 can replace PHYS0040.
  • A required basic science course requirement can be waived if you provide a statement signed by the faculty member responsible for the course stating that you have had the equivalent course or experience.

It depends. Some summer courses can count toward the Neuroscience concentration and others cannot. For example, NEUR 0010 and NEUR 0160 are offered as summer courses by the Department of Neuroscience and can count as concentration courses. However, for courses taught at other institutions, Brown may refuse to accept transfer credit courses that are not equivalent to existing Brown courses. Awarding concentration credit for courses taken elsewhere may require approval of the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. If you plan to take summer courses related to your concentration, you should read the section in this brochure about using transfer credit to satisfy concentration requirements and discuss your plans with your concentration advisor.

No, as of 2010 you can no longer use AP statistics to satisfy the concentration requirement. It does not provide sufficient depth to substitute for a college-level statistics course.

It depends. Spending some time abroad is a great educational activity but requires careful planning to avoid problems with completing your concentration. The best strategy is to arrange your schedule at Brown so that you can complete the concentration here and not have to worry about it when you are overseas. It is often not possible to know in detail what courses you may be able to take at a foreign institution. For this reason it is good to have a back-up plan for completing the concentration at Brown in case things do not work out as you had hoped during your time abroad. If you are thinking about studying abroad, you should read the section in this brochure about using transfer credit to satisfy concentration requirements and consult with your concentration advisor and the Neuroscience Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. 

The university requires that all students take two writing, or WRIT-designated, courses while at Brown. The first should be taken during your First and Sophomore years, and the second one during your Junior or Senior year. Importantly, students must complete their WRIT requirement by the end of their 7th semester. Currently our concentration does not accept written work samples to fulfill the WRIT requirement. So you must make sure that you enroll in one of these courses by then. The WRIT courses do not have to be part of your concentration courses, and can be from any department as long as they have a WRIT designation. However we do offer some WRIT-designated neuroscience courses, including NEUR 1040 Intro to Neurogenetics, NEUR 1600 Experimental Neurobiology, and NEUR 1930N Region of Interest. To find other WRIT courses you can select this as a search filter in the Courses at Brown webpage. Here is more information from the university about the writing requirement.

The goal of the four thematic electives is to allow the students to explore courses that are thematically related to their interests in neuroscience. These do not have to be neuroscience courses, but the student has to be able to justify how they fit overall within the concentration as a whole. They also need not follow a single theme. 

Electives ideally should be upper-level courses (so that they have at least 1 prerequisite), that have substantial neuroscience content, even if they are not taught directly by our department. Students often take a variety of CLPS, Applied Math or Biology courses that meet these criteria. But in some cases, courses such as genetics, cell biology, or CS courses can also be counted as electives, especially if the other electives they chose have a substantial neuroscience content. Thus, it is best to look at the concentration as a whole when discussing electives with your concentration advisor. The general rule is as follows: if you take your lab course and the four electives, at least three of those should have a strong neuroscience focus. Thus if you take BIO 800 (Physiology) as your lab course, then three of your electives have to have a strong neuro focus, the other one can be less related (eg. genetics). If you take Neuroanatomy, for example, as your lab course, then two electives have to have a strong neuro focus, the other two could be more tangential.

That said, all your electives could be neuro focused, and that would be preferable. Organic chemistry cannot be used as an elective.  You can always refer to NUCC if you and your advisor need some assistant approving a slate of electives.
For your reference here is a list of electives, List 1 contains courses (from Neuro and non-Neuro departments) that have no problems meeting the criteria of neuro-focused. List 2 has courses people have taken, but where you would have to look at the whole concentration in order to decide if they make sense. There are always new courses that are not on the lists, so this list should be used with caution, as you really want to explore the full curriculum: https://bit.ly/2mh8iIL