Trinity Neuroscience Department Turns 25

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This year, neuroscience has been at the forefront of academia and programming at Trinity in honor of the 25th anniversary of the discipline’s presence at the college. Beginning with just a few professors and the donated Loberg Labs, neuroscience has progressed dramatically. Not only does this year mark an important milestone, but it highlights the additions of several new assets to the program.
One little-known, relatively unpublicized advancement is the formation of the five-year BA/MA program in neuroscience. Approved in 2013, this program is on the rise. It allows neuroscience majors to begin their graduate work early, by taking on additional assignments for their most challenging undergraduate classes and receive graduate credit. As of right now, neuroscience is the only master’s program in the sciences at Trinity, perhaps trailblazing for other subjects in the future.
In addition to the program for graduate work, Neuroscience program has seen some new faces in its faculty. Molly Helt, a Professor of Psychology and a researcher of autism spectrum disorders. Helt began teaching at Trinity in 2014 and has already received lots of positive feedback. Elhadji Mare ’18, who is currently taking Clinical Psychology with Professor Helt, said, “Despite this being her first year teaching the class, Professor Helt has approached the course greatly, using her own experiences and incorporating them into the class.”
Next year, Trinity will welcome another new professor to the program. Luis Martinez, an endocrinologist handpicked from a vast collection of applicants for the position, will begin teaching at Trinity in the fall of 2016.
Students in the neuroscience program thrive at Trinity, despite the contrast between the liberal arts and sciences. Lori Berger ’18 expresses that Neuroscience itself reflects the attitude of the liberal arts. “Every professor specializes in something different,” she said, “so being able to explore different options under one discipline is super helpful to figure out your niche.” Zach Bitan ’16 expressed a similar sentiment, noting, “the fact that the neuroscience program is so interdisciplinary is exactly what makes it so special.”
Professors of neuroscience love the program as well, and boast its applicability to life during and after college. Professor Sarah Raskin, present Chair of the program, said, “If we all used neuroscience more in our daily lives, we’d probably be better off.” She enjoys explaining to her students the scientific background behind proven study habits, the necessity of sleep, and the importance of eating “brain-healthy” foods.
Professor Raskin was also very involved in the planning of the Brain Event, which took place earlier this month. The event featured a wide variety of exciting presenters, including many well-established professors, current neuroscience students and distinguished alumni. During dinner, Joseph LeDoux presented regarding the amygdala, fear, and anxiety, and played several songs with his professorial band The Amygdaloids after the meal. The event was a grand success, and was able to welcome Trinity students from outside the program to the neuroscience community. Madison Hummer ‘18 said, “I thought the event was overall a very welcoming environment for majors and non-majors alike. Even though the program was geared towards neuroscientists, I still found the speakers to be engaging and appealing to all disciplines.”
The new building on Crescent Street is currently slated to become a space dedicated to neuroscience. Professor Bill Church said that, “It is wonderful that the program has grown to the point of getting our own labs.” He went on to say, “We’ve got a big opportunity here for neuroscience students to gain the sense of community that majors in the other sciences tend to get. I think we’ve earned that now.”

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