Coming Home

Directorship of the Neuroscience program returns to the College of Life Sciences at BYU.

Bottom row (l-r) Joel Green, Melanie Gardner, Chris Doxey, Nozomi Ogawa, TA (standing) Top row (l-r) Malia Anderson, Todd Haskin
For the Neuroscience program at BYU, home is where you hang your hat. The program’s directorship recently returned to the College of Life Sciences from Family, Home and Social Sciences. Established in 1999 under the former College of Biology and Agriculture, the Neuroscience Center provides an excellent interdisciplinary environment for students and faculty to study the workings of the human nervous system. These days, the program has more than one “home.” It is administered equally through the College of Life Sciences and the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences, rotating the center’s directorship every five years. It includes 21 BYU faculty members from departments across campus, including Physiology and Developmental Biology, Psychology, the School of Family Life, and Communications Disorders. Offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, the Neuroscience program has grown from 55 undergraduate majors in 1999 to the present-day number of 350.

Newly named Neuroscience Program Director, Dr. Michael D. Brown
Dr. Michael D. Brown, Professor of Physiology and Developmental Biology and Neuroscience, was named as the new director. Brown replaces Dawson Hedges, Psychology Department, who served as director since August 2006. Scott C. Steffensen, Psychology Department, replaces Dixon J. Woodbury, Physiology and Developmental Biology, as associate director.

As an undergraduate student at BYU, Brown took an anatomy course and fell in love with the subject. Especially intrigued by how the brain controls the rest of the body, Brown applied to neuroscience-based graduate programs. He entered Colorado State University where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in anatomy and neurobiology.

According to Dr. Brown, this sharing of program administration “ensures a well-balanced curriculum for students and encourages crossdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and students.” An interdisciplinary approach is especially exciting for students. As neuroscience majors, students look at nervous system functions from many interesting angles: chemistry, physics, molecular biology, cellular biology, anatomy, development, psychology, perception, behavior, and cognition.
“It is our intention to build a curriculum on par with the best neuroscience programs in the country.”

The Neuroscience program at BYU provides excellent training in the classroom and experience in the research lab. Students are mentored one-on-one in their projects by neuroscience professors. Many also participate in off-campus internships. Students share their findings at local, national, and international scientific meetings and publish their results in reputable scientific journals. These experiences open a wide variety of doors for students as they prepare for their future.

As with many good things, the program still has room for growth. Brown has aspirations for the program. “Improving the curriculum and providing opportunities for quality-mentored experiences for students is always a top priority. The center has a strong physiology and psychology representation among faculty members,” Brown explained. The new directorship would like to see more faculty participating in the program from across campus. Brown continued, “We hope to reach out more to faculty members in related disciplines across campus. It is our intention to build a curriculum on par with the best neuroscience programs in the country. Students in BYU’s neuroscience major tend to be noticed on applications for graduate school and professional schools.”

For BYU neuroscience majors, having more than one place to call “home” definitely has advantages.


by Lonnie Riggs