Choosing the Courses for 20/21
Here are a few tips shared by the NSB faculty with the NSB majors who participated in the meetings held in summer 2020.
• Each of the courses required for the NSB major is offered only once in 20/21 (Laboratory in Neuroscience is the only exception). While planning your courses, you should prioritize the required courses. You have a broader selection of elective courses.
• Intense courses are… (well) very intense and demanding. Choosing too many intense courses would make your schedule unmanageable. The advice from professors who taught this type of classes in the past is to take no more than two of them per block.
• While planning your summer courses, we encourage you to consider what courses are offered at Barnard and Columbia and that summer courses may interfere with your summer research.
Questions about the NSB Major
Several courses in the Departments of Psychology and Biological Science at Columbia can be used to fulfill NSB major requirements. Review the Overlapping Course info under Curriculum & Courses on this website.
You should first select one of the NSB faculty members to be your major advisor (see the FAQ "How do I select or change a major advisor?" below), and then fill out the Major Declaration Form (also available through the Registrar's Office). You will need to indicate the name of your current advisor and have the form signed by the NSB Chair.
If you simply want experience doing research for degree credit (and not NSB major credit), then you should talk to your mentor or your major advisor and determine what the appropriate independent research course would be for your interests.
Consult the Senior Thesis page on this website. Once you have identified several possibilities, discuss them with your advisor and/or the NSB Chair. The earlier you start, the better, but no later than February of the Junior year.
Any faculty member in the NSB program can serve as your advisor. You should pick somebody whose area of interest overlaps with yours and/or somebody with whom you feel comfortable. Make sure you confirm that she/he is accepting new advisees at this time. You should realize that selecting an advisor is an important decision, but not a momentous one. You can always change your advisor, and you are welcome to consult with other faculty members.
Questions about transferring credits
It is required that you discuss your intentions to study abroad with the Barnard Global office, as well as your NSB major advisor before enrollment. You will need to plan ahead so as to make sure that you can complete your GER and major requirements in time for graduation. Generally, students study abroad during the Spring semester of their junior year.
It is strongly recommended that you obtain approval for non-Barnard courses prior to enrolling and/or completing the course. For NSB courses, you can get approval from the NSB Department Chair once you have completed the Application for Approval of Summer Session Courses (found on the Registrar's website). Note that you will need to provide the Program Director with a syllabus and class description before she/he will be able to approve the course.
You need to contact the organization that administers the AP (Advanced Placement) tests, Educational Testing Service (ETS), and ask them to send your AP scores to the Barnard Registrar's office. More info can be found here.
Questions about signing up for courses
There are several introductory courses offered by the Biology Department here at Barnard. Please visit the Department's website for course descriptions and information on signing up for lectures and labs.
All upper-level Biology labs are limited to 16 students. When you register for one of these labs, you will automatically be put on the wait-list. Seniors will be taken off the wait-list first, followed by juniors. Please note that if you receive a seat in a lab, you must attend the first lab. If you are absent from this lab meeting, you will be dropped from the course and your seat will be filled by another student.
If you do not get into your first choice lab course you may sign-up for a spot on the wait-list. L courses now have a wait-list function as explained on the Registrar website.
To enroll in a lab or statistics course in Psychology, students must enroll during the semester before the course is offered. Note that all students initially go on the wait list and are only approved to be in the course once the instructor determines the class roster. This is somewhat like a "place holder" and it is then a student's responsibility to attend the fist class meeting of both the lab and its adjoining lecture to secure her seat. Students are encouraged to take their lab courses during their early years at Barnard. If a student has any questions or problems with enrollment she should contact the Department Administrator for Psychology as soon as possible.
Though the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience course will largely stay the same, the Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience course will change significantly after this academic year (Spring 2020 will be the last time Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience is offered in its current iteration).
The most significant change will be the depth at which we cover the topics within Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience. In light of that, it will change from a 1000-level course to a 3000-level course.
Students are encouraged to plan accordingly.
This is a question we receive a lot: "I am a sophomore following the new NSB major curriculum. Are PSYC BC1101 Statistics or Columbia’s STAT UN1101 Introduction to Statistics an acceptable swap for NSB Statistics & Research Design in the new curriculum, or is this only applicable for the old curriculum?"
Answer: PSYC BC1101 Statistics or Columbia’s STAT UN1101 Introduction to Statistics or NSB Statistics & Research Design all meet the requirement. NSB Statistics & Research Design course emphasizes experimental design and places less emphasis on statistics than BC1101 or UN1101. NSB Statistics & Research Design is more relevant to thinking about how to understand brain and behavior and is the course introduced in the new NSB curriculum.
Questions about labs
Finding a lab may require some effort. Labs may not have openings; while busy in wrapping up projects, research teams may not have the resources to train a new student; and overflowed with requests, PIs may be slow to respond. In these circumstances, you might need to persevere -- and plan a bit.
• Homework. There are many neuroscience labs at Barnard, Columbia, Columbia Medical School, and the Zuckerman Institute -- and in NY at large. Read the lab profiles available online to find labs investigating themes that align with your interests.
• Take a chance. You join a lab to get experience in research and science. Any lab could do it! You may not find a lab matching perfectly to your interests. But all labs offer the exposure to research and science you look for.
• Seek help. Your advisor and NSB faculty can offer valuable suggestions. Ask their advice. Furthermore, on the NSB site you find a list of labs with openings or where NSB students worked in the past. This is a useful resource.
• Be strategic. There are a few things you may want to write in your email to the lab PI to make it more effective. Tell why you are interested in that particular lab. Describe what you know -- especially knowledge and skills you acquired in lab courses that could turn very useful in wet labs. Mention if your advisor or any NSB faculty recommended that lab. In essence, include anything that would make your request less anonymous and generic and more personal and specific. But be concise. Short emails that go straight to the point are particularly effective.
• Ask a friend. If a friend of yours works in a lab that interests you, she can introduce you to the PI – if the PI trusts her, the PI may trust her recommendation as well.
If you want to take a neuroscience course this summer, you have to contact our department representative, Prof. Kara Pham (email@example.com). Her approval is needed in order to have your course transferred.