University expands neuroscience program
USC has begun searching for new neuroscience faculty to expand the program, responding to exceptionally high student interest and the increased demand for research in the field.
Under Provost Elizabeth Garrett, the university has formed a committee that will not only work to add more classes and research facilities, but will also define what to look for when choosing new faculty in the neurosciences.
âOur hope is that these transformational hires will have a kind of multiplying effect on the strengths and quality of the research and education that we have to offer here at USC,â said Pat Levitt, chair of the cell and neurobiology department.
Because neuroscience is a diverse field touching on law, psychology, chemistry, cinema and engineering, the initiative will be university-wide, Levitt said.
New classes will be added depending on the various specialties of the new faculty. Michael Quick, executive vice provost, said that the committee is looking beyond credentials and into collaborative efforts.
âOf course they will have a vigorous research agenda, have a strong history of training the next generation of scientists and be excellent teachers,â Quick wrote. âBut they will [have] that extra something that says that when they come to USC they will catalyze a lot of collaboration and activity across all our campuses.â
Students will directly benefit from such expansion, as new courses will be added to answer increased demand, Quick said.
âWe started it only a few years ago and … the major … [now has something like 400 or 500 [students],â Quick wrote.
For undergraduates, the initiative means new and more interdisciplinary courses, as well as new research laboratories in which they can perform research.
Levitt said that freshmen and sophomores will be able to immediately reap the benefits of hiring new faculty.
For graduate students, numbering a little more than 100, the presence of world-class neuroscientists and research facilities is extremely attractive, Quick wrote.
Lauren Klosinski, a graduate student in neuroscience, who graduated from USC last May with a bachelorâs degree in neuroscience, agrees that faculty who are involved in more than just neuroscience is crucial to furthering the program .
âAs an undergraduate, I felt like we needed fresh faces,â Klosinski said. âUSC neuroscience is pretty good at being comprehensive. Because itâs so interdisciplinary, you need to know a lot, but also a little [in your specific field] to be able to translate across many fields.â
In addition to new faculty, Garrett is looking specifically for growth in the area of neuroimaging, such as the use of various brain-imaging techniques to image brain structure and function, because it will provide opportunities to do experiments on humans.
âWe are going to learn a lot about the human brain in the next few years and neuroimaging will lead the way,â Quick wrote.
The committee, which has one meeting in January and two more in February, is committed to beginning the hiring process this academic year. Jump starting the process this year will have significant benefits for both current and prospective students.
âWeâre looking for world-changers,â Levitt said. âWeâre looking for faculty who are doing research and educating in a twenty-first century way.â