Follow your passion for Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and its interactions with other physiological systems in the body. At its core, neuroscience is a synergy of biological and psychological concepts based at the neuronal level. The Neuroscience major at Loras College is designed to give students a broad, interdisciplinary education of the brain and nervous system while using a systems-level approach to train students in a myriad of research and clinically relevant fields. Students are trained to examine and analyze the relationships between neurobiology and psychology at the cellular, synaptic, network, behavioral and societal levels.

Loras is the only Catholic liberal arts college in the Tri-State region that offers a major in Neuroscience. Students engage in unique experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, including exploring neuroanatomy through dissections, interactions with community-based programs and conducting modern analytical techniques. Students enhance research skills through independent projects covering such topics as concussion symptoms, the effects of stress on time perception and the impact of social instability in mice. In addition, students benefit from interactions with the wide array of experts who are invited to speak on campus.

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The Neuroscience curriculum is designed to prepare Loras students for a multitude of careers following graduation.

The Neuroscience curriculum is designed to prepare Loras students for a multitude of careers following graduation. The majority of the required coursework comes from courses in Biology and Psychology. Students interested in pursuing post-baccalaureate education (e.g. medical school, graduate school) after leaving Loras should pay particular attention to the “recommended” courses, as many of these are prerequisites for admission to these schools. Individual admissions requirements vary, so students are encouraged to investigate these and discuss them with their advisor to make sure that they are well prepared prior to graduation.

To download a copy of the Neuroscience curriculum and a sample 4-year plan, please click here. Four-year plans are intended as a guide for students to accomplish a neuroscience degree in four years; however, classes and offerings are subject to change at any time and students are encouraged to work closely with their advisor beginning the first year, in order to meet their goals.

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There are several opportunities for students to gain research experience during their time at Loras.

Students majoring in Neuroscience are required to participate in research.

Dr. Jarcho has research interests in how psychosocial stressors can influence everything from an individual’s emotional state, to their physiology, to their immune function. He is currently working with students on two main projects. The first project investigates how people respond to a simulated social rejection event. In this project we are interested in how people respond, both emotionally and physiologically, to being excluded from a group. The second project is using a mouse model to investigate how social instability influences anxiety-like behavior, stress physiology and inflammatory biology. In this project female mice experience unstable social conditions. In response to this stressor, female mice are expected to experience behavioral and physiological changes. Importantly, these changes are expected to parallel those changes that individuals suffer during chronic anxiety. By investigating the changes that occur following a stressful event, we hope to discover patterns that may be used in the prevention and treatment of patients suffering from general anxiety disorder (GAD) and other anxiety disorders.

Participation in research does not necessarily need to happen on campus, and students are encouraged to pursue opportunities elsewhere as well. The National Science Foundation offers several summer research experiences for undergraduates at various colleges and universities throughout the country. There are also research opportunities through the National Institutes of Health that offer unique research experiences to undergraduates. In addition to the opportunities at NSF and NIH, the Neuroscience faculty is working to establish and develop relationships with researchers at other colleges and universities in order to facilitate Loras students’ participation in research.

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Neuroscience majors will be offered unique experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Some of these experiences include current courses that explore neuroanatomy through dissection of sheep brain tissue, the facilitation of research skills through independent projects, interaction with community-based programs in Traumatic Brain Injury and conducting modern analytical techniques in neuroscience through laboratory exercises.

Loras College houses a rodent research colony to facilitate student research projects. The rodent research colony is designed to explore investigations of central nervous system functioning and also behavioral observation techniques. In addition to serving as a research resource, the rodent colony is also utilized as an educational resource to expose students to various testing paradigms in the classroom.

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Neuroscience is a growing and highly competitive field. Students leaving Loras College with a Neuroscience degree are well suited to join this field and add to society’s growing knowledge of the inner workings of the human body.

A Neuroscience degree from Loras College can open the door to a career in any of a number of scientific or medical professions. Example careers might include laboratory technicians, scientific educators, specialists at neurological foundations or research scientists at pharmaceutical companies. Those interested in pursuing specialized training will leave campus well prepared for graduate or medical school in several related disciplines.

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Major Requirements

Division of Teacher Education & Behavioral Sciences
Leonard Decker, Ph.D., Chair

Requirements for the major in Neuroscience (B.S.):
Summer research experience is highly recommended for Neuroscience majors. See the Center for Experiential Learning for more information on internship possibilities. The required and supporting courses for the Neuroscience major must be completed with a cumulative 2.0 GPA.

Beyond the requirements listed below, some additional recommended electives are as follows:
L.BIO-260     Human Anatomy & Physiology-AH
L.BIO-420     Vertebrate Physiology
L.CHE-233    Organic Chemistry I
L.CHE-234    Organic Chemistry II
L.CHE-335    Biochemistry
EITHER         L.CIT-110   Computing & Information Technology Basics
OR               L.CIT-111   Accelerated Computing & Information Technology Basics
L.MAT-150    Calculus of One Variable I-FM
L.PSY-221     Abnormal Psychology
L.PHY-211     Elements of Physics II

Req Course Cr’s
1   L.BIO-115: Principles of Biology I 4
2   L.BIO-116: Principles of Biology II 4
3   L.BIO-250: Genetics 4
4   L.BIO-279: Experimental Design/Biostatistics-AH* 4
5   L.CHE-111: General Chemistry I 4
6   L.CHE-112: General Chemistry II 4
7   L.MAT-117+: Pre-Calculus-FM or higher 3 to 4
8   L.NEU-145: Introductory Neuroscience 3
9   L.NEU-490: Senior Seminar I 1
10   L.NEU-491: Senior Seminar II 1
11   L.PHY-210+: Elements of Physics or above 4 to 5
12   L.PSY-101: Intro to Psychology 3
13   L.PSY-331: Physiological Psychology 3
Select up to three credits from Req 14
14   L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351: Resrch Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds 1
14   L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351: Resrch Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds 1
14   L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351: Resrch Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds 1
Select one from Req 15
15   L.NEU-281: Exploring the Brain Through TBI 3
15   L.NEU-301: Neuropsychiatric Diseases 3
15   L.NEU-311: Hormones & Behavior 3
15   L.NEU-XXX: TBA 3
Select two from Req 16
16   L.NEU-211: Techniques in Neuroendocrinology 3
16   L.NEU-281: Exploring the Brain Through TBI 3
16   L.NEU-311: Hormones & Behavior 3
16   L.NEU-XXX: TBA 3
16   L.PHI-318: Theory and Practice of Bioethics-AV 3
16   L.PHI-319: Neuroethics-AV 3
16   L.PSY-231: Sensation and Perception 3
16   L.PSY-285: Drugs and Behavior-AH 3
16   L.PSY-332: Learning and Cognition 3
16   L.PSY-333: Motivation and Emotion 3
54 to 56 total required credits

* L.PSY-211/L.PSY-212 Research Methods & Statistics I & II (8) can replace the L.BIO279: Experimental Design/Biostatistics-AH requirement.

Course Descriptions

L.NEU-145: Introductory Neuroscience
This course will introduce students to the fundamental topics and concepts that are critical to understanding the biological and psychological components of Neuroscience. Topics to be covered include the biochemistry of action potentials, the functioning of ion channels, a brief overview of systems neuroscience (vision, audition, etc.), neurotransmitters and peripheral endocrine systems, learning and memory, the effects of neurotransmitters on behavior, the biology underlying several psychiatric disorders, and basic neuroanatomy. Prerequisites: L.BIO-115 or L.PSY-101. 3 credits.

L.NEU-211: Techniques in Neuroendocrinology
This course will introduce students to techniques relevant to the field of neuroendocrinology, both in terms of the theory that describes the techniques and in terms of practicing the techniques with biological samples. Students will read and discuss primary literature sources from work with both human and non-human models. Extensive laboratory work will teach students laboratory techniques including sterile technique, radioimmunoassay, and enzyme immunoassay. Part of the term will be spent at the University of Nebraska, Omaha (UNO). 3 credits. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145. Instructor permission required. January term.

L.NEU-281: Exploring the Brain through TBI
It is difficult to fully understand how the brain functions under completely normal working conditions. One technique used to investigate brain functioning through clinical cases where there has been trauma in a specified region of the brain. Thus, in people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) neuroscientists can locate the region of trauma and any change in functioning of the individual. This course is designed to explore the brain through various historical cases and provide a deeper understanding of neuro-functioning from resulting deficits in dissociated brain regions. Clinical cases will be provided as we travel from the frontal lobe to the temporal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe and beyond. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145 or L.BIO-345. 3 credits.

L.NEU-301: Neuropsychiatric Diseases
This course will explore how translational research applies neuroscience knowledge to inform, prevent, treat, and cure brain diseases.  Some topics will include the role of the blood brain barrier in preventing disease, the role of both central and peripheral cytokines in the manifestation of psychiatric disorders, how genetic and environmental factors influence susceptibility to psychiatric conditions, and several psychiatric conditions including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s Diseases, anxious and depressive disorders, and multiple sclerosis. Prerequisites: L.NEU-145 and L.BIO-115. 3 credits.

L.NEU-311: Hormones and Behavior
This course will introduce students to several topics within the field of neuroendocrinology. Topics to be discussed will include the blood brain barrier, synthesis and release of neurotransmitters relevant to behavior, psychosomatic interactions, and the effects of various monoamine, peptide, and steroid hormones on sexual, reproductive, affiliative, aggressive, parental, and reward-seeking behaviors. In addition to readings from the text, students will read and discuss primary literature sources from work with both human and non-human models. Laboratory work will teach students several research skills and laboratory techniques including study design, behavioral observation and scoring, blood sampling, processing and storage, and data set management. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145. 3 credits.

L.NEU-390: Research Experience
This experiential class will require students to either 1) propose a novel neuroscience research study or 2) conduct neuroscience research and write up a report of their findings. Students will meet weekly with the course instructor and students may take this course up to 3 times (with 1 credit given each semester). This course will give students a clear understanding of the scientific method and skills needed to conduct research in the field of neuroscience from conception to implementation to presentation. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145. Open to declared Neuroscience majors only. Instructor permission required. 1 credit.

L.NEU-490: Senior Seminar I
This course will serve as the first semester of a capstone series for all students completing a major in Neuroscience. The course will meet once per week, and majors will enroll in the course during the fall semester of their Senior year at Loras College (exceptions (e.g. for study abroad programs, etc.) will be made at the discretion of the Neuroscience faculty). Restricted to senior Neuroscience majors only. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145. 1 credit.

L.NEU-491: Senior Seminar II
This course will serve as the second semester of a capstone series for all students completing a major in Neuroscience. The course meetings will occur once per week, and majors will enroll in the course during the spring semester of their Senior year at Loras College (exceptions (e.g. for study abroad programs, etc.) will be made at the discretion of the Neuroscience faculty). Restricted to senior Neuroscience majors only. Prerequisite: L.NEU-145. 1 credit.

RELATED COURSES:  Biology, Chemistry, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Social Work


After receiving your degree from Loras, your career could take off into one of these fields:

  • Laboratory Technician
  • Scientific Educator at Neurological Foundations
  • Research Scientists at Pharmaceutical Companies
Loras College Department Staff

Robert Dunn, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
563.588.7564 |

Dr. Dunn earned his PhD in Counseling Psychology at Iowa State University. He is interested in topics such as community mental health, psychology of men, psychotherapy. He teaches classes in Abnormal Psychology, Personality, Developmental Psychology, Introduction to Clinical Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychology of Stress and Coping, and graduate courses in counseling techniques. Professor Dunn’s favorite activity is the play-writing project in his cluster class in which students try to inhabit the personality of a fictional character by voicing the character through dialogue and stage movements.

Lisa Grinde, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
563.588.7113 |

Dr. Grinde earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her teaching and research interests are in early child development, parent-child relationships in later adulthood, and cross-cultural issues. She teaches Developmental Psychology, Cross-cultural Psychology, Research Methods and Statistics, Psychology of Stress and Coping and Adulthood and Aging. Her research involves studying the current trends of less time outdoors and more time on technology on young children’s development and adult children’s expectations and feelings of obligations regarding caring for their aging parents.

Grinde’s favorite class activity is PlayDay in Developmental Psychology. She brings in bags full of toys and students spend the class period playing…and also critically thinking about and discussing how the different toys promote physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. She always has someone who signs a finger painting and asks her to hang it in her office (next to the artwork from her children).

Mark Hopper, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
563.588.7226 |

Dr. Hopper earned his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Neuropsychology from Ball State University. His teaching interests include wellness, mindfulness, self-awareness and metacognition, and he has just begun a project on “The Monkey Mind,” i.e. discursive thinking. Dr. Hopper’s classes include Introduction to Psychology, Positive Psychology and Introduction to Clinical Psychology and Cognition, as well as graduate courses in Research and Program Evaluation and Career Counseling. He is inspired by the results of the mindfulness exercises he teaches in his Positive Psychology class, including Miksang—the art of mindful photography.

Mary Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
563.588.7228 |

Dr. Johnson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa, with a research background in gender studies and burnout among healthcare workers. She is interested in all aspects of psychology, and mental health issues in particular. Dr. Johnson is a licensed Psychologist and a Certified Mental Health Provider with over 30 years’ experience providing mental health services to a wide range of people with a unique host of needs. She considers herself a serious advocate for the rights of the mentally ill and is a member of the licensing board for psychologists in the State of Iowa. Favorite class activities include listening to the wisdom students bring to the educational experience and being endlessly impressed with their intuition and novel ideas.

Jake Kurczek
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
563.588.7045 |
Personal Webpage
| Lab Webpage

Dr. Kurczek earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Iowa. Following his graduate training, Dr. Kurczek completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital and York University in Toronto, ON, Canada. Dr. Kurczek currently teaches courses in the Neuroscience and Psychology programs including Drugs and Human Behavior (PSY 285), Exploring the brain through TBI (NEU 281) and the Psychology of Stress (PSY 131). His research investigates the interactions and interdependencies among numerous cognitive processes including language and memory within social contexts. The goals of the lab are to understand how these cognitive processes interact with one another in order to develop interventions in language to help support and improve memory and social-interaction. The research in the lab draws from multiple disciplinary and theoretical stances and utilizes converging methodologies in order to holistically probe the interactions amongst cognitive processes and should be relevant to students who are interested in psychology, neuroscience or communication sciences and disorders.

Julia Omarzu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
563.588.7524 |

Dr. Omarzu earned her Ph.D. in Personality and Social Psychology from the University of Iowa, and is interested in interdisciplinary applications of social psychology, including how it relates to the fine arts, interpersonal relationships and social stress. Her current research includes projects involving the restorative potential of visual art, personality and artistic preferences; stereotypes about artists and musicians; and the relationship between creative play and critical thinking ability. Dr. Omarzu collaborates with faculty in our art and music programs in advising students who are interested in pursuing careers in art or music therapy, and are also interested in psychology education. For several years she has helped organize the Iowa Teachers of Psychology Annual Conference and has published articles on the use of case studies as teaching tools in the psychology classroom.

Steffanie Schilder, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor of Psychology
563.588.7783 |

Dr. Schilder earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her teaching and research interests are clinical in nature.  She is interested in mental health diagnoses and cross-cultural issues. She teaches in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.  In the undergraduate program, she teaches Introductory Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Intro to Clinical Psychology, and Human Sexuality. In the graduate program, she teaches Helping Relationships, Social and Cultural Diversity, Marriage and Family, Assessment, and other clinical courses. Her research involves studying the impacts that autism has on the family, availability of services, and cross-cultural implications of diagnosis and treatment.  She enjoys working with students in learning the research process, conducting research, and presenting at professional conferences.  She has taken students to the national American Psychological Association Convention to present for several years.