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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Student Learning Outcomes
Student Learning Outcomes – Neuroscience 
1. Students will be able to identify core concepts of neuroscience.
2. Students will be able to synthesize information to formulate hypotheses, design experiments and engage in scientific research.
3. Students will be able to communicate neuroscientific information in a clear, reasoned manner, both verbally and in writing.
Major Requirements

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

The neuroscience major as an inherently interdisciplinary program has a built-in flexibility which allows students to double major and connect neuroscience with their interests in other areas. Popular choices for double major include psychology, biology and biochemistry. Career plans for neuroscience majors may include graduate school, business and industry, allied health fields (including medical school, nursing school, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology and physician’s assistant) or professional settings in the medical, research or academic fields.

The minor in neuroscience serves students in various majors who may have an interest in head injury, brain trauma, mental health counseling, and/or the brain basis of learning and/or development.

Requirements for the major in Neuroscience (B.S.): The required and supporting courses for the neuroscience major must be completed with a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Summer research experience is highly recommended for neuroscience majors. See the Center for Experiential Learning for more information on internship possibilities. Students interested in graduate school should seek at least one year of experience in research before applying to graduate school. Beyond the minimum requirements listed below and in addition to further study in possible neuroscience electives, some additional recommended electives are as follows:

  • MAT-150-Calculus of One Variable I-FM
  • EITHER CIT-110 Computing & Information Technology Basics OR L.CIT-115 Introduction to Programming
  • PSY-221-Abnormal Psychology
  • PHY-210-Elements of Physics
  • PHY-211-Elements of Physics II
Req Course Cr’s
1 L.BIO-115: Principles of Biology I 4
2 L.BIO-279: Experimental Design/Biostatistics-AH * 4
3 L.CHE-111: General Chemistry I 4
4 L.MAT-117+: Pre-Calculus-FM or higher 4
5 L.NEU-145: Introductory Neuroscience 3
6 L.NEU-490: Neuroscience Junior Seminar^ 1
7 L.NEU-491: Neuroscience Senior Seminar^ 1
8 L.PSY-101: Intro to Psychology 3
9 L.PSY-331: Physiological Psychology 3
Select up to three credits from Req 10
10 L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351/L.CHE-200/L.BIO-300: Research Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds / Research 1
10 L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351/L.CHE-200/L.BIO-300: Research Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds / Research 1
10 L.NEU-390/L.PSY-351/L.CHE-200/L.BIO-300: Research Experience / Adv Resrch Mthds / Research 1
Select two from Req 11
11 L.BIO-225: Human Anatomy & Physiology 3
11 L.BIO-250: Genetics 4
11 L.BIO-345: Neurobiology 3
11 L.BIO-410: Cell & Molecular Biology 4
11 L.BIO-420: Vertebrate Physiology 4
11 L.CHE-335: Introductory Biochemistry 3
11 L.PHI-318: Theory and Practice of Bioethics-AV (offered at J Term) 3
11 L.PSY-231: Sensation & Perception 3
11 L.PSY-332: Learning and Cognition 3
11 L.PSY-333: Motivation and Emotion 3
Select two from Req 12
12 L.NEU-211: Techniques in Neuroscience 3
12 L.NEU-281: Exploring the Brain through Traumatic Brain Injury 3
12 L.NEU-291: Functional Neuroanatomy 3
12 L.NEU-295: Special Topics 3
12 L.NEU-301: Neurobiology of Disease 3
12 L.NEU-311: Hormones & Behavior 3
40-51 total required credits

* L.PSY-211/L.PSY-212 Research Methods & Statistics I & II (8) can replace the L.BIO-279:Experimental Design/Biostatistics-AH

Double majors may complete their seminar requirement in their non-neuroscience major

Requirements for the minor in Neuroscience:

Req Course Cr’s
1 L.BIO-115: Principles of Biology I 4
2 L.BIO-279: Experimental Design/Biostatistics-AH * 4
3 L.NEU-145: Introductory Neuroscience 3
4 L.PSY-101: Intro to Psychology 3
Select one from Req 51
5 L.BIO-225: Human Anatomy & Physiology 4
5 L.BIO-250: Genetics 4
5 L.BIO-345: Neurobiology 3
5 L.BIO-348: Immunology 4
5 L.BIO-410: Cell & Molecular Biology 3
5 L.BIO-420: Vertebrate Physiology 4
5 L.CHE-335: Introductory Biochemistry 4
5 L.NEU-211: Techniques in Neuroscience 3
5 L.NEU-281: Exploring the brain through TBI 3
5 L.NEU-295: Special Topics 3
Select one from Req 62
6 L.NEU-291: Functional Neuroanatomy 3
6 L.NEU-301: Neurobiology of Disease 3
6 L.NEU-311: Hormones & Behavior 3
6 L.PSY-231: Sensation & Perception 3
6 L.PSY-332: Learning & Cognition 3
6 L.PSY-331: Physiological Psychology 3
6 L.PSY-333: Motivation & Emotion 3
20-22 total required credits

1Psychology Majors must complete both electives from Req 5

2Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biological Research Majors must complete both electives from Req 6

*At least 6 credits in Minor must be NEU (e.g., NEU 145 and at least one NEU elective)

*BIO-279 can be substituted with PSY 211/212 or KIN 250

Note: NEU courses can be counted for either Req 5 or Req 6

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-1 15 or L.PSY-101. 3 credits.

L.NEU-211: Techniques in Neuroscience

This course will introduce students to techniques relevant to the field of neuroscience, 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 that may include sterile technique, radioimmunoassay, and enzyme immunoassay. Part of the term may be spent at a University. 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-291: Functional Neuroanatomy

We will study the topography, functional distribution of nerve cell bodies, and ascending and descending tracts in the spinal cord. Brainstem organization and functional components will be covered, to include cranial nerve nuclei, ascending/descending pathways, structure and information flow in the cerebellar and vestibular systems. Once we have identified all of the functional units of the nervous system, we will continue with how these various pieces and parts work together: motor and sensory systems, cortical versus cerebellar systems, and their functional integration. Prerequisites: L.NEU-145 or L.BIO-115. Restriction: Not open to first year students. 3 credits. Spring semester every two years.

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.NEU­145. 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 (three) 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: Junior 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 Junior year at Loras College (exceptions (e.g. for study abroad programs, etc.) will be made at the discretion of the Neuroscience faculty). Restricted to 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
Questions? Contact Us!

Sarah Cassella
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
563-588-7184 |

Dr. Cassella earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati. Following her graduate training, Dr. Cassella completed a teaching post-doctoral fellowship at Susquehanna University where she was able to develop her teaching and pursue research interests through collaborations at SU and Bucknell University. Dr. Cassella currently teaches courses in the Neuroscience and Psychology programs including Drugs and Human Behavior (PSY 285), Neuropsychiatric Disease (NEU 301) and the Neurobiology (BIO 345). Dr. Cassella has two main research interests: 1) investigating the role of prenatal stress on microglial dysfunction and psychiatric disease and 2) the role of opioid receptors in regulating brain inflammation. The research in the lab draws from multiple STEM disciplines and utilizes a variety of cellular/molecular and behavioral methodologies in order fully understand interactions amongst stress, inflammation, and psychiatric disease. These questions and the skills used to explore them should be relevant to students who are interested in psychology, neuroscience, and biology and their roles in psychiatric disease.

Jake Kurczek, Ph.D.
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, Kurczek completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital and York University in Toronto, ON, Canada.

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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; this should be relevant to students who are interested in psychology, neuroscience or communication sciences and disorders.