The Departments of Psychology and Biology offer a course major and an honors major in Neuroscience. Each Neuroscience major will be assigned a primary advisor from whichever of the two departments best reflects the focus of that student's plan of study.

A. Entry Requirements for the Neuroscience Course Major and Honors Major  

The study of Neuroscience involves advanced coursework with the following prerequisites. For admission to the Neuroscience special major, students must

a.     complete (or otherwise satisfy) the following required courses (up to two credits of these taken at Swarthmore may be counted as Group B electives for the major), and

b.     obtain a minimum GPA of 3.0 (B) for these courses overall, as well as within all Biology courses and within all Psychology courses. 


            Biology           BIOL 001: Cellular and Molecular Biology

                                    BIOL 002: Organismal and Population Biology

            Chemistry      CHEM 010: General Chemistry

                                    CHEM 022: Organic Chemistry I

            Math/Stat        MATH 015: Elementary Single-Variable Calculus

                                    STAT 011: Statistical Methods

            Psychology    PSYC 001: Introduction to Psychology

                                    PSYC 025: Research Design and Analysis


·       The requirement for BIOL 001 and/or BIOL 002 may be satisfied by credit from the Biology AP exam (score of 5) if at least one credit in Biology has been completed at Swarthmore. 

·       The requirement for CHEM 010 will be satisfied if the student has placed out of it and completed CHEM 022.

·       The requirements for MATH 015 and STAT 011 may be satisfied by placement out of these courses, as determined by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics

·       The requirement for PSYC 001 may be satisfied with a Psychology AP exam score of 5. 

·       Provisional admission to the special major will normally be granted based on substantial progress in satisfying these entry requirements at the time of application.


B. Neuroscience Course Major Requirements

A special major at Swarthmore must include at least 10 credits and no more than 12 credits. A Neuroscience major will normally include two (2) Entry Requirement Courses (i.e., any two that have been taken at Swarthmore) and eight (8) Elective credits as specified below, including fulfilling the comprehensive requirement. Up to twelve credits may be included in the major, but only ten are required.

1. Electives

Majors will complete at least eight (8) elective credits from the following lists, to include at least one seminar.  At least five (5) elective credits must be from Group A including at least one Foundation course and at least one course from each of Psychology and Biology.  The remaining three (3) elective credits can be from either Group A, Group B, or Group C (see restrictions below). It is possible to substitute or add electives from other universities (e.g., Systems Neuroscience at UPenn), including abroad but students should seek Swarthmore faculty approval for such courses in advance.


Group A: Neuroscience Electives

PSYC 030         Behavioral Neuroscience [Foundation Course*]

BIOL 022          Neurobiology [Foundation Course*]

BIOL 020          Animal Physiology

BIOL 029          Developmental Neurobiology

BIOL 030          Animal Behavior

BIOL 121          Neural Systems and Behavior seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 123          Learning and Memory seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 124          Hormones and Behavior seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 131          Animal Communication seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 134          Evolution of Social Behavior (2 credits)

PSYC 031         Cognitive Neuroscience

PSYC 031A       Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience

PSYC 032         Perception 

PSYC 091         Advanced Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience  

PSYC 130         Behavioral Neuroscience seminar (1 credit)

PSYC 131         Seminar in Cognitive Neuroscience (1 credit seminar)

PSYC 131A       Psychology and Neuroscience: The Social Brain (1 credit seminar)

PSYC 132         Perception, Cognition, and Embodiment seminar (1 credit)

            *At least one Foundation Course must be included. Both are recommended.


Group B: Course Electives in Related/Overlapping Scientific Areas

BIOL 010             Genetics

BIOL 014             Cell Biology

BIOL 019             Omics

BIOL 024             Developmental Biology

BIOL 026             Invertebrate Biology

BIOL 027             Systems Biology

BIOL 034             Evolution 

BIOL/CPSC 068  Bioinformatics

BIOL 111             Genome Regulation by Noncoding RNA seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 112             From Cells to Organs (2 credits)

BIOL 115             Plant Molecular Genetics

BIOL 125             Cellular Basis of Embryonic Development & Cancer seminar (2 credits) 

BIOL 119             Genomics and Systems Biology seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 126             Biomechanics seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 136             Molecular Ecology and Evolution seminar (2 credits)

CHEM 038           Biological Chemistry

COGS 001           Introduction to Cognitive Science

CPSC 021            Introduction to Computer Science

MATH 056            Modeling

PSYC 028            Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination

PSYC 033            Cognitive Psychology 

PSYC 034            Psychology of Language  

PSYC 035            Social Psychology

PSYC 038            Clinical Psychology 

PSYC 039            Developmental Psychology 

PSYC 133            Metaphor and Mind seminar (1 credit)

PSYC 134            Psycholinguistics seminar (1 credit)

PSYC 138            Clinical Psychology seminar (1 credit)

PSYC 139            Developmental Psychology seminar (1 credit)


Group C: Research Electives

One unit of research (of up to 2 credits) in neuroscience from the following may be counted toward the minimum required 10 credits of the major.  Additional research units may be counted for optional credits up to 12.  Research electives are one way of fulfilling the comprehensive requirement (see below) for the Neuroscience major.

BIOL 098              Neuroscience Thesis Research

PSYC 096/097     Senior Thesis (2 credits)

PSYC 099            Senior Neuroscience Thesis

PSYC 102            Research Practicum in Perception and Cognition

PSYC 103            Research Practicum in Behavioral Neuropharmacology

PSYC 104            Research Practicum in Mind and Language

PSYC 105            Research Practicum in Psychology and Neuroscience

PSYC 110            Research Practicum in Cognitive Neuroscience


2.   Comprehensive Requirement  

The comprehensive requirement is a Neuroscience Research Thesis, a complete scientific paper based on a research project conducted in Biology or Psychology or some other area related to neuroscience. The Research Thesis may either (1) be a research paper from a Group C elective, or (2) be based on a separate research project, such as might occur during a summer (whether at Swarthmore or at another institution) or as part of a laboratory project in a Neuroscience Elective (e.g., a 2-credit Biology seminar *).

In either case, a proposal will be submitted no later than the beginning of the senior year that explains the student's plan for conducting or completing the comprehensive requirement. If option 2 is selected, the proposal must be detailed. Upon approval of an option 2 proposal, students will register for a 0.5 credit unit of Neuroscience Thesis during either (but not both) semester of the senior year.

*Students in Biology seminars often work on group projects and sometimes produce multi-authored research papers.  Such a project may serve as the basis of a Neuroscience Research Thesis, but the paper must be a unique product of the student who submits it as his/her Thesis.  

Neuroscience Research Thesis: Guidelines for content and organization.

·       The thesis should be organized in the format of a formal scientific paper, including the following sections: abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, acknowledgments, and literature cited.

·       The thesis should report new empirical data on a research project that was conducted by the student.

·       As the comprehensive exercise for an interdisciplinary special major, students should endeavor to explain their scientific question(s) and how their work is related to larger questions or themes in neuroscience in the thesis introduction and/or discussion.  

·       The length of the thesis is to be no more than 20 pages, double-spaced (exclusive of figures, tables, and references).

·       The deadline for submitting the complete draft of the thesis will be set by the faculty research mentor, and will be no later than the last day of classes of the student's final semester. 

Neuroscience Research Thesis: Evaluation.

·       A 0.5-credit or 1-credit thesis will be evaluated by the student's Swarthmore faculty thesis mentor.

·        A 2-credit thesis will be evaluated by two faculty members, typically one from Biology and one from Psychology.  One of these will normally be the faculty thesis mentor, and the second will be determined by the student in consultation with the thesis mentor.

·       For a 2-credit thesis, it is the responsibility of the student to invite two faculty members to serve as thesis examiners, and to negotiate with them to set a time and place for the oral exam, normally to be held during the week after the last day of classes.  


C. Sample Neuroscience Course Majors

The Neuroscience Major is demanding, but can be very flexible. It is important to receive advising from a faculty member in planning your program. Here we show several very different versions of what the major might look like within the rules above. These are intended to be illustrative, rather than representative, and they should not take the place of advising.  

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS (including 2 credits toward major)

AP in BIOL 001 plus BIOL 002 (1 credit counted toward major credits)

AP in PSYC (no credit) plus PSYC 025 (1 credit counted toward major credits)

AP in Calculus,

STAT 011, CHEM 010, CHEM 022



·        "Minimalist" Neuroscience Major (fewest credits, minimum in Group A).  This example is not a recommended path, but is shown only to clarify what is possible.  A total of 8 Elective credits = 5 credits from Group A (including 1 Foundation) + 3 credits from Groups B/C:

PSYC 030 (Group A, Foundation)

BIOL 030  (Group A elective)

PSYC 031 (Group A elective)

PSYC 032 (Group A elective)

PSYC 130 (Group A seminar)

BIOL 014 (Group B elective)

COGS 001 (Group B elective)

PSYC 105 (Research Elective/Comprehensive)


·       "Core Emphasis" Neuroscience Major - A total of 9-10 Elective credits =

8 credits from Group A (including 2 Foundation courses) + 1 or 2 Research credits:

BIOL 022 (Group A, Foundation)

PSYC 030 (Group A, Foundation)

PSYC 130 (Group A, seminar)

BIOL 123 (2-credit Group A seminar)

PSYC 031/131A (2-credit Group A electives)

PSYC 032 (Group A elective)

PSYC 105 or PSYC 096/097 (1- or 2-credit Research Elective/Comprehensive)


·       "Cognitive Neuroscience Emphasis" Neuroscience Major - A total of 8 Elective credits = 7 credits from Group A (including 1-2 Foundation courses) + 1 Research credit:

PSYC 030/130 (Group A Foundation + Group A elective)

BIOL 022 or BIOL 030 (Group A elective)

PSYC 031A/131A (2-credit Group A electives)

PSYC 032/132 or PSYC 091 (Group A elective)

PSYC 102, 104 or 105 (1-credit Research Elective/Comprehensive)


·       "Biology Emphasis" Neuroscience Major  - a total of 9 Elective credits =  7 credits from Group A (including 1-2 Foundation courses) + 1 credit from Group B + 1 Research credit:

BIOL 022 (Group A Foundation)

PSYC 030, 031, or 032 (Group A)

BIOL 030 (Group A)

BIOL 123 (2-credit Group A elective)

BIOL 131 (2-credit Group A elective)

BIOL 010 (Group B)

BIOL 098 (1-credit Research Elective/Comprehensive)


D. Honors Neuroscience Major Requirements

Requirements for admission to the Neuroscience Honors major are the same as those for admission to the Course major (see section A above).   

The Neuroscience Honors major comprises two (2) Entry Requirement courses, at least one (1) of the two Foundation Courses, three (3) Honors Seminar preparations, and an Honors Research Thesis.


1.  Neuroscience Foundation Courses:  Majors will complete at least one of:

PSYC 030            Behavioral Neuroscience

BIOL 022              Neurobiology


2.  Honors Seminar Preparations

Majors will complete three (3) seminar preparations from the following groups, with at least two from Group A and no more than two in one department.

Group A: Neuroscience Honors Preparations (Seminars)

BIOL 121              Neural Systems and Behavior seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 123              Learning and Memory seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 124              Hormones and Behavior seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 131              Animal Communication seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 134              Evolution of Social Behavior (2 credits)

PSYC 030/130    Behavioral Neuroscience course and seminar (1 credit each)

PSYC 031/131    Cognitive Neuroscience course and seminar (1 cr each)

PSYC 131A +1    Social Brain seminar (plus a pre-req; 1 credit each)

                                    Pre-req:  Either PSYC 031 or PSYC 031A          

PSYC 132 +1         Perception and Embodiment seminar (plus a pre-req; 1 credit each)

                                     Pre-req:  Either PSYC 032, PSYC 033, or COGS 001

Group B: Honors Preparations (Seminars) in Related Scientific Areas 

BIOL 110              Human Genetics seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 111              Genome Regulation by Noncoding RNA seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 119              Genomics and Systems Biology seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 125              Cellular Basis of Embryonic Development & Cancer seminar (2 credits)

BIOL 136              Molecular Ecology and Evolution seminar (2 credits)

PSYC 133 +1      Metaphor and Mind seminar (plus a pre-req; 1 credit each)

                                    Pre-req:  Either PSYC 033, PSYC 034, or COGS 001

PSYC 134 +1       Psycholinguistics course and seminar (1 credit each)

                                     Pre-req:  Either PSYC 033, PSYC 034, or COGS 001

PSYC 038/138    Clinical Psychology course and seminar (1 credit each)

PSYC 039/139    Developmental Psychology course and seminar (1 credit each)


3. Honors Research Thesis (2 credits)

The Honors Thesis preparation (normally PSYC 180 or BIOL 180) will consist of a substantial research project that, according to the practices of the host department, may be completed in two semesters of research OR in one summer plus one semester of research (please consult with your Swarthmore thesis advisor). The project will be taken for one or two credits and will be graded by an External Examiner. The primary mentor for the thesis need not be a Swarthmore faculty member, but each Honors student is required to have a faculty mentor at the College to oversee the project and advise in final preparation of the thesis. The Honors thesis normally has a page limit of 20 pages, not counting references, figures, figure legends or tables.