Harald Sontheimer to head proposed School of Neuroscience

Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D.

Harald Sontheimer, Ph.D.

Virginia Tech’s proposed School of Neuroscience promises to be a unique program in the nation, one that will study not only disorders of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury, but also the mind itself, including decision-making, behavior, and creativity.

The proposed school, to be housed in the College of Science and headed by neuroscientist Harald Sontheimer, was approved Monday by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. It will now go to the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, which is expected to consider the school’s approval during the first quarter of 2016.

The State Council for Higher Education in Virginia approved neuroscience as an undergraduate degree program in 2014, where it was based in the college’s Academy of Integrated Science. An estimated 200 undergraduates already have declared neuroscience as their major since it became available as an option at the start of the current academic year. The goal for the fall 2016 recruiting class is 100 students.

“This is a step in Virginia Tech’s development into a 21st century land grant university," Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands said. "Every discipline grounded in human decision-making and human interaction will be transformed by our rapidly expanding understanding of how the brain works. Students across the disciplines who participate in our neuroscience curriculum will be in positions to lead in their chosen fields.”

Sontheimer said the neuroscience degree is, in many regards, the new English major – a program that will provide students with a strong foundation for a range of careers. Neuroscience majors can choose from three tracks: premedical, prescientific, and pre-professional, tailoring classes to suit their area of study.

“Neuroscience is arguably one of the most popular majors, already,” said Sontheimer. “Are you undecided? Get a neuroscience degree. You’ll become a fact-based individual who looks at data before introducing policy or curating an exhibit or treating a patient.”

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