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Thread: Thinking about majoring in Neuroscience

  1. #1

    Default Thinking about majoring in Neuroscience

    Not sure if this goes here, but I think it's fine. So, I've already been out of highschool for a couple years now, but I've found it extremely hard to decide on a major. I've thought about everything from culinary, to art, to makeup, to politics, to psychology. Now, the human brain has always fascinated me (as I was diagnosed with bipolar myself and the effects always intrigued me). I've always been curious of how the brain works, why some people have more tendencies to being violent, why there are serial killers, why certain things cause certain emotion/responses, etc. though, I've never been interested in therapy or psychology. I much prefer to study the brain, do research, and be the one behind the findings than the one giving prescriptions or diagnoses. I'm not sure what career I could have besides research or teaching, but I know this is something that interests me. I'm also thinking of minoring in gender studies.

  2. #2

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    Good for you. Having seen my favorite uncle be decimated by Alzheimer's at an early age, and having a sister with MS, it is great to see one more person join the fight against neurological disorders.

  3. #3

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    I worked in Biomedical research with a major part being Neuroscience.

    It is a very fascinating field. Just realize that it is a very hard road to go whether you go PhD in biochemistry or an MD route.

    Good luck.

  4. #4

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    The main thing to understand about majoring in a biological science is that nearly every interesting and/or high-paying job in the field requires more than a bachelor's degree. If you want to do research, then you're generally expected to have a PhD, since it's half a decade of actual lab work and demonstrating that you can figure your way through scientific problems. If you want to see patients, then you're looking at medical school or health professions school. If you can put together a really competitive application, you can do combined programs.

    In my senior year cell physiology class of 150ish people finishing biology degrees, the professor asked people on the first day to raise their hands if they were planning on doing medical or health professional training next. When every hand seemed to go up, she asked if there was anyone planning on doing pure biology after graduation. 0 hands in the entire auditorium went up. She then asked for hands for various professions - medical school, nursing school, physician assistant school, physical therapy, etc. and there was a broad spread, as people knew by this point roughly what they had the grades/application to get into.

    If you want to do research, that's still an option, but realize that it's a long, competitive road to get there. Get involved in undergraduate research early and often because you'll need it to apply for good graduate programs, and because you should go into it knowing that it's what you'll really love. A lot of people try bench research; some hate it, some love it.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fruitkitty View Post
    The main thing to understand about majoring in a biological science is that nearly every interesting and/or high-paying job in the field requires more than a bachelor's degree.
    This is a really good thing to keep in mind when considering any major. Besides being universally true of research-type jobs, it's also quite common for engineering jobs to require advanced degrees. Want to be an electrical or mechanical engineer with a bachelor's degree? Exceedingly unlikely.



    Quote Originally Posted by hime View Post
    I much prefer to study the brain, do research, and be the one behind the findings than the one giving prescriptions or diagnoses. I'm not sure what career I could have besides research or teaching, but I know this is something that interests me. I'm also thinking of minoring in gender studies.
    The point of these responses is not to be discouraging, but rather to suggest that this is not a decision to be approached casually, or as the result of some process of elimination. Rather than think about what you'd like to study, really try to nail down what you want to do when school is behind you. You should know that going in. And then chart a course that gets you there. And then be realistic about whether that course is doable for you. Once you get started, your goals might shift a bit, and that's fine. But without clear goals, your studies will be incoherent and inefficient, and you may find yourself quickly losing motivation as you discover that not all of your required coursework is precisely aligned with your interests.

    College is pretty damned expensive, and a good-sized chunk of your adult life, too. I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything, but then I knew what I had to major in when I was twelve years old, and I didn't change my mind. I know that not everybody is freaky like that, but you do have to approach it with some real resolve or it's just not worth it. I say that not only because it worked for me, but also because I got to watch friends and acquaintances variously drop out or leave with degrees they couldn't use. Don't be one of them.
    Last edited by Cottontail; 12-Apr-2016 at 04:00.

  6. #6

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    Thank you everyone for your advice and input. I definitely have a lot to think about at the moment and I'm trying to figure what exactly my end goal is after graduating and whether I want to go the PhD or MD route, though I'm leaning toward PhD. I have a lot of research to do on careers and what to do to work towards my career while still in school. I regret deciding my major so late in life, but plan to work extra hard to make up for the time. Any advice or help is welcome and extremely appreciated.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by hime View Post
    Thank you everyone for your advice and input. I definitely have a lot to think about at the moment and I'm trying to figure what exactly my end goal is after graduating and whether I want to go the PhD or MD route, though I'm leaning toward PhD. I have a lot of research to do on careers and what to do to work towards my career while still in school. I regret deciding my major so late in life, but plan to work extra hard to make up for the time. Any advice or help is welcome and extremely appreciated.
    You know, just to give a counter voice, there's nothing wrong with deciding later. I started college as a physics major and decided after two years that it wasn't for me and that I needed more writing so that I would do better at getting into law school, which I had decided I wanted to do. So I switched majors, ended up as a history major, and went to law school at that point. And I don't regret it at all. I'd have been miserable being a lab researcher and I love the law as well as history.

    There are two things to remember though, when you make a change.
    1. You might have to do some extra work: I took multiple summer classes 3/4 years in order to graduate in 4 years while switching my major and doing a language minor (the 4th summer was spent in a study abroad program for the minor).
    2. Don't try to pretend that everything you did before just ceased to exist. Life doesn't work that way. Your experience in one area informs what you do in others, even if you abandon it. My legal practice has benefited greatly from my scientific and technical training on many occasions and I'm confident that I wouldn't have gotten into the law school or the job I have now without that experience. Your life is a story. Make it a good one, one that inevitably leads where you want to go, not one that has a bunch of holes and blank spots in it.

  8. #8
    Misatoismywaifu

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    Do it, don't overthink this, 10 years will come and go and in 10 years you will have the suffix "Doctor" next to your name, think about that. Don't make any excuses or sabotage yourself just make it happen.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by TenaciousFortitude View Post
    Do it, don't overthink this, 10 years will come and go and in 10 years you will have the suffix "Doctor" next to your name, think about that. Don't make any excuses or sabotage yourself just make it happen.
    Honestly, this is probably the best advice I've heard (for me personally, not trying to discredit others advice as it's also very helpful), but this is extremely helpful because that is exactly what I tend to do. I always overthink to the point of stressing out and eventually backing out. I have gone through a cycle of choosing a major, overthinking and worrying, and backing out. This is the one thing I'm refusing to back out of and overthink to the point of paranoia.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by hime View Post
    Thank you everyone for your advice and input. I definitely have a lot to think about at the moment and I'm trying to figure what exactly my end goal is after graduating and whether I want to go the PhD or MD route, though I'm leaning toward PhD. I have a lot of research to do on careers and what to do to work towards my career while still in school. I regret deciding my major so late in life, but plan to work extra hard to make up for the time. Any advice or help is welcome and extremely appreciated.
    Thinking about careers can be really tough because it's hard to get an impression for what any sort of field is like until you're qualified for it. However, don't let it bother you too much. Despite what we tell ourselves, there's always going to be options for you. Getting a degree in one subject doesn't deadlock you into a job. It's quite possible to major in neuroscience, then four years later decide you want to do a PhD in an entirely different area of biology.

    On what you mentioned earlier: "I've always been curious of how the brain works, why some people have more tendencies to being violent, why there are serial killers, why certain things cause certain emotion/responses". As someone studying pharmacology, I imagine that while the core ideas of neuroscience are about the things you mentioned, behaviours, emotions, etc., you should be aware that a large amount of the stuff you'll be studying will most likely be focused of the biochemistry of the brain, mostly complicated and potentially less exciting chemical pathways. Psychology is approached in a different way, focusing on the way people think, how people deal with their emotions and how it influences their behaviour. If that's more the sort of thing you're interested in I'd reccomend giving it a little more thought.

    Though as some others have mentioned, good biology (and indeed psychology if I've heard correctly) jobs tend to require PhDs, and PhDs are known for being very tough. They take a lot of energy input, self motivation and you will have to deal with some stress. At the end of a PhD, you'll be an expert in a subject and you'll have a shiny "Doctor" by your name on your passport.

    Take what I'm saying with a pinch of sugar though. Though it's not all sunshine and buttercups, university is a great experience and a degree takes enough time that you will grow as a person by the time you're finished. Good luck making your choices, and make sure to go about whatever you do with a smile on your face!

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