Recognizing the urgent need to develop a better understanding of the brain, behavior, and the causes of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has launched a master of science program in neuroscience with a unique focus on artificial intelligence and computational techniques and approaches. The program will prepare neuroscientists with the broad interdisciplinary skills needed to tackle one the most important scientific challenges of our age and develop a new generation of treatments.
Offered jointly by the departments of Biology and Biotechnology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, and Social Science and Policy Studies, with contributions from faculty members in the Biomedical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences departments and the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and Data Science programs, the transdisciplinary master’s in neuroscience degree program has four primary focus areas: computational neuroscience, cellular and molecular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and psychological science.
The focus on computational neuroscience makes WPI’s program distinctive and unique among similar programs in New England. Unlike typical neuroscience degree programs, which focus on the biological and psychological aspects of brain science and behavior, WPI’s program draws on its significant academic and research strengths in computer science, data science and analytics, computational biology, and machine learning. Marrying the tools of these fields to those of the laboratory sciences will give WPI graduates unique capabilities, said Jean King, Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of neuroscience.
“With over 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, the brain is among the most complex biological system known and holds the key to who we are and how we perceive and interact with the world,” King noted. “The complexity of this system has made it difficult to develop effective treatments for neurological disorders. By design, WPI’s MS in neuroscience program exposes students to a diversity of approaches to problems in this field, which will give them the knowledge, skills, and perspective they need to expand our understanding of the brain and seek new, more effective ways to diagnose and treat its ailments and imperfections.”
WPI’s neuroscience degree program is designed for students with undergraduate degrees in biology, biochemistry, computer science, mathematics, neuroscience, psychology, or related fields and has thesis and non-thesis options. Students who choose the thesis option, particularly those considering a PhD in neuroscience or a related field, will have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research with more than 40 faculty members affiliated with the neuroscience program. They will also have opportunities to work on clinical research projects in collaboration with UMass Medical School.
“Research in neuroscience is growing rapidly, nationally and globally,” said Jagan Srinivasan, associate professor of biology and biotechnology and director of the new
Neuroscience Program. “The U.S. government is making substantial investments in neuroscience, including through the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, which has already awarded more than $1 billion to researchers to fund work on next-generation tools for studying the brain and ambitious studies to unlock its mysteries. Our new neuroscience degree program will build on WPI’s core strengths in the life sciences and computational and data sciences. We have hired three new faculty members covering different core aspects of our program. We envision that the program and the associated faculty will provide fertile ground for interdisciplinary research collaborations across campus and with institutions beyond WPI’s campus.”
Graduates of WPI’s MS program in neuroscience—with their strong foundation in computational, molecular, psychological, quantitative, and interdisciplinary approaches to neuroscience—will be prepared for careers in a broad range of fields, with options that include pursuing clinical neuroscience research, pioneering new pharmaceuticals and other therapies for neurological disorders, and teaching and conducting research in academia.