During my first year of college I had the opportunity to participate in an undergraduate research program. As part of that program I worked in a neuropsychology lab. The project I was assigned to studied the impact of social interaction on jet lag. The subjects—degus, sweet animals from Chile that are similar to guinea pigs or chinchillas (see pictures)—are incredibly social creatures which made them ideal candidates for the study. The researcher set up rooms with different light patterns mimicking daylight which made the degus think they were in either New York City or Paris. She then brought the New York degus into the Paris room (short “flight”) and studied the outcome.

If you’re curious…and if I remember correctly, female degus from New York adjusted to the Paris “time zone” more easily when they connected with a Parisian female degu already adjusted to the time zone.

Because of my early exposure to neuropsychology, I have always had an interest in that topic. Fortunately for me, and any Puget Sound student interested in this field, there is a new Neuroscience program on campus. If you are interested in neuroscience, check it out. You may even find yourself pursuing a neuroscience-related career.

The brain sciences (neurosciences) comprise a particularly broad area within the research and medical professions. Neuroscientists come from a variety of fields, including biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and computer science. Having undergraduate experience in multiple fields is a major asset—that’s why undergraduates from liberal arts colleges do so well!

Dr. Wes Jordan ’74 is a neuroscientist interested in how the brain stores memories. He teaches psychology at St. Mary’s College in Maryland and provided the following list of neuroscience-related careers. While many careers require advanced training (e.g., a M.D. or Ph.D.), there are also entry-level positions, especially in laboratories and research institutions.

Entry-level options
Science Writer/Journalist
: a person with a strong science background who reports on science news
Technical Writer
: an individual who writes manuals or other instructional materials for businesses in the medical or science areas
Psychological Technician
: a person who administers and scores a variety of psychological tests
Psychiatric Technician
: a person who assists with personal care and hygiene, administers medications, and monitors patient progress
Google the terms “lab technician” or “medical technician” to find other related career options.

Medical professions
Neurologist: a doctor (M.D. or osteopath) who diagnoses and treats disorders of the nervous system
Neuropathologist: a doctor (M.D., osteopath, or Ph.D. trained to identify abnormalities in diseased nervous tissue
: a person with medical training who studies brain/behavior relationships related to cognitive function (hospitals and medical clinics always have need for technicians with bachelor’s degrees to help administer tests and screen patients)
: a doctor (M.D. or osteopath) who uses imaging like X-ray, MRI, CT to diagnose diseases of the nervous system
: a doctor (M.D. or osteopath) who performs surgery on the brain and spinal cord
: a doctor (M.D. or osteopath) who diagnoses and treats disorders of mood and personality

Research professions
Behavioral Neuroscientist: a researcher who studies the relationship between brain and behavior
Computational Neuroscientist
: a researcher who uses mathematics and computers to model brain function
Laboratory Technician:  a person with an interest in the neurosciences, but not necessarily any advanced training, who works in a research laboratory or pharmaceutical company facility
Molecular Neuroscientist
: a researcher who studies brain genetics and the structure and function of neurons
:  a person who studies the structure of the nervous system
: a person who studies the actions of drugs on the nervous system and/or behavior
:  a person who measures perceptual abilities such as hearing

Teaching professions
High school science teacher or college professor

Interested in learning more about career options related to Neuroscience? Stop by CES for drop-in advising (M-F from 2:00-4:00 p.m.) or call 253.879.3161 to schedule an appointment.

Other helpful information and resources:
Career Cruising
: available to students through the CES Cascade menu item (search for “neuro”)
Society for Neuroscience
CESblogs Career Options: Science Writing
Another Day, Another Neuron

Thank you to Dr. Wes Jordan, member of the Alumni Council Career and Employment Services Committee. To learn more about Dr. Jordan, check out his profile in the Alumni Sharing Knowledge Network.

© 2011 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Sebastian Kaulitzki