The University of Georgia may soon offer a major in neuroscience, a degree program that would be welcomed by the hundreds of students who are double majoring in biology and psychology to achieve the same end.
Mark Farmer, chair of the Division of Biological Sciences, said he recognized the interest students have in this field about three years ago.
“The two largest majors at the University of Georgia are biology and psychology,” Farmer said. “When I talked with most of these students who were doing the double major in both disciplines, they said the reason they were doing so is because they have an interest in neuroscience.”
There are approximately 3,000 biology majors and 2,000 psychology majors at UGA, and the new neuroscience major would have an estimated 300 students, Farmer said.
The problem, he said, is while the subject matter between the two disciplines overlaps, the course work does not, and many students have to stay in school longer than four years to complete both degrees.
“What we were finding is that for many of the students who were trying to double major in both biology and psychology at UGA, it was hard to do so,” Farmer said. “It in many cases took more than the normal four years, simply because of the specific core requirements in both disciplines.”
It was for this reason Farmer, with the help of Keith Campbell, the head of the psychology department, began investigating the possibility of creating a degree program in neuroscience.
Farmer thought this could be done with a minimal amount of resources from UGA, which he said is always a concern when starting a new program.
“I felt that the University of Georgia, by marshaling the resources both in the psychology department and in the biological sciences, did in fact have the necessary faculty to teach a quality program, we had the necessary staff support to offer advising and other services for students and I quite honestly felt that creating a new major would be relatively straight-forward,” Farmer said.
He said the student interest was already in place.
“With  or 300 students who would then move from either biology or psychology into this new major, it would instantly be one of the largest majors at the University of Georgia,” Farmer said.
At the time Farmer was considering making this proposal three years ago, however, he said the University System of Georgia Board of Regents were pushing for consolidation in UGA programs, rather than expansions.
So instead, a neuroscience concentration within the biology major and subsequently within the psychology major was created. It offered restricted courses, compared to the broad amount of courses offered for a typical biology major.
Student members of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Organization, UNO, and the Nu Rho Psi Organizing Committee have recently started circulating a petition to show student support for the development of a neuroscience degree program at UGA.
Only two neuroscience degree programs exist in Georgia, at Emory University and Georgia State College.
Brittany Truitt, president of UNO, said a similar petition helped bring about the neuroscience concentration before.
“Students did [a petition] a couple a years ago as well, and they were able to get the concentration put in place, which is what we have now,” said the senior psychology and biology major from Griffin. “This past year, a few students started the petition again and it’s currently being circulated.”
Last time she checked, Truitt said the petition had 175 to 200 signatures.
“Dr. Farmer thinks it’s just a really good thing to show that the students are interested in the major in order for it to actually get somewhere,” Truitt said.
Farmer said the proposal is in the process of being reformulated, and he said if all goes well it could be offered to incoming freshman next fall.
“The process is a fairly long one,” Farmer said. “It first has to receive the approval of the Franklin College Curriculum Committee, then that has to be forward to the University Curriculum Committee, and then with their approval has to be forwarded to the Board of Regents.”
A previous version of this article said the petition was started by UNO. However, the petition was started by the Nu Rho Psi Organizing Committee who later joined UNO to promote the survey's popularity on campus. The Red & Black regrets the error.