Skip to main content
Northwestern University
Decorative image.left

New Neuroscience Major Debuts

Northwestern students who seek to understand the inner workings of the brain now have a dedicated path to do so: the College’s new major in neuroscience.

“Thanks to recent advances in molecular genetics and imaging technology, we have the real potential to solve problems that seemed unsolvable just a decade ago,” said Professor of Neurobiology Catherine Woolleywho led the committee that developed the major. Those ailments include diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as well as disorders like anxiety and addiction. “Students are eager to be a part of the solutions,” Woolley said. 

“Plus, understanding the brain is central to understanding what makes us who we are, and that’s very appealing to students.”

The new major will add four new courses to the College’s already broad scope of brain-related offerings. In addition, students can choose among existing classes in five allied fields: biology; chemistry; computation and systems modeling; human behavior and cognition; and language and human communication. 

“In this way, the wide range of students interested in the brain, from those oriented toward math and physics to those oriented toward psychology or linguistics, will have a path to pursue their interest in neuroscience within a single major,” Woolley said, adding that more brain-related courses will be introduced in the future. 

Dozens of students have already attended information sessions for the new major and have met with faculty to learn more about the offerings. “There is definitely energetic interest,” said Woolley.

The interdisciplinary major will prepare students to tackle advanced study and professional work in a wide range of careers, including scientific research, medicine, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and patent law. 

“Even companies like Google are hiring neuroscientists, because there’s a lot of demand for understanding the mechanisms that drive human behavior,” Woolley said.  

Degrees of Change

Since 2000, the College has introduced the following new majors: 


Gender Studies (replaced the
Women’s Studies major)

Asian Language and Civilization *


Legal Studies


Asian and Middle East Studies *

Asian and Middle East Language
and Civilization *


Materials Science


African Studies

Latina and Latino Studies

Jewish Studies


Asian Studies *

Middle East Studies *

Asian Language and Civilization *

Middle East Language and Civilization *


Gender and Sexuality Studies

and expanded the
Gender Studies major)


Middle East and North African Studies *


Asian Languages and Cultures *



* The College’s Asian and Middle East majors have been evolving. In 2000, the longstanding Asian Studies major was replaced by a major in Asian Language and Civilization and an adjunct major in Asian Studies (which required the completion of an additional major). In 2003, these became the majors in Asian and Middle East Language and Civilization, and Asian and Middle East Studies. In 2010, each of these was split into an Asia-focused major and a major focused on the Middle East.  In 2013, the two adjunct majors were eliminated. One remaining major was renamed Asian Studies, and the other was replaced by Middle East and North African Studies. Then in 2014, a major in Asian Languages and Cultures debuted as a new option for students.

Back to top