Molly Larson ’16 has been interested in the brain since she was in middle school. Now she’ll be one of Concordia’s first students to graduate with a major in neuroscience.
The college recently approved a neuroscience major, building on a program that has been offered as a minor since 2007.
Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that draws on insight from the fields of biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and more.
“Studying the nervous system is one of the final frontiers of science in that there are still so many unanswered, intriguing and important questions,” says Dr. Krys Strand, director of the program. “As a major, it’s a good fit for Concordia since a liberal arts education teaches students to see connections and ask questions from multiple perspectives.”
While research and mainstream interest in neuroscience has grown at a rapid rate, there are relatively few undergraduate neuroscience programs, especially among smaller four-year colleges.
As a major, it’s a good fit for Concordia since a liberal arts education teaches students to see connections and ask questions from multiple perspectives. – Dr. Krys Strand
Concordia’s program stands out from others because it emphasizes the physical sciences and features several neuroscience-specific courses.
“We try to make transdisciplinary connections for students,” Strand says.
The major pairs well with interests in biology, psychology and chemistry. But it also provides a solid background for interests as diverse as business and the arts. For example, more research is being done on how and why people make decisions and how creativity can be enhanced.
Larson decided to attend Concordia largely because of its neuroscience program. In high school, she suffered a concussion and missed the final two months of her junior year. That experience boosted what was already an interest.
At Concordia, she quickly became involved in the neuroscience student organization and is now the organization’s president. She’s part of the neuroscience honor society and has conducted lupus research with Strand and Dr. Susan Larson, psychology.
Molly Larson, who is also majoring in biology, has presented her research on campus and at regional and national conferences. In October, she presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago.
Larson’s summers have been spent conducting research off campus. In 2014, she joined a pathology/immunology lab at the University of Iowa where she researched multiple sclerosis and human T-cells. This past summer, she worked in a brain and spinal cord repair lab at The Ohio State University.
“I was well-prepared for all of these experiences,” Larson says. “Concordia has given me a good foundation in both the molecular-cellular and behavioral sides of neuroscience.”
After graduation this spring, Larson will spend a year working in a research lab before applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs. She eventually wants to work on treating and preventing brain injuries from concussions.
Erin Hemme Froslie '96 is a freelance writer and editor.