Think lobally, act locally: Save neuroscience at Mac

By Tony Carr

Yes, there is a Cognitive and Neuroscience Studies major at Macalester. No, there is not a Cognitive and Neuroscience Studies department at Macalester. Yes, there should be.Next Wednesday, there will be a general faculty vote on the proposal to create a new department: the Mind and Brain Studies department. This department would include the CNS major and a Neurobiology major, based on the current Neurobiology concentration within Biology. If the proposal passes, it would require a new tenure-track position. If it does not pass, the CNS program and the CNS major will be thrown back into the abyss from whence they came.

The situation, as we know it, began three years ago. In order to ensure adequate resources, the Educational Policy and Governance (EPAG) Committee issued a mandate that required every major to have its own department. At the same time, the CNS major was created as an interdepartmental major, with the agreement that it would become a full-fledged department in three years or it would be dismantled. Since then, the CNS major has existed between and beyond disciplines, with required courses in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, and Mathematics and Computer Science.

In its brief lifetime, the Macalester CNS program has served as a model for many other undergraduate neuroscience programs. This summer, Eric Wiertelak, CNS program coordinator and past president of Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), will be teaching a workshop on how to build similar programs to faculty representatives from schools across the nation.

Many of my fellow majors chose Macalester primarily for the neuroscience program. For these few freaks who love the brain as much as you love whatever you do, Macalester is a special place.

To my professors: The brain makes your study possible… please make the study of the brain possible.

Tony Carr ’08 can be reached at

[email protected]