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Summer semester in full swing

Summer semester started on Monday May 15th but there’s still time to enroll in physiology and neuroscience courses if you’re still on the fence about it.

“Summer classes allow students to take less credits during the fall and spring and can make the workloads more manageable and spread out,” said Academic Advisor Ashley Maloff. “They can also allow the opportunity for students to fit in a specialization or minor.”

Or learn something new.

This summer, students can enroll in two new neuroscience courses that will expand on concepts learned in both introductory neuroscience courses NEU 301 and NEU 302.

“These courses will deepen students’ neuroscience knowledge,” said Academic Advisor Becky La. “These courses can also help contribute to students’ science GPAs that can help them become more competitive applicants for various graduate and health professional programs.”

Neuroscience 401: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience will be taught online synchronously by assistant professor Cameron Prigge. The course will run for only 12-weeks as opposed to the full standard 14-weeks summer semester.

“NEU 401 is designed as an in-depth examination of the molecular and cellular processes that underlie nervous system development, function, and disease,” said Prigge who joined MSU Department of Physiology at the start of this academic school year. “In this class we place a special emphasis on development, synaptogenesis, neurogenetics, and the etiology of neurological diseases. I want to get students to look at these topics through a molecular and cellular lens.”

Headshot of assistant professors Cameron Prigge (left) and Charlotte Vanacker.
Department of Physiology assistant professors Cameron Prigge (left) and Charlotte Vanacker are teaching two new neuroscience courses this summer. NEU 401 and NEU 402 will further expand on concepts learned in previous neuroscience courses. Credit: Adam Neff

The other new course is Neuroscience 402: Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience which will be taught by Assistant Professor Charlotte Vanacker. The course will be taught online synchronously and run the entire summer semester.

“The course is divided into three parts which are the emergence of behaviors, motivated behaviors, and emotions and cognition,” said Vanacker who also joined the Department of Physiology last August. “They are topics that I consider to be important for neuroscience majors. I also think it is important to cover them with a biological perspective, which was not the case before in our neuroscience program because these topics were part of psychology courses.”

Prigge says she’s optimistic about her course and have plans on how to evolve the learning materials moving forward.

“I expect that this course will evolve each semester to keep up with ongoing advancements in neuroscience,” Prigge said. “While the core material will stay the same, I am excited to teach students about ‘hot’ topics and the latest technology being used to understand the brain and treat neurological disorders. In the long-term, I hope to develop a laboratory component so that students can get hands-on experience in some of the topics we cover in class.”

As for Vanacker, she’s hoping the learning experience will work as a two-way street.

“My main goal is to develop curiosity and critical thinking in my students with some level of challenge,” she said. “I want to create an environment where everybody can feel free to ask questions and feel listened and supported. In the long term, I would love to develop assignments that are project-based, driven by the students themselves. I want to learn more things I don’t know and learn it from my students.”

The neuroscience laboratory course NEU 311L will be taught by Assistant Professor Byron Gipson. Two sections are available and will meet in-person. Gipson recommends that students do the pre-lab assignments that prepares them for each lab if they want to do well in the course.

“It makes lab so much simpler when you prepare for it,” said Gipson who joined the department last August, too. “Also, make sure to understand the concepts and techniques we use in each lab.”

Other courses offered by the Department of Physiology this summer includes NEU 300: Neurobiology taught by Casey Henley, NEU 301: Intro to Neuroscience I and NEU 302: Intro to Neuroscience II which are both taught by Valerie Hedges, PSL 310: Physiology for Pre-Health Professionals taught by Marty Spranger, and PSL 20: Introductory Physiology and two sections of PSL 311L: Physiology Laboratory for Pre-Health Professionals which are both taught by John Zubek.

To do well in both courses taught by Hedges, she warns students to keep pace with the course materials.

“Each of my courses this summer are being condensed so that they can be completed in a shorter period of time,” Hedges said. “It will be very important to keep up with the weekly due dates so that you don’t fall behind.”

Zubek recommends surrounding yourself with others that have a similar mindset to your own.

“Success in this class requires a willingness to engage with fellow students towards a common goal,” he said. “Take an ‘other’s centered’ approach to learning, and practice communicating complex physiology concepts in a variety of modes.”

Both Henley and Spranger have a list of advice and recommendations on how to succeed in the courses they teach.

“My main suggestion would be to stay up on the assignments,” said Henley whose recommended advice can be found here. “[Students should] try to do their best on the first attempt at the exam to minimize how much work they need to do on revisions.”

For Spranger, whose list of advice can be found here, he says that students need to be proactive and be engaged with classroom discussions and assignments.

“Understand that endlessly cramming and trying to memorize PowerPoint lecture slides will not yield higher than a 2.0 in this course,” said Spranger adding that approximately 25 percent of PSL 310 students earn a 4.0. “Physiology is about function, and therefore you need to understand, rather than memorize the concepts and processes of the human body.”

The last day to open add is Wednesday May 17th. The first summer session will run until June 29, 2023.