NSF Grant Supports Development of
Neuroscience Laboratory Course
HOLLAND -- A growing program at Hope College finds
its focus in the blurring boundaries of science.
The college is developing a concentration in
neuroscience, which blends traditionally-independent
disciplines including biology, chemistry and psychology in
studying the brain. A new grant from the National Science
Foundation (NSF) is helping Hope create a laboratory course
to complement a lecture section established in the spring of
Where things go from there has yet to be
determined, but according to Dr. Leah Chase of the Hope
faculty the initial course has been well received.
"There's definitely interest among the student
population in having such a program," said Chase, who holds
a joint appointment as an assistant professor of biology and
chemistry and was brought to Hope in 2000 to initiate the
program. "We've maxed out the enrollment both times."
Such interdisciplinary approaches are not new,
either nationally or at Hope. The college has offered a
major in biochemistry, the blending of biology and
chemistry, since 1989. Members of the chemistry and physics
faculties regularly collaborate on research projects. The
departments of biology and mathematics are currently
developing a new course jointly. The college's new science
center, currently under construction, has been designed to
encourage faculty from different departments to work
Chase noted that while the field of neuroscience
has been around for decades, the greatest growth in the
discipline--a result of rising interest in and federal
funding for brain research--took place during the 1990s, a
period that she said has been termed "the decade of the
In keeping with neuroscience's multidisciplinary
focus, the lecture course at Hope has examined a variety of
topics, ranging from neurotransmitters; to how a group of
neurons work together for a response, such as the "knee-jerk
reaction"; to memory and learning; to diseases such as
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
The new laboratory course will adapt previously
published exercises in two general areas: neurophysiology,
and learning and memory. Significantly, according to Chase,
Hope's approach will require students to move beyond the
exercises to applying the lessons in research projects of
"The emphasis in the Natural Science Division at
Hope is that science is best learned by doing," she said.
"We want them to be active participants, learn the
scientific method and become better scientists because of
The $27,760 grant from the NSF, matched by the
college, is providing support for the next two years, and is
funding both development of the laboratory course and the
acquisition of equipment. Hope will pilot the laboratory in
the spring of 2003, as a complement to the lecture course.
Chase is the principal investigator of the grant.
Dr. Christopher Barney, who is the T. Elliott Weier
Professor of Biology at Hope, is serving as co-principal