Neuroscientists study how the brain and nervous system work. If you’re interested in why people or animals do what they do, how they do it, and what happens when those processes go awry, neuroscience may be the field for you.

Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary major that exposes students to the intersection of biology and psychology and then encourages them to make links to other areas of interest. Because neuroscience is a broad field, students majoring in it at Wartburg have the opportunity to focus on their own areas of interest through advanced research courses and diverse electives.

Neuroscience majors can pursue careers in neuroscience research, medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychiatry, pharmacology, cognitive psychology, robotics, science writing, and many, many more fields.

Beginning in the summer of 2022, students in pre-health programs who are double majoring in Spanish will have the opportunity to participate in a unique Spanish for Health Professions program at the University of Oviedo, Spain, which includes an advanced Spanish for Health Professionals course and a one-week clinical field experience in Oviedo at the end of the course. 

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Upon graduation, you will be well-positioned to choose between going on to earn a graduate degree and finding a career in the field. Here are just a few of the opportunities those with a neuroscience degree can pursue. 


Neurologist, neurosurgeon, and
     other doctors
Psychiatrist or counselor
Physical therapist
Occupational therapist
Speech therapist
Physician assistant/nurse


Scientist with pharmaceutical
Consultant for language-learning
     software firm or other
     education-based software
Epidemiologist studying causes
     of neurological disorders
Lab technician
Academic research scientist


College professor
High school teacher
Public health worker
Outreach for nonprofit focusing
     on a specific neurological
Science writer


Medical sales
Governmental policy
Habitat designer at a zoo
Mental health lawyer


Wartburg’s Science Center, completed in 2004, includes an animal facility that regularly houses mice, hamsters, and zebrafish. A surgery room allows for hormonal manipulation through removal of ovaries or testes, and behavioral testing rooms are outfitted with a number of experimental apparatuses, including a Morris Water Maze, Elevated Plus Maze, and radial arm maze. A fruit fly colony provides the opportunity to work with an invertebrate model with known genetics, while Lageschulte Prairie (managed by Wartburg), a greenhouse, and city/state parks allow for examination of behavior in more natural settings.  Human populations for research have been drawn from students on campus, residents at a nearby retirement home, and a support group at the local hospital.

Wartburg has a cryostat for thinly slicing brain tissue, and a variety of microscopes (a scanning electron microscope (SEM), a confocal microscope, and fluorescent microscopes, in addition to standard compound and light microscopes) for looking at stains of that tissue. Cell culture facilities and related tools allow for investigating other cellular questions. Hormones can be quantified by running the products of an ELISA on Wartburg’s plate reader. Real-time PCR and electrophoresis allow for interpretation of genetic information.  Additional equipment allows quantification of human physiological data, including EMGs, EEGs, and electrodermal activity.


The neuroscience major provides students ample opportunities for research, starting their first year with a term-long original research project in introductory biology. There are four courses in the major that heavily focus on research, culminating in a yearlong research experience in which small groups of students work closely with a faculty mentor to design and carry out an experiment to investigate a novel question. Students also are encouraged to work with faculty members as underclassmen, and all science courses include hands-on lab experiences. In addition, students are encouraged to do summer research, either on campus supported by our Undergraduate Research program, at Wartburg West, or at other schools through nationally funded programs. Students have regularly presented their work at regional and national conferences (denoted with an * below).

Although the neuroscience major at Wartburg College is relatively new (2013), students have been doing neuroscience-related research projects for years, and there are numerous professors within the psychology and biology departments with whom students can work, depending on their interests.  Below are some recent on-campus examples to give you an idea of the breadth of neuroscience opportunities at Wartburg. 

ERK activation by dietary polyphenols as a possible therapeutic treatment option for Huntington’s Disease (fruit flies) (2018/19)
The co-localization of XPLN with PSD-93 and PSD-95 in differentiated PC12 cells (2017/18)
Prospero function: Possible defects in Drosophila musculature (2016/17)
The role of amyloid-beta in regulating nuclear actin following traumatic brain injury (fruit flies) (2016/17*)
Effects of sex hormones on neurite development in PC12 cells (2016/17)
The effects of 13-Cis retinoic acid on T98G glioblastoma cells (2015/16)
The effect of male and female pheromones on the neuronal activity of castrated and intact male golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) (2013/14)

Time-dependent benefits of exercise on a spatial memory task (mice) (2018/19)
The role of parental care and overprotection on the acute physiological and psychological stress response (2018/19*)
Effects of dietary tryptophan on Amphiprion ocellaris subjected to shipping stress (2018/19)
Effects of enriched environments on male and female C57BL/6 mice (2018/19*)
Effects of repeated testing in the elevated plus maze:  measuring anxiety in Syrian hamsters (2018/19*)
Early weaning as a model of early life adversity in C57BL/6NHsd mice (2017/18)
Locomotor activity in Drosophila melanogaster larvae with varying calmodulin levels (2017/18)
Exposure to sub-lethal levels of copper does not suppress the ability of Danio rerio to detect an aversive odorant (2017/18)
Decreased potassium channel expression alters response to ethanol in Drosophila (2017/18)
Effects of social enrichment on anxiety in C57BL/6 mice (2016/17*)
Loser effect: Does a losing crayfish lose more often? (2016/17)
Sex differences in anxiety of golden hamsters (2015/16*)
Ability of female hamsters to differentiate between estrous and non-estrous pheromones (2014/15)
Effects of stress on male and female athletes’ cognitive and physical performance (2013/14)

Anxiety fluctuates across golden Syrian hamsters’ estrous cycle (2017/18)
Visual sensory memory changes throughout the menstrual cycle of young women taking a combination birth control pill (2016/17)
Anxiety levels across the estrous cycle (hamsters) (2015/16)
Seminal fluid peptide effects on female post-mating behavior in Drosophila melanogaster (2015/16)
High human male testosterone levels have a negative correlation with female olfactory responses (2015/16*)
The effects on gonadectomy on pheromone recognition in the male golden hamster (2013/14)


Many of the science majors at Wartburg, including neuroscience, have a strong research component, including a required yearlong research experience.  This required experience sets Wartburg apart from many other similar schools. A recent survey of biology department alums from the past 10 years shows that our alums find this research experience incredibly beneficial even if they aren’t currently in research fields.  






The Wartburg Science Center includes an animal facility, surgery room, and advanced equipment for research.

Learn with the latest equipment and be guided by faculty. Experience more.



Samantha Larimer Bousquet

Professor of Biology