Penn Introduces Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Certificate

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | | 215-573-6604April 18, 2013

This fall, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience and Society will partner with the School of Arts and Sciences to offer a first-of-its-kind program that aims to educate non-scientists about the workings of the brain. The certificate program in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, or SCAN, will draw students from Penn’s various graduate programs, providing insights on how neuroscience is impacting their disciplines and vice versa. Such efforts to integrate knowledge from disparate fields are a top institutional priority for Penn and President Amy Gutmann. 

Martha Farah, the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology and the director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society, will direct the new program.

“Many different fields are now incorporating the ideas and methods of neuroscience, from law and education to social sciences and even humanities,” Farah said. “Our aim is to empower grad students in these areas to be leaders in this new interdisciplinary trend. We will equip them with a critical understanding of what neuroscience can and can’t do and the know-how to undertake their own good, rigorous, interdisciplinary work.“

Taking inspiration from the Center for Neuroscience and Society’s Neuroscience Bootcamp, an intensive 10-day course on the basics of the discipline that has attracted journalists, lawyers, government officials, social scientists and engineers, SCAN will require students to take four courses during one or two years.   

All participants will take two core classes that will introduce them to the foundations of neuroscience, with an emphasis on the neuroscience of human thought, feeling and action. The other two courses will be chosen from advanced classes in neuroscience, courses on the impact of neuroscience on society and “bridging” courses set in the student’s own discipline, be it law, business, education or something else.  

Stephen J. Morse, the Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law, professor of psychology and law in psychiatry and an associate director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society, will serve on the program’s advisory board.

“The SCAN certificate will enable lawyers to be sophisticated advocates in individual cases in which neuroscientific evidence is being used and when neuroscience bears on legislation,” Morse said.

The program is open to graduate and professional students currently enrolled at Penn. Applications for its inaugural class are due by April 30.