Saint Michael's Neuroscience

The human brain is one of the most complex structures in the entire universe.  It is also the only organ that can study itself!  Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field of scientific inquiry that draws from many academic disciplines including biology, chemistry, philosophy, and psychology. Studying Neuroscience at Saint Michael’s allows you to thoughtfully contemplate the moral, ethical, and philosophical implications of neuroscience on society and the world. Through hands-on laboratory experiences and course discussions, you can build on this intellectual foundation by investigating such topics as the development of the brain and nervous system and their related structures, processes, and functions, as well as enhance your knowledge of various cognitive, physical, and behavioral processes that can facilitate or hinder nervous system health.

As a Neuroscience major you will investigate the brain and nervous system by focusing on multidisciplinary aspects of neuroscience through courses in Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, and Philosophy, including a Neuroscience senior capstone course. Majors share a similar program of six required core courses, but can focus their study in different directions (e.g., behavioral or cellular) through electives at the intermediate level and in senior study. These elective courses will provide fundamental knowledge and techniques in Biology and Psychology that apply to the field of neuroscience and its broader scientific context. You will further gain important skills in analytical techniques, reading and evaluating scientific literature, and written and oral communication in the neurosciences.

Neuroscience Learning Outcomes

Neuroscience Major Requirements

Sample Four Year Plan for Neuroscience Majors*

First Year
Fall Spring
BI 151 Introduction to Ecology and Evolution BI 153 Introductory Cell Biology and Genetics
BI 152 Introduction to Health Sciences    
CH 110 General Chemistry I CH 117 Organic Chemistry I
PS 101 General Psychology PH 103 Introduction to Philosophy
First Year Seminar PS 274 Behavioral Neuroscience
Fall Spring
BI 205 Communications in the Biological Sciences ST 120 Elementary Statistics
   OR     OR
PS 213   Psychological Statistics  ST 140  Biological Data & Statistics 
  Biology or Psychology elective    OR
  Liberal Studies courses PS 215 Research Methods

Biology or Psychology elective
Liberal Studies courses 
Fall Spring
BI 318 Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience PH 231  The Mind, Free Will, and Neuroethics
   OR   Biology or Psychology elective 
BI 320 Neuroscience: Physiology/Behavior   Elective 
Biology or Psychology elective Elective
Junior Seminar  
Fall Spring
NS 410 Neuroscience Senior Seminar Electives

If you score a 4 or 5 on the Biology AP test, you can apply those credits toward your graduation requirements, but students majoring in neuroscience are required to take both Introduction to Ecology and Evolution (BI 151) and Introductory Cell Biology and Genetics (BI 153).  The project-driven nature of these courses is very important in preparing students for the upper-level biology classes.

If you score a 4 or 5 on the Psychology AP test, you can apply those credits toward your graduation requirements as well as the General Psychology (PS 101) requirement within the Neuroscience major.

Students who major in Neuroscience may not double-major or minor in either Biology or Psychology, or double-major in Biochemistry due to the overlapping nature of the course requirements.

If you have any questions regarding the Neuroscience major, please contact Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, Director of the Neuroscience Program.

* For students who enroll in the fall of 2018.

Ruth Fabian-Fine, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor Biology and Neuroscience

Contact Professor Fabian-Fine

Cheray Hall 314
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M.Sc., Zoology/Neurobiology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt
Ph.D., Zoology/Neurobiology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt

Areas of Expertise:

Sensory Systems
Electron Microscopy
Three Dimensional Reconstructions

Courses I Teach:

Developmental Biology  Lecture
Developmental Biology Lab
Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience Lecture
Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience Lab
Senior Seminar – The effects of venoms and toxins on the human body
Biological Communications


Scientific Imaging Suite 

Ari Kirshenbaum, PhD

Professor of Psychology, Krikstone Laboratory for the Behavioral Sciences

Contact Professor Kirshenbaum

Saint Edmund's Hall 202B
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Ph.D. University of Montana, Missoula
B.A. University of Colorado, Boulder

Post-Doctoral Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center
Post-Doctoral Scientist, University of Vermont, College of Medicine

Areas of Expertise:

Animal behavior and psychopharmacology

Courses I Teach:

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Research Methods II
  • Animal Learning and Behavior
  • Drugs and Behavior

Crystal L'Hôte, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Contact Professor L'Hôte

Saint Edmund's Hall 238
Box 376
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Ph.D., M.A. Johns Hopkins University
B.A. Colgate University

Areas of Expertise:

Philosophy of mind (and cognates), metaphysics and epistemology, feminist philosophy, and bioethics/neuroethics, all in the analytic tradition. 

Courses I Teach:

  • Philosophy of Mind: The Mental and the Physical
  • Logic: Laws of Thought
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Environment
  • Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
  • Introduction to Philosophy: The True, The Good, and the Beautiful

The courses I teach highlight the ongoing relevance of philosophy.  For instance, Philosophy of Mind treats topics in contemporary neuroethics; Logic: Laws of Thought prepares students for the Law School Admissions Test (as well as democratic citizenship); and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Environment examines our relationships to modern technologies and our responsibilities to nature and the environment. I also make efforts to see that learning extends beyond the classroom: I launched the Plato Lecture and am a regular host of the Philosophers' Table.

Anthony Richardson, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology

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Saint Edmund's Hall 206
Box 365
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M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara
B.A. University of California, San Diego

Areas of Expertise:

Spatial cognition and human navigation

Courses I Teach:

  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Perception
  • Statistics
  • Spatial Perception and Cognition

My Saint Michael's:

At Saint Michael's, the class sizes allow me to tailor the class to the particular group and spend a substantial amount of time discussing projects with each student on a daily basis. I teach a course called Spatial Perception and Cognition. This class is primarily based on discussing previous research and designing and conducting new experiments to build on previous work. We get to tackle problems that have never been addressed before and make new discoveries. This is immensely rewarding for my students and me. Students are able to use my state of the art immersive virtual reality (VR) lab. The immersive VR system allows users to experience 3D environmental simulations through a Head Mounted Display, and the system also incorporates head orientation and body tracking. Movement is natural and the sense of being inside another world compelling. Such systems are typically found only in larger research institutions.

Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, PhD

Director of the Neuroscience Program, Associate Professor of Psychology

Contact Professor Tomasulo

Saint Edmund's Hall 208
Box 381
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Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, The Ohio University
M.S., Experimental Psychology, Specialization in Health Psychology, The Ohio University
B.A., Psychology, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio

Areas of Expertise: 

Psychology of health and illness, in particular the acute and chronic effects of stress on the brain and body; behavioral medicine including the biological, psychological, social, and behavioral moderators of disease pathogenesis.

Courses I Teach:

  • Introduction to Health Science
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Psychology of Health and Illness
  • Research Methods
  • Lifespan Development
  • Neuroscience Senior Seminar

Adam Weaver, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
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Contact Professor Weaver

Cheray Hall 313E
Box 283
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Ph.D. Ohio University
B.A. University of Delaware

Career Timeline:

  • 2014-Present Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Saint Michael’s College 
  • 2010-2014 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Saint Michael’s College 
  • 2008-2009 Assistant Professor, Div. of Basic Pharm. Sciences, Xavier Univ., Coll. of Pharmacy
  • 2007-2008 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • 2005-2007 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Washington, Otolaryngology Department
  • 2002-2004 Postdoctoral Fellow, Emory University, Biology Department
  • 1995-2002 Ph.D., Neuroscience Program, Ohio University
  • 1990-1994 B.A., Biology and Psychology Double Major, University of Delaware
  • 2014-Present Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Saint Michael’s College 
  • 2010-2014 Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Saint Michael’s College 

Areas of Expertise:

Neurobiology / Neuroscience; Neuron Networks; Computer Modeling; Comparative Biology; Electrophysiology; Biophysical Modeling; Anatomy; Physiology

Courses I Teach:

  • Communications in the Biological Sciences 
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I/II
  • Introduction to Cell Biology and Genetics 
  • The 5+ Senses: Our Window to the World (Senior Seminar)
  • Neuroscience: Physiology/Behavior

After graduation, our majors can go on to careers such as:

  • Neuroscientist
  • Neuroethicist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech pathologist/audiologist
  • Health Policy Analyst
  • Laboratory technician
  • Clinical research technician/assistant
  • Pharmaceutical sales
  • Science advocacy
  • Psychiatric nursing 
  • Optometrist

Students may also apply to graduate programs in Neuroscience.  Note that in some cases, these programs may require additional courses in subjects such as Physics, Biochemistry, and Calculus.  Please consult the Neuroscience advisor Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo for more information.


"It was truly a life changing experience - from becoming more aware of peoples’ thoughts/feelings to learning the ins and outs of brain injury. It really assured me that I am happy with continuing to major in neuroscience and opened my eyes to possibly pursuing physical therapy. I learned so much from the staff, other interns, and especially the participants at SLI.” -- Emily Durette, '19 

Emily Durette '19 spent the summer interning with Supportive Living, Inc, a specialized residential and rehabilition for individuals with severe brain injuries, outside of Boston, Mass. Durette, along with the other interns, helped plan and execute a full menu of physical, cognitive and social activities to residents and other survivors from local communities. Interns were also required to write a short report on a topic related to brain injury, and a short article about one of the survivors with whom they worked

Internships, like the one described above, provide you with a meaningful experience for potential jobs and further education, as well as a way to put your learning into action. Please contact the Neuroscience advisor Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo to learn more.

Neuroscience Research

Our neuroscience professors have a broad range of research interests in which the field of neuroscience can be explored from different perspectives.  Opportunities are available to work closely with faculty on a variety of projects during the school year and to conduct your own research under faculty supervision through competitive grant-funding over the summer months. 

We have several neuroscience laboratories here at Saint Michael's:

Psychophysiology and Virtual Reality Laboratory (Saint Edmund's Hall 219)
Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo, Ph.D.
Anthony Richardson, Ph.D.

Neurophysiology and Neuroanatomy Laboratory (Cheray Science Hall 326) 
Adam Weaver, Ph.D.
Ruth Fabian-Fine, Ph.D.

Krikstone Laboratory for the Behavioral Sciences (Saint Edmund's Hall 203)
Ari Kirshenbaum, Ph.D.

Student Research

Katie Petrozzo '17 - "Free Will and Moral Responsibility in the Neuroscientific Age"

Petrozzo combined neuroscientific findings and philosophic resources to study whether or not a greater understanding of the brain challenges the idea of free will and choice. 

Submitted to: Compos Mentis: Undergraduate Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics

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