Congress decreed the 1990s to be “The Decade of the Brain“. With this single act, the field of neurosciences has been recognized as an area that can potentially contribute much to our future well-being. Not only will research in neuroscience be directed toward control, prevention and eventual eradication of those neurological disorders that most severely debilitate the population (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), it also will provide a means to understand the secrets of a superb evolutionary product, the human brain.
A further testimonial to the popularity and interest in research in the neurosciences is the explosive growth in the membership to the Society for Neuroscience in the last two decades: from 1991 to 2000 it went from around 19,000 to 28,000 members, and in 2009 it passed the 40,000 mark. Nationally, neuroscience is a multidisciplinary field that is in a significant growth phase.
The Neuroscience Track was formed in 2010 in order to consolidate multiple groups within Wake Forest University that perform research in neuroscience and which themselves had expanded significantly in the last few years. These groups are now integrated into a diverse community with multiple cross-collaborations and synergistic interactions.
There never has been a better time to seek training in the field of neuroscience, as so many areas within it are rapidly unfolding. Those involved in such research within the next decade will likely witness and participate in major breakthroughs in our understanding of genetic and cellular bases of brain function, behavior and cognition. With large-scale DNA sequencing of whole genomes becoming faster and cheaper, the post-genomic era will open up enormous opportunities for understanding the function of gene products (proteins) and their interactions, and this information will be applied to the development of new drugs and treatments for neurological diseases.
Career opportunities for PhD students in neuroscience include universities, medical schools, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies, and state and federal government research laboratories. The Neuroscience Track strives to maintain students informed of these and new opportunities by making available internships in private companies, and through the Introduction to Professional Development course, which brings in outside speakers with PhD degrees to talk about their careers outside academia.