- Feature Story
Department launches post-baccalaureate program
MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) recently launched a new post-baccalaureate program, and applications for the 2017-2018 academic year are now open.
Designed to help prepare outstanding college graduates from under-represented minority groups or economically disadvantaged backgrounds for graduate school in cognitive science, computational cognitive science, or neuroscience, each Research Scholar in Brain and Cognitive Sciences will be exposed to the full breadth of science and resources Building 46 has to offer. The program is led by BCS professors Laura Schulz and Pawan Sinha.
“In our graduate admissions process, we often come across applicants who seem to be very motivated to undertake higher studies, but are just a little behind in terms of their formal preparation,” explains Sinha. “While they might not quite rise to the level of breaking threshold for admission during that cycle, we feel that they have the promise and the potential to be excellent students and scientists with a little more training.”
The program is small by design, with an emphasis on customizing each scholar’s experience at MIT to their research interests. The immersion in the research and culture at the department exposes the students to the rigors of graduate school, with current graduate students, labs, faculty, and fellow researchers, before they apply for graduate programs.
All graduate courses are open and available to matriculates. During the pilot phase, scholars participated in classes studying everything from the neuroscience of morality and functional MRI to neuroanatomy.
“Our department is unusual in that we have everything from cellular and molecular neuroscience to cognitive and computational neuroscience under the same roof,” explains Meredith Canode, BCS academic administrator. “This environment provides scholars with a singular opportunity to really explore everything brain- and mind-related, from cells to thought. They will have the opportunity to not only get practical laboratory experience, but to get that experience at one of the world’s greatest scientific institutions, in laboratories that are leading the way in the field.”
Students are assigned a faculty advisor as soon as they are admitted, enrolling in up to four courses and participating in a graduate research rotation. By the end of their first semester, they are placed in a lab that will be their primary research home for the duration of the program. By the end of the first year, students will start work on a summer research project under the advice of their lab’s principal investigator and their faculty advisor.
During their second year, scholars begin the process of applying for a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship and attend at least one national or international conference in their chosen research field. Superior candidates for the graduate program at BCS will be moved to a fast-track admissions program. Recruiting for the program has now begun.
“This is a wonderful vehicle for our department’s faculty to proactively do outreach to communities that may not always think of MIT as a viable option,” Schulz says. “It is my hope that the BCS faculty will actively engage in this process and promote the post-baccalaureate program in their talks across the country.”
All scholars will receive the equivalent of a graduate student stipend, health insurance, access to student housing, tuition remission, and all other benefits and privileges conferred upon MIT graduate students. At the completion of the program, scholars will receive an official transcript from MIT that documents the subjects and research completed in the department. Successful candidates will be fully prepared for a program of graduate studies in brain science.