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Neuroscience Growth Spurs Department Launch

A new Department of Neuroscience at P&S has been approved by Columbia’s Board of Trustees. John Koester, Ph.D., professor of clinical neurobiology and behavior (in psychiatry) who is now acting director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, will become acting chairman of the new department. Steven Siegelbaum, Ph.D. professor of pharmacology in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, will be vice chairman. Initially, 19 faculty members will have primary appointments in the new department and 16 faculty members will have secondary appointments. The department will replace the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which has been in existence since 1981.
   Neuroscience at Columbia is undergoing a phase of remarkable growth, both in numbers and in intellectual scope. The new department will facilitate the ongoing recruitment of faculty in neural circuitry, developmental neurobiology, motor neuron biology, and computational neuroscience. The Center for Neuroscience Initiatives, established in 2005, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and communication and brings together researchers from various schools on Morningside and CUMC campuses. A new Mind, Brain and Behavior program, in the planning stages, will foster interactions between elements of neuroscience and other disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities. The Jerome L. Greene Science Center, scheduled to open in six to eight years, will be a focal point of the new Manhattanville campus. The Department of Neuroscience, while remaining administratively within P&S, is scheduled to move into this building upon its completion.
   The Department of Neuroscience will have two major missions – teaching and basic research. Its major didactic role will be in teaching preclinical neuroscience to medical and dental students. The faculty of the new department also will participate in the ongoing interdepartmental Doctoral Subcommittee in Neurobiology and Behavior. This program, which spans the two campuses, will remain a major nucleus for integrating basic neuroscience activities throughout the university. Research in the Department of Neuroscience will focus on investigating how the circuits of interconnecting neurons that comprise the nervous system are formed and how they control movement, emotions, and behavior. In this context the department will provide innovative training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the analysis of neural circuit function and the role of circuits in mediating behavior.
   “This is an auspicious time to create such a new department,” Dr. Koester says. “Neuroscience has become a mature, recognized academic discipline, with the potential for continued growth and progress.”