Introduction to Neuroscience: Understanding the Brain

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
I - June 29–July 17, 2020
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 –11:00 a.m. and 1:10–3:00 p.m.
Anamaria Alexandrescu, Alexander Goldberg, Stephen Keeley, Luke Nunnelly, Pam Osborn Popp
One year of high school biology

“Daily lectures described a multitude of concepts thoroughly and explained things in a way that was easy to understand.” — From a program course evaluation 

Course Description

This course is designed for students interested in the science of the brain, including its evolutionary origins, early development, and role in generating behavior. We explore theories of the brain as the seat of the self from ancient Greece to modern times, and investigate systems that make up the brain from the individual neuron to the entire central nervous system. We also look into how sensation, perception, and decision making work at the physiological level. The course blends historical trends in neuroscience with modern experiments and findings, and touches on major areas of research including animal studies, recording and imaging techniques, computational neuroscience, and neuropharmacology.

In-class small-group exercises, in addition to lectures, allow students to tangibly explore the ideas presented in class. Participants construct various models of the brain, critique professional neuroscientific papers as “peer-reviewers,” and visualize actual neural data with instructor guidance.


Anamaria Alexandrescu

Anamaria Alexandrescu is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at New York University (NYU). She holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the NYU School of Medicine and a B.S. in neuroscience from Florida Atlantic University. In her undergraduate career she was involved in research on the molecular mechanisms of stroke at FAU and on the neurobiology of schizophrenia at the University of Pennsylvania. In her doctoral research Anamaria researched the neurobiology of learning and memory, focusing on molecular mechanisms that contribute to synaptic plasticity underlying long-term memory formation. Her current research interests are located at the intersection between neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and education. She has taught high school and undergraduate neuroscience courses at Columbia, NYU, Fordham, and Yeshiva University. 

Alexander Goldberg

Alexander (Elie) Goldberg is pursuing a joint MD/PhD through Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia's Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior. He holds an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Oberlin College. Elie's current research is focused on brain tumor associated epilepsy--understanding the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon with the aim of uncovering new treatment options for patients. He has taught science and mathematics at various educational levels, and mentors students interested in pursuing careers in science and medicine. 

Stephen Keeley

Stephen Keeley is a post-doctoral researcher in statistical neuroscience at Princeton University. He completed his Ph.D. at the Center for Neural Science at New York University under John Rinzel and Andre Fenton, where he developed firing rate models to study competitive gamma oscillations in CA1 and the roles interneuron subtypes play in impacting gamma dynamics. Stephen has extensive experience teaching and lecturing in neuroscience and applied mathematics. He has participated in a number of outreach programs in the New York City area and has taught at the high school and college level. His current research explores statistical models of calcium imaging data for the inference of neural receptive fields and latent network dynamics. 

Luke Nunnelly

Luke Nunnelly is a student in Columbia's Neurobiology and Behavior doctoral program. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelors degree in English and neuroscience. Luke's current research focuses on understanding the genetic roots of the the brain's diverse functions.  His work in Edmund Au's lab at the Columbia University Medical Center looks to parse what genes distinguish one cell type from another with an eye to piecing together a complete portrait of the healthy brain and what makes it work. 

Pam Osborn Popp

Pam Osborn Popp is pursuing her Ph.D. at New York University’s Center for Neural Science. In her research, she combines functional neuroimaging with machine learning and computational modeling techniques so as to characterize human learning and memory. She is particularly interested in the possible applications of cognitive computational neuroscience research to the field of education. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant for undergraduate neuroscience courses at NYU, Pam enjoys teaching life science concepts as a docent at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She received her B.S. in neuroscience from NYU with a joint minor in computer science and mathematics.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.