Neuroscience in Indiana: Research and education poised to drive jobs and innovation

Release Date: 
Aug 28 2012


Steve BoehmThe following column appeared in the Aug. 28 edition of Indiana LifeScience newsletter, a publication by Inside Indiana Business.

Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is Indiana’s leading health and life sciences campus. No other university in the state can match the cross-disciplinary opportunities created between local hospitals, the IU School of Medicine and the wide array of research organizations that call downtown Indianapolis home. This innovative environment has established Indiana as one of the leading states supporting the health and life sciences industries. More than ever before, Indiana’s economy depends on the success of these businesses and their ability to provide excellent patient care, technology and specialized services. The rapidly changing field of neuroscience is the most recent example of how Indiana will continue to distinguish itself through treatment, research and education. 

Neuroscience addresses the structure and function of the nervous system, with particular focus on the intersection between the brain and behavior. In 2006, the Indiana University Life Sciences Initiative identified the field of neuroscience as a research and clinical practice strength, a strategic priority for the IUPUI campus and a lynchpin of the central Indiana life sciences economy. A whirlwind of recent activity in Indiana indicates the state is well prepared to seize the opportunities neuroscience offers. IU Health recently dedicated the first phase of its Neuroscience Campus with the opening of its ambulatory care and imaging facility. Ground was broken Aug. 6 for the new Indiana University Neuroscience Research Building, the second phase of the state’s investment to bring the best in neurological care to Indiana. This focus extends beyond just research and clinical practice to IUPUI’s teaching mission as well. The School of Science at IUPUI now offers undergraduate students the opportunity to major in neuroscience. As a result, Indiana not only will offer the most skilled and advanced doctors and researchers in neuroscience but also will prepare students well to pursue careers in a field with exciting growth potential. And they can live and work in Indiana. 

For several years, IUPUI has offered graduate degrees in sub-disciplines of neuroscience, in partnership with the IU School of Medicine, as well as a behavioral neuroscience concentration at the undergraduate psychology level. The new bachelor’s program, however, offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that is grounded in biology, math, and psychology and brings together an academically diverse faculty from across the School of Science. Students can pursue concentrations in cellular/molecular, computational or behavioral neuroscience, culminating in a capstone research experience. The new program capitalizes on the expertise of Science faculty at IUPUI as well as research training opportunities in the neurosciences (e.g., Stark Neurosciences Research Institute, Institute for Psychiatric Research, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics). Neuroscience majors will have opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research and internship experiences in the Schools of Science and Medicine, as well as new collaborations made possible through the new research and treatment centers on the IU Health Neuroscience Campus.

Neuroscience has been described in Science Careers (Forde, 2005) as an “explosive field” that has emerged over the last three decades. The accelerated growth has created a high demand for trained professionals with knowledge and skills in this area. The majority of IUPUI neuroscience students are expected to pursue graduate and professional degrees in science and medicine. However, baccalaureate graduates also can find jobs as research technicians in universities, hospitals, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, medical centers and government agencies—thus providing a highly trained workforce for Indiana’s life sciences industry. Job growth is expected at more than 18 percent in the next five years for Bachelor of Science graduates. Industry-wide, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development indicates life scientist positions will increase cumulatively by more than 22 percent by 2018, with increases of 20 percent projected for biological scientists and 29 percent for medical scientists.

The state will have a great need for graduates who are well trained in technology used in scientific laboratories or production facilities. These positions, even at the bachelor’s level, offer a good salary in a field with enormous growth potential. This is an exciting time to be in the field of neuroscience, especially in Indiana where life and health sciences continue to show the promise of success and economic impact.

Steve Boehm
Director, Neuroscience Undergraduate Program
Associate Professor Psychology
School of Science at IUPUI