Introduction to Neuroscience: Understanding the Brain

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
I - June 24–July 12, 2019
II - July 16–August 2, 2019
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 –11:00 a.m. and 1:10–3:00 p.m.
Anamaria Alexandrescu, Stephen Keeley, Hameda Khandaker, Luke Nunnelly, Pam Osborn Popp, Priyanka Ramesh

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 received her B.S. in neuroscience summa cum laude from Florida Atlantic University. In her undergraduate career she was involved in research on the molecular mechanisms of strokes, as well as on the neurobiology of schizophrenia at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds an M.S. from New York University and is currently completing her Ph.D. in neuroscience and physiology at New York University School of Medicine. In her doctoral research Anamaria studies the neurobiology of learning and memory; in particular, she focuses on the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the synaptic plasticity underlying long-term memory formation. She has taught several undergraduate neuroscience courses at New York University and has extensive experience in teaching and mentoring middle school and high school students. 

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. 

Hameda Khandaker

Hameda Khandaker is a 5th year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology at Hunter College (CUNY) in 2014 and currently teaches coursework in psychology. Hameda is interested in exploring how curcumin, the primary ingredient in turmeric, can enhance adult neurogenesis and neurogenesis-dependent learning. In particular, she is investigating the effects of a curcumin diet on cell proliferation, survival and maturation in adult mice. She is also testing the contribution of these adult-born cells on hippocampal function in two behavioral tasks, contextual fear discrimination and active place avoidance. 

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.

Priyanka Ramesh

Priyanka Ramesh is a doctoral student in New York University's Center for Neural Science pursuing a Ph.D. in visual neuroscience. She has led introductory and upper-level neuroscience courses for undergraduates at NYU and has taught in various outreach programs for New York City elementary, middle, and high school students. Her research focuses on abnormal visual development, particularly looking at its effects on attentional processes as well as visuomotor performance. Priyanka holds a B.S in neuroscience from New York University. 

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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.