New Five-Year BA/MA Program in Neuroscience Approved by Faculty

Program aimed at Students with Demonstrated Academic Excellence

HARTFORD, CT, March 21, 2013 – The faculty has approved a new program that will allow students who have demonstrated academic excellence in neuroscience to obtain both their BA and their master’s degree in five years. The program will also serve to enhance Trinity’s roster of graduate offerings.

To qualify, a student must already be enrolled in the College and be recommended for the rigorous program by faculty members in neuroscience. In addition to having to fulfill specific requirements, the students must take a one-credit graduate research seminar and spend their fifth year doing intensive research.

"Admission to graduate study in some sub-disciplines within neuroscience has become quite competitive. This BA/MA program offers students an opportunity to strengthen their application to Ph.D. programs," said Hebe Guardiola-Diaz, associate professor of biology and neuroscience and director of the program.​​

What the neuroscience faculty has found in recent years is that many students who want to obtain a Ph.D. or attend medical school are required to do a full year of research in order to qualify for a master’s degree program. 


Sarah Raskin, center, professor of psychology and neuroscience, works with students in her lab. 

Because of the way Trinity’s degree program is structured, neuroscience students now graduate with a BA but then must find a hospital, institution or other facility where they can either continue their research or embark on a new project. Then they apply to graduate schools to get their master’s degrees, thus enduring a year’s delay. This new five-year program will allow students to fulfill the research requirement while at Trinity and expedite their ability to get a Ph.D. or attend medical school.

“We designed this program for superior students who want to expand their research experience before applying to doctoral programs. By staying at Trinity, taking graduate level courses and spending a year continuing ongoing research, we believe they will be in the best possible position to get into and succeed in top programs,” said Sarah Raskin, professor of psychology and neuroscience. “We have so many talented students who do research with us starting from their very first year at Trinity. By providing them with the chance to do research full-time in a fifth year, they have the opportunity to make a significant and lasting contribution to the field, while having publications to discuss on their interviews.”

Added Susan Masino, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience: “We’ve been working on this for a number of years. I’m thrilled this program will be an option for qualified students.”

It’s expected that between one and five students will qualify for this program in any given year. They would have to apply no later than April of their junior year and would have to demonstrate that they were “exceptional students,” had a GPA of at least 3.0 and had a faculty sponsor.

Dan Lloyd, Brownell Professor of Philosophy, said there is an additional reason for the five-year program: Often students are engaged in “great research projects that can’t really be brought home all the way in a year and are only really conceptualized in mid-thesis. So, you have these terrific student projects underway which fall short of being publication worthy” because the student is graduating. In allowing the student to stay for a fifth year, the research project can be brought to fruition.

Paul Lauter, Allan K. and Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of English, said there is also an economic incentive in creating a program such as this. “We are in a world in which students and their parents are asking the question, ‘is this a good investment or not?’ And when they ask that question, programs like this BA/MA program helps to answer that yes, this is an investment that is worth making.”  

Lauter said that doesn’t necessarily mean that every discipline at Trinity should follow this model. Rather, he said, the BA/MA program “is a discrete program brought up by the people in neuroscience to address a particular issue with their students.”

In the end, the proposal won the faculty’s overwhelming approval. “This is the type of opportunity that interests some of our students and we’re thrilled to have it approved by the faculty,” said Masino.