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Neuroscience 3851 Independent Reading Guidelines


The purpose of the Independent Reading Course is to provide the student with an opportunity to do in-depth reading of the literature on a specific topic in Neuroscience with the guidance of an expert in the area. The student works with a member of the Neuroscience faculty at Vanderbilt and, through reading and discussion with the faculty sponsor, will gain knowledge and understanding of the research that has been published on a particular area or problem in Neuroscience. This is an ideal and recommended course as preparation for, or taken in conjunction with, NSC 3861 Undergraduate Research to provide the student with the necessary background in the research area. The course may be repeated once for a total of 2 hour credit toward the Neuroscience major.


All undergraduate students conducting research in Neuroscience must complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training online.

  • Click here for training requirements and information. When taking the online RCR training, enroll in the Bio/Physical Sciences (VUBPS) course – unless you are working in Wilson Hall with human subjects, in which case, you can select the Psychological Sciences (VUPSY) course as an alternate.
  • Once online training is completed, you will receive a completion report via email. You may either forward that email to the Program Office, or there will be a link that allows you to share the report. Confirmation has to be received by the Program Office before you can be registered for the research course.

Selecting a Research Mentor

In order to register for NSC 3851, a student must obtain an appropriate faculty sponsor and under his/her guidance develop a plan of study for the semester. The plan need not be exceptionally detailed, but should identify the primary goals that the sponsor and student hope to achieve during the semester.

To find a faculty sponsor, look first at the research opportunities available. You will find a short research description of the faculty that are currently approved to sponsor students for NSC 3861 and NSC 3862. If you are interested in working with a faculty member that is not already approved to mentor students but conducts Neuroscience research, you must first get permission from the Director of Independent Studies. The faculty member must then agree that they are willing to direct a student’s research for these courses. It is left to your initiative to determine what area of research you wish to pursue.

Application and Registration

This course is intended for Juniors and Seniors. Exceptional students may be admitted as sophomores as long as they have had NSC 2201.

  • Read the “course structure and requirements” (below)
  • Download and complete the contract for NSC 3851. The application will include a written research proposal.
  • E-mail the completed contract to your research mentor. Paper forms will not be accepted. Include a short text message to the effect that the contract is attached. A new contract is required for each semester you register
  • Your research mentor should then forward the entire e-mail, including the attachment, to the Program Office and then the student will be registered. This process assures the department that the research mentor has seen and approved the proposal.

If after following all these guidelines you still have questions, contact the Program Office.

**In order to be registered on time, contracts MUST be emailed to Program Office  no later than 24 hours before the end of the Open Enrollment period.**

Course Structure and Requirements

Once a student has been admitted to NSC 3851, his or her primary interactions during the semester will be with the faculty sponsor. However, all students are required to write a term paper (8-page minimum, 15-page maximum) on the focal topic of the readings. The document should be double spaced with 1-inch margins, and 12pt Times or equivalently clear font. NSC 3851 may only be taken twice for credit.


The paper is due on the last day of class. There will be a deduction of 1 letter grade on papers received after the deadline. Copies should be submitted to the program through Brightspace AND to the student’s faculty mentor. The paper is to be graded by the faculty mentor who should submit a recommendation for a final grade to the Program Office within one week of the due date.