Career in Neuroscience


Photo courtesy of Allen Ajifo

Are you interested in pursuing a career in Neuroscience? This article explains everything you need to know about Neuroscience and covers the following topics.

  • What is Neuroscience all about?
  • Significant developments in Neuroscience
  • How to pursue Neuroscience as a career?
  • Scope in India and Abroad
  • Higher education in India and Abroad
  • List of Neuroscience research centers in India
  • Branches of Neuroscience
  • Useful links

What is Neuroscience all about?

Neuroscience is the in-depth study of the nervous system, it’s structure, function and behavior through a series of scientific and technological experiments and tests. Neuroscience was originally a part of biology, but with significant advances in science and technology over the past few decades, Neuroscience has emerged as a field of it’s own dedicated to the study of the nervous system.

The nervous system encompasses the brain and the spinal cord. Research and development in Neuroscience ranges from understanding the nervous system at the cellular and molecular level all the way to human behavior. For this reason, Neuroscience is a highly interdisciplinary field and involves a multitude of subjects, ranging from the pure sciences such as Chemistry, Biology, Physics to medical studies such as Anatomy and Physiology to engineering and technology.

Significant developments in Neuroscience

Rapid advances in science, engineering and technology over the past few decades has brought about significant breakthroughs in the study of the nervous system. Following are some of the most significant developments in the field of Neuroscience over the past few years

Neuroplasticity: One of the most significant achievements in the development of Neuroscience was the discovery of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Before the discovery of neuroplasticity, scientists were under the assumption that once the brain reaches a certain age, it ceases to develop (or rewire) new neural connections. However, a series of experiments by a team of renowned scientists proved that the brain rewires itself by forming new neural connections and neural pathways in response to injury and changes in the environment.

Computational Neuroscience, Imaging and Genetics: The past few decades have seen rapid advances in computer science, engineering and technology that has significantly advanced research and development in Neuroscience. Neuroscientists are now able to study the nervous system in great precision and depth in real time, thanks to advanced super power imaging machines . The genomics revolution has brought about the ability to analyze the genes and proteins of the nervous system and understand their structure, function and role in diseases. Computational neuroscience is another area of neuroscience that has progressed rapidly over the past few years. Computational neuroscientists use theoretical techniques such as data analysis, quantitative and mathematical modeling to understand and predict how the nervous system works.

How to pursue Neuroscience as a career?

Since Neuroscience is vast and encompasses many fields, students from diverse backgrounds such as pure sciences and engineering can pursue a career in Neuroscience.

Within the engineering realm, students with backgrounds in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Biotechnology find a lot in common with Neuroscience. Students from other engineering backgrounds such as Mechanical Engineering, Instrumentation and Control Engineering etc are also eligible to pursue higher studies in Neuroscience.

Within pure sciences, students with backgrounds in Biology, Physics and Chemistry tend to pursue higher studies in Neuroscience. Even students with backgrounds in Mathematics and Computer Science are eligible to apply for Neuroscience programs.

Scope in India and Abroad:

India: Research in Neuroscience is upcoming in India and there are a couple of premier institutions that are doing great work in Neuroscience. However, the opportunities are severely limited when compared with countries such as UK and USA. This is because of the high population and limited seats available in prestigious institutions for Neuroscience programs. If you are unable to get into any one of the premier institutions such as IISc and NBRC for higher studies in Neuroscience, then your best bet would be to get a higher degree from abroad.

Abroad: USA and UK are at the forefront of research in Neuroscience. Therefore, opportunities in these countries are immense for students interested in pursuing a research career in Neuroscience. Since this is a highly research oriented field, a PhD is imperative to climb up the ladder at work. Most of the Neuroscience jobs are in universities, research centers and labs. Industry type jobs are also available in technology and biomedical engineering companies that do R&D in Neuroscience. Apart from USA and UK, Canada, Germany and Australia are also doing very well in Neuroscience. This resource will give you a list of nations that are producing high quality research in Neuroscience.

Higher education in India and Abroad:

India: Many universities in India offer M.Tech, MS and PhD programs in Neuroscience and they are as follows:

  • Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bangalore offers PhD in Neuroscience
  • National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Haryana offers PhD and MSc programs in Neuroscience
  • Madras University offers an MSc in Neuroscience
  • Jiwaji University, Gwalior offers an MSc in Neuroscience
  • NIMHANS offers PhD in Neurophysiology, Neuromicrobiology and Neurovirology
  • IIT Gandhinagar offers an MSc in Cognitive Science

Abroad: Studying abroad provides students with umpteen opportunities in terms of course structure, research opportunities and international publications in reputed journals. Most universities abroad either offer stand alone courses in Neuroscience such as MS, MSc or PhD in Neuroscience while some universities offer it as a specialization/concentration along with other major courses such as electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, biological sciences etc. Following is a list of resources that contains a list of all universities offering neuroscience programs in various countries.

List of Neuroscience research centres and labs in India:

  • Centre for Neuroscience, IISc Bangalore
  • National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Haryana
  • Neuroscience Research Laboratory (NRL), Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology Unit, IIT Jodhpur
  • Computational Neuroscience Lab, IIT Madras
  • Theoretical Neuroscience Lab, IISER Pune
  • Neuroscience Group, IISER Kolkata
  • Computational Neuroscience and Neurophysiology Lab, Amrita University
  • Neurobiology Research Group, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) Bangalore
  • Molecular Neurobiology Research Group, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB)

Various branches of Neuroscience:

  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Neuroengineering and many more

Useful links:

Journals: For free journal papers on Neuroscience and related areas, go to Google Scholar and Pubmed. For a list of neuroscience journals along with rankings, check out this source.

Articles: There are amazing online sites that offer latest news in neuroscience and other scientific disciplines. Some of them are: ScienceDaily, Neuroscience News, Scientific American, TheScientist and BrainFacts.

Forums: Forums are a great place to discuss questions, ideas, assignments, projects etc and some of the most popular ones in science and engineering disciplines are: Physics forums, Reddit and Stack Exchange.

Gradcafe: Are you interested in applying for graduate studies in Neuroscience abroad? Gradcafe is the perfect forum/community site where you can discuss your profile, admission details, course information etc. with other students and seniors.