by Jessica Driscoll

This fall, Northeastern University welcomes a new student organization – a chapter of Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience – which will induct founding members who meet the exceptional academic criteria.

“I’ve wanted to apply for chapter membership for a couple of years, but there were more pressing issues for me to attend to,” said Dr. Jade Zee, NU chapter advisor and assistant director of Northeastern’s Behavioral Neuroscience Program. “Our program in behavioral neuroscience was not an institutional member of some standard organizations in the field. By joining the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) and the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), our students are now eligible to apply for their travel awards, resources, etc. in the spring semester. Some behavioral neuroscience students – spearheaded by Regis Shanley, who will serve as our first president – approached me and expressed a strong interest in having a chapter of Nu Rho Psi at Northeastern.”

To qualify for Nu Rho Psi membership, students must major in neuroscience, complete at least three semesters of the college course, complete at least 12 semester hours of neuroscience-related courses and possess a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and a minimum GPA of 3.5 in neuroscience courses.

Nu Rho Psi is also open to qualifying neuroscience faculty and alumni.

Zee has already sent out invitation letters to all students that have met the eligibility criteria. Once these students accept, she will send their names to the national chapter and an induction ceremony will be planned.

“This will be followed by an election of our e-board positions so our honor society can begin holding events,” said Zee. “The scholastic achievements of our students are incredibly high. Based on our eligibility criteria, approximately 30 percent of senior and 10 percent of junior behavioral neuroscience majors and minors qualify.”

There will be an induction ceremony for new members at least once a year.

Students who think they qualify can submit an application to the NU chapter, and then their academic record will be verified.

“Our chapter’s criteria only focuses on academic credentials at the moment,” said Zee. “But given the strength of NU’s co-op and study abroad programs, we may add an experiential learning requirement in the future.”

Once the founding class is inducted and board members are selected, Zee said the chapter will participate in regular meetings, networking and community service events and career development opportunities.

“For some events, Nu Rho Psi will work closely with NEURONS, our existing student club,” said Zee. The groups will collaborate on certain activities including: Brain Awareness Week – in which members of Nu Rho Psi will assist NEURONS in organizing and running events aimed at advancing public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research – and the Peer Mentor Program – in which members of Nu Rho Psi will serve as volunteer peer mentors for incoming freshman and transfer students.

According to Nu Rho Psi – which was founded in 2006 by FUN – the purpose of the organization is to: encourage professional interest and excellence in scholarship, particularly in neuroscience; award recognition to students who have achieved that excellence; advance the discipline of neuroscience; encourage intellectual and social interaction between students, faculty and professionals; promote career development and encourage service to the community.

“Besides networking opportunities, there are travel awards to attend the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting each fall,” said Zee. “At the SFN meeting, the graduate school fair would be incredibly helpful to those students applying for graduate school. Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience holds a separate poster session at SFN, and this would be an ideal location for members to present their research.”

Zee said she believes the chapter will be successful at NU. She said – among growing interest in interdisciplinary programs – the program in behavioral neuroscience is one of the majors expanding most rapidly.

“When I started at NU four years ago, we had about 250 majors,” she said. “This fall, we have more than 400 majors and minors. In fall 2012, we began our new revised curriculum which offers a broad set of neuroscience ‘core’ courses, and we also introduced a five-course behavioral neuroscience minor, which is open to all majors including biology and psychology. Those behavioral neuroscience minors are also eligible for membership, and we have several such students invited to our founding class.”