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Bio 202, Getting Started

Paul Grobstein's picture
Welcome to the on-line forum associated with the Biology 202 at Bryn Mawr College. Its a way to keep conversations going between course meetings, and to do so in a way that makes our conversations available to other who may in turn have interesting thoughts to contribute to them. To get started, how about a few words about who you are, what you bring to the conversation that may be different from others, and what questions about brain and behavior you'd like to explore this semester? A little about me is here.
heather's picture

better late than never....

hi all!

my name is heather foley, and i'm a junior bio/french major africana studies/russian minor here at the mawr. i intend to attend vet or vet tech school post graduation, and to ultimately specialize in reptile medicine.

i ask a ridiculous amount of questions about behavior, and am partial to explanations in terms of its evolutionary/biological basis. a consequence of this is that i tend to categorize human behavior as a subsect of primatology.

going along with this idea, i warn that my ideas (where applicable) will be colored by my resentment for anthropocentricism... i like to combat the notion that humans are necessarily superior to anything else, and as such i prefer to focus on our commonalities with other species rather than the things that set us apart. i guess we'll see where this leads on the discussion board.

i'm looking forward to learning about the basis of tons of interesting behaviors. this should be quite a rewarding experience :)

see you all in the forum!

Simone Shane's picture

Hello All

Hello, my name is Simone. I'm a senior psych major at Bryn Mawr and I'm currently writing my thesis on depressive and anxiety symptoms in preschoolers. I took Thomas' class Behavioral Neuroscience sophomore year and a few other psych courses that touched upon neurobiology, so I know a little about the basics. However, I'm eager to get a firmer grasp on the subject, as there is a lot I still don't know (or have forgotten). As I'm working on anxiety and depression for my thesis, my interests for papers in this class may surround the neurobiological underpinnings of these disorders. However, I also very much want to explore new arenas that I have not yet had a chance to look at other aspects of human behavior such as (possibly) temperament, the development of belliefs, and where preconceived notions come from.
MarieSager's picture

Hi! Sorry I'm a little late.

Hi! Sorry I'm a little late. My name's Marie Sager. I'm a senior history major at Bryn Mawr. I'm going to LAW SCHOOL next year (!!!) and am excited, believe it or not. I play tennis and as I write that, I think of a book my dad gave me in high school. It was about tennis, but it was about the mental aspect of the sport. It said that tennis was 90% mental, and 10% physical. To me, this ties in to the course (maybe would be a good web paper), but it shows how the brain, or the mind, I'm not sure which one, is SO important in something as minor as a sports game. And as I read and, simultaneously continued to play, I realized that as soon as my mental state of mind dissolved (I got frustrated, angry, upset) my strokes and phsyical fundamentals also dissolved, and FAST. I think this is an interesting connection. Even more, as I still play for Bryn Mawr's college team, the connection still, sometimes unfortunately, fully applies.
Skye Harmony's picture


My name is Skye. I’m a senior at Bryn Mawr majoring in Linguistics and minoring in French and Russian.

I wanted to take this course because it seems like a refreshing difference from my other classes and I like the interdisciplinary approach to science. I have taken a few psychology courses that piqued my interest in cognition and neurobiology, but my strongest background is in linguistics, a unique perspective I can bring to the class.

Here are a few things that interest me: sex differences in the brain; biological explanations of sexuality; animals and language; cultural differences in cognition; synesthesia; alien encounters; near-death experiences; evolutionarily inherited predispositions among humans.

Madina G.'s picture

Hi everyone, My name is

Hi everyone,

My name is Madina Ghazanfar and I'm a junior majoring in biology. So far my only exposure to this subject matter has been through anatomy and physiology classes which have taken a strictly biological approach to understanding the nervous system, but I am also interested in taking this a step further and understanding the implications that functions of the nervous system have on human behavior. As I prepare for a career in the health profession, possibly in pharmacology, a deeper understanding of the "cause and effect" relationship is a base that is necessary in order to devise and/or modify treatments that are used to treat neurological disorders. This class appears to have the right balance of both neurobiology as well as behavior and so far I'm enjoying each session! I'm looking forward to a semester full of engaging discussions and hope to gain a lot from them given the vast diversity of interests of the class.

Molly Pieri's picture


Hey every one- sorry for the late post. I've been having some difficulty navigating serendip, but hopefully that situation will resolve itself sooner rather than later... In any case, a little bit about me:

I'm a pre-med/pre-vet junior here at Bryn Mawr, majoring in philosophy (with a concentration in ethics) over at Haverford. Philosophy is a fairly non-conventional major for a pre-med/pre-vet person (although not unheard of, obviously...) and it's no coincidence that I chose to major in a non-science. For one thing, I don't think that I could spend all day every day in PSB, but more substantially than that, I felt that a comprehensive understanding of science in general required study outside that designated genre of study. As a philosophy major, I've really come to love arguments, that is, dissecting the reasoning behind statements so as to find (hopefully) the real rational logic behind them. In this respect, I can be rather a stickler for precise and careful wording of assertions. For that, I apologize in advance.

Outside of my life here at Bryn Mawr, I live with my extended family (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins) on a farm in rural New England. I like to think of my home as the Bible Belt's matching Handbag. Most of my family members are Catholic fundamentalists, and in this respect, I guess you could call me the black sheep of the family. Just as much as I'm interested in this course because its implications towards my area of academic study, I'm also here because I've worked most of my life to understand why my family members behave the way they do with regards to religion, lifestyle choices, etc.

With that said, I'm looking forward to good thoughts and conversations from this class.


Kendra's picture

hi everyone!

hey everyone! my name is Kendra Sykes and i am a sophomore here at Bryn Mawr but a political science major at Haverford. Recently, when I tell people that I am taking a Neurobiology course I get looked of shock. These looks first confused me, but then I realized it was because many people think of neurobiology as being VERY difficult and also because I am a social science major and not a science major. I feel that it is important to be open minded and take classes in other subjects than the one I am majoring in and since reading articles about neurobiology is something that I very much enjoy, I decided to enroll in this course.  One of my interests is basically why certain people behave the way they do. I've always wondered why some people are shy, why some are more outgoing etc. I think by learning more about the brain and the nervous system that the stories behind behavior can also eventually be revealed. I look forward to this course! 


evanstiegel's picture

Hey everyone, my name is

Hey everyone, my name is Evan Stiegel and I am a junior at Haverford majoring in bio at Bryn Mawr.  One topic that I am very interested in is the neurobiology of peak-performance. My interest in this topic mostly stems from my participation in athletics.  Most of you probably have had those brief times when you perform so well at something you feel as though everything is happening by itself without your control.  For me, sometimes when I am playing my respective sports I feel like my body just takes over and everything just comes so naturally.  People often call being in this state "playing out of your mind".  This "out of mind" state can be applied to other activities besides athletics like creating art or test-taking.  I guess I am interested in the science of this state of mind because I obviously want to be able to sustain it for long periods of time.  I am curious as to what some of you have to say about this topic, for example whether or not you think this state of mind is a mental perception or if this state of mind is isolated to humans, etc.

Paul Bloch's picture


Hi Everyone,
My name is Paul, and I'm a junior at Haverford. I'm majoring in biology with the NBS concentration. I really enjoy reading articles about genetic influences of behavior - specifically addiction. Why one genetic variation leads to higher addiction susceptibility fascinates me. Other than that, I also find psychopharm pretty interesting too. I'm very excited to be taking Neurobiology and Behavior-it should be a great semester!

PS2007's picture


Hello everyone, my name is Paige Safyer and I'm a Junior at Bryn Mawr. I am a psychology major with a concentration in neural and behavioral sciences so I have some knowledge of neuroscience. I took Biology 103 with Professor Grobstein last semester, which was really interesting because it taught me a new way to think about biology and science in general. I am excited to see how this class compares to that one, and how they complement eachother. For my book review in Biology 103 I read a book called "Wider Than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness" which focused a lot on neuroscience. I would definitely recommend that book to everyone in this class, and I hope we discuss the topic of consciousness in class. I also now know, thanks to Thursday's class, that the title of the book comes from the Emily Dickenson poem that we spent time discussing.
maggie_simon's picture

Introducing Myself

Hey all.  I am a senior at Haverford college, majoring in biology here at Bryn Mawr, with a minor in physics back at the Ford.  I am particularily interested in the way in which depression affects behavior and thoughts and descerning how the biological/mechanical/physical (not sure what the right word here is) processes of the brain affect the mind (the non-physical aspects of the brain) in the form of emotions and thoughts.  I am also interested in defining what a spiritual experience is in terms of the brain.  More specifically along these lines, how does something like meditation or prayer affect the brain?  These are at least some of my initial interests in the subject.

Sophie F's picture

New York Times article

I thought this article might interest some. It is about a new FDA requirement that clinical trials for new medications evaluate suicide risk.

nasabere's picture


My name is Nana Asabere and I'm in my third year at Bryn
Mawr. I'm on the premed track and I am majoring in biology with an NBS
concentration. I have always been fascinated by the brain and its seeming
capacity to mediate all that we classify as "behavior." The brain,
tangible and finite as it seems, is profoundly abstract; my curiosity stems
from my desires to understand the impetus for human interactions, spirituality, perception
differences, and the like. The very notion that the brain can regulate all of
this is—to me—the greatest conundrum! My interests in neurobiology were
particularly heightened last semester upon taking Developmental Biology, where we spent a
considerable amount of time exploring neural development and so I come to this
course with questions, questions, questions…

I absolutely love where this class is going and that it
delves into a bit of philosophy. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever been this enthusiastic
about any course. Here's to engaging dialogue, intellectual stimulation, and
perhaps a stroke of enlightenment. :)

EB Ver Hoeve's picture


Hi Everyone, my name is Elizabeth Ver Hoeve. As it stands, I am trying to pull of a biology major, spanish minor, and concentrations in gender and sexuality and NBS. As a freshman, I took the Story of Evolution and the Evolution of the Story with Prof. Grobstein. It was in this course that I first began to question the world around me. Having never been the girl who "always had the right answer for everything", the idea that there was no one truth was very intriguing and also very encouraging.

At Bryn Mawr, I am on the varisty swim team and the varisty tennis team (through I currently have stress fractures in both tibias...ouch...). Over the summer, I worked in a neurobiology lab in Madison, WI (my hometown) studying maternal aggression in mice. Because this was my first time participating in a real lab setting, it was my first glimpse at how research is actually conducted (I did not see any linear science going on!). It was also because of this experience that I decided that neurobiology was in fact something that I am genuinely interested in- I am really excited about this class and about learning more about this complex field.

Jessica Krueger's picture

Joining the party late...

Hello every and all, my name is Jessica Krueger (pronounced Krieger, it's a Wisconsin-thing as far as I know). I am a senior at Bryn Mawr with a dual major in German and Psychology with the NBS concentration. I'm thesising this semester, so as I'm sure you can guess I plan on having a relaxing, controlled semester. After I leave Bryn Mawr I'd like to work in Germany for a while and then enroll in a postbacc course with the hope of someday becoming a physician.

The only real interesting thing I bring to this course is a preference for and fairly solid background in Behavior Analysis. That means my definition of behavior differs somewhat from the course (to quote Professor Neuman: "Behavior is what living things do that dead ones don't."). Causality will also be a sticking point for me throughout the course, as most behavior analysts see the cause of behavior in consequences.

Within the field of Neuroscience I'm interested in receptor sub-type specifity, perception, the use of animal models, the development of language, then construction of the sense of reality by the brain, the evolution of a concept of self, and general neuroanatomy and neurophysiology.

Mahvish Qureshi's picture



I am Mahvish, and I am a Sophmore at Bryn Mawr College. I am planning on majoring in Biology and hope to fulfill a NBS concentration as well. I am looking forward to this class and learning more about the function of the brain and the role it plays in behavior.

The brain is a powerful tool without our knowledge it controls our heart rate, breathing, and regulates our body temperature through homeostiasis. The brain can also actively control our movements and speech.What is especially interesting about the brain is how it unconciously creates images that are not necessarily helpful to the body. One aspect of neurobiology that is of great interest to me is mirages. I think it is intersting how the brain can create images and hallucinations of what is desired and what one wants to see. It is similar in concept to how the brain fills in blindspots, however with blindspots the general image is present, and with mirages it is a complete made-up image. Another interesting topic in neurobiology and behavior is OCD. I find it intriguing how the brain manipulates a persons behavior to the extent that it results in what outwardly appears to be a disorder.

I am excited to take this class and learn more about neurobiology and the mysteries of the brain.



gflaherty's picture


my name is greta flaherty and i am a senior at bryn mawr. i am a biology major and history minor. as graduation approaches, i am starting to consider my options for life after college. i am extremely interested in public policy as an avenue to pursue in the future. to this end, i think that this course will provide a way to explore a plethora of recent and current studies pertaining to issues relevant to public policy. as an example, in class on tuesday there was discussion about unpublished studies concerning antidepressants. clearly, this is a public policy issue that must be addressed. simply for the sake of interest,

i am also excited to learn about the link between physiology, which i have studied extensively, and behavior, of which i know very little. as a collegiate athlete, i am interested in the mental consequences of exercise. i know that this is a rather exhausted area of popular science, however i am still captivated by it. in addition, i would like to explore the mental consequences of competitive sports from little league aged children to olympic athletes. i have always thought that the idea of studying the body in the midst of the ultimate physical exertions that sports provide while also examining the mental consequences brought on by the stress of competition is a fascinating topic.

cheffernan's picture


Hi my name is Caroline Heffernan. I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr and I have yet to decide on a major; however, I am almost certain that I will be a neural and behavioral sciences concentration. I am primarily interested in the topic of neurology as it relates to behavior because I have a history of concussions, and during that treatment I was treated by a concussion doctor who was able to diagnose where my brain had been injured by the way that I answered questions. Ever since that initial meeting, I have been intrigued in how the brain impacts very basic behaviors, such as talking.

Normally when we think about behavior, we do not consider everyday things, like walking and talking as a behavior, but even a very mundane tasks are behaviors, that can be influenced a great deal by the brain. This idea can be exhibited when a disease, like Alzheimer’s affects the brain, a grown adult can begins to regress into a child that becomes dependent upon the people who help care for them. After observing Alzheimer’s disease and being personally involved in my concussion, my interest in neurobiology has developed.
Zana Hadziomerovic's picture

Hi Everyone!

Hello everyone,

My name is Zana Hadziomerovic and I am currently a senior at Bryn Mawr majoring in Mathematics. I have never taken a class in neurobiology but have heard great things about this particular course. It’s refreshing to see such a variety majors and backgrounds in the class.
I am originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina but I have lived for several years in the Chez Republic, Ethiopia, and Italy. I speak several languages and am very interested in anthropology, music and culture. I hope to pursue a career in consulting and expect that this class will give me an opportunity to better understand how people perceive the world and how behavior is related to underlying biological processes.
I’m looking forward to a class filled with interesting discussions.

Mimi Nguyen's picture

Hi, my name is

Hi, my name is Mimi Nguyen. I am a junior at Bryn Mawr, and I am majoring in Psychology at Haverford with an NBS concentration. The study of neurobiology really interests me because it can be applied to so many things - medicine, computer science, statistics, the list can go on and on. I've been involved in a lot of sports since I was young, and I've had to deal with many injuries. I would like to learn more about the motor system, coordination, balance, pain perception and inhibition. The brain is not a very large structure, and yet it controls so much. Science is really fascinating because it is an ever growing field. There is so much to be discovered. Theories are constantly changing, and new ideas are being developed ... We may never be able to ascertain everything there is to know about the body, but the journey to discovering sure is fun!

K. Smythe's picture

Hello everyone!  My name

Hello everyone!  My name is Kendra, I'm a senior bio major at Haverford with a psych minor/NBS concentration.  I'm really excited at the diverse backgrounds we already have across ages, grades and majors.  It will be great to be in a class where not everyone is a bio major and I'm excited to see the different opinions and insights everyone will bring.

I personally find this field fascinating (thus the concentration), especially the conflicting theories explaining both simple and complex behavior.  I think one of the things I am most excited to discuss is what people believe is the basis of behavior, and to see whether the views of people in the class, as well as myself, change as we educate ourselves regarding these issues.  I am also very interested in the neurology or other possible basis behind more abstract concepts such as creative thought and emotion. 

See you all soon!

Caitlin Jeschke's picture


Hi everyone!  My name is Caitlin Jeschke, and I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr.  I have always been very interested in the sciences, and I plan to declare a Biology major this semester, possibly with a minor in Chemistry.  I don’t have very much background in neurological or behavioral sciences, other than a brief overview of the nervous system from intro Bio, and so I am looking forward to exploring new topics and ideas this semester.

            In addition to the sciences, I also enjoy studying Anthropology and languages, and learning about different cultures.  One of my favorite topics from my cultural anthropology class last spring was the concept of “sense”, and how it is culturally constructed.  Before that class, it hadn’t really occurred to me that the idea of the “five senses” was not a universal concept.  We discussed how the ways in which people perceive the world and describe “sensing”, or “feeling” are very much influenced by culture, history, surroundings, and personal activities, and how the idea of sense can differ between groups of people, and between individuals.

            The topic of sense continues to be very intriguing to me, and it encompasses many subjects that I feel are particularly relevant to neurobiology and behavior.  For example, people can be classified as different types of learners depending on which type of stimuli (audio, visual, kinesthetic) allows them to most easily absorb and recall information.  There is also the question of mind/body duality as it applies to sense; is it possible to “sense” something solely in the body, without having some sort of mental interpretation? Similarly, can one perceive something in the mind without sensing it?   Or is extra-sensory perception an oxymoron?

            These are just some of the questions that I would like to explore this semester.  I am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say!

Tara Raju's picture


Hey, my name is Tara Raju and I am a sophmore at Bryn Mawr. I am a double major in biology and history. At this point in time, I hope to go to law school or acquire some upper level graduate degree. During high school biology and psychology courses we rougly explored the capabilities of the brain and the some of the correlating behaviors but it was not nearly as in depth as I would of liked it to be. It is absolutely fascinating that the brain has the ability to have complete control over what we think, feel, smell, see, etc and to be better equipped with knowledge in regards to these aspects and many others. For instance, at our high school graduation party, they got a hypontist and there were actually guys on stage that thought they were Shakira or Beyonce. But, is it really true? Did they want to just entertain the rest of our senior class or did they truly believe that they were preforming for a sold out crowd. The brain is a powerful thing and I am really looking forward to learning more about it and understanding different topics better.
Sophie F's picture


Hey, all! My name is Sophie and I am a postbac. at Bryn Mawr, hoping to attend medical school in the near future. I’m closer to thirty than I an twenty, but do not claim to possess the wisdom that theoretically comes with age! I’ve had the opportunity to live and work abroad, both in Europe and the developing world and am interested in the delivery of health care as it applies to underserved populations.

I am also very interested in mental illness. My brother is a newly trained Psychiatrist and he enjoys practicing his trade on me; I indulge him because I’ve learned a lot from being analyzed, namely that it’s best not to practice such things on one’s siblings. However, I am interested in Psychiatry and the ways in which mental illness as “disease” has evolved in recent history. In a similar vein, I am interested in the use of psychiatric medications to treat mental illness and the scientific/medical culture that promotes the use of such medications for various clusters of symptoms. Additionally, I am interested in perception and the blurred boundaries between subjective experience and “reality.” Finally, I would like to explore recidivism, particularly in the context of people who exhibit criminal behavior, and what role brain “hard-wiring” plays as opposed to socio-cultural and economic factors in shaping patterns of behavior.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of this course!

Paul Grobstein's picture

Psychiatry and criminality

Lots of interesting things to follow up on here. For dealing with your brother and related matters, you might enjoy Luhrman's Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry. And be interested in a working group on exploring mental health (that need reviving)? A paper on the brain and criminality would also be nice/timely, given recent work on forebrain damage in adults and in children (search on, particularly, Damasio).
Zoe Fuller-Young's picture


Hey, My name is Zoe and I am a senior at Bryn Mawr. I am majoring in Political Science and concentrating in Peace and Conflict studies. Like Angel, I am very interested in global politics but also global conflict and genocide. Political behavior fascinates me and I can bring many thoughts to our conversation about the ways in which behavior is dictated by what how we think others will react and community consciousness that surrounds the processes in our brains. The only science I have ever really enjoyed is in Psychology learning about the Brain and its functions and how one side does this and the other side does that.

 I am particularly interested in the psychological and behavioral aspect of the course, looking at gender differences in behavior and reactions to trauma. My thesis looks at rape and although I am writing from a political perspective, I often come across psychological analyses of both perpetrator and survivor which are interesting. Hope we have a great class together!

Julianne's picture


Hi I'm Julianne Rieders and I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr. I'm majoring in Bio with the NBS concentration (premed), and minoring in East Asian Studies. This is my first class specifically about Neuro Bio and behavior. I also love dance, linguistics, and traveling. I'm interested in pretty much everything from the physical brain to mental illness and dreams. I would like to work with children recovering from brain damage, and am considering neurosurgery because I like to get my hands dirty. But pretty much every aspect of neuroscience and behavior is interesting to me, so I am looking forward to this semester and learning about all your interests..which sound, well, very interesting,

mcrepeau's picture

Bojour, Konnichiwa...and the like

Hi everybody! My name is Michelle Crepeau and I am a sophomore here at Bryn Mawr who is suicidally attempting to double major in Biology and in Art History (attempting being the optimal word here, but a valiant attempt if nothing else! Pray for me...). Although, I've never taken a neurobiology class per say, my developmental biology class from last semester focused a good deal on the developing nervous system with particular emphasis on neuron determination, extension and migration in the developing brain and muscular system in various biological systems (our final project involved forcibly (in a humaine a way as possible way) mutating neuromuscular junction points in embryonic zebrafish with LiCl...hours of fun there...). Thus, I feel that I can share some valuable input in regards to the mechanical aspects of the developing brain/nervous system and how proper (or improper development) can affect certain physical behaviors.

As for the pending Art History degree, well, art itself is a very curious and interesting behavior particular to Humans, and not just in terms of the visually/spiritually aesthetic, human conventions of beauty, and manual dexterity, etc. but also in the sense of art as a pictorial language and record of behavior in terms of both its content and its very existence. The agency involved in wishing to communicate and interact in a purely pictorial/visual form and the extent to which that agency has evolved (i.e. we not only use our bodies to communicate, signing, dancing, etc., but also, have utilized complex outside mediums, walls, canvases, computers, etc) and changed over time as humans have dabbled with and striven for continuously meaningful and/or efficient ways to connect with one another (and in some cases with something else beyond ourselves) is (and this is quit the run-on now isn’t it?) a very curious thing. Also, the way humans interpret and translate what they perceive around them into a format that they can then share with others is an interesting concept, especially in terms of considering “what makes a good view” (when discussing landscape painting for example—there are many interesting bio-evolutionary explanations that have been used to explain the basis for our “aesthetic” sense) and how that “good view” can then be singled out and contained within a canvas (the human desire to capture and own and take with them, to immortalize in a way is also an interesting part of the framed arts). There is also the question of Man’s ability to “be true to life” so to speak and if it is possible for a human to accurately “create” an exact replica of, for instance, nature, what with all the “good view” editing that we are prone too, and for our brain’s tendency (in, as was mentioned in class, blind spots for example) to fabricate things (fill in the gaps with what “should” or “could” be there) that it cannot otherwise process.

However, what I am most interested in neurobiological studies are some of the more “out there” so to speak avenues of research that, although a little weird, are nevertheless important for understanding the extent of our brains’ capabilities and which may shed new light on otherwise inexplicable phenomena, the existence of which have led to some integral parts of human behavior in the face of such things as death and the spiritual. That’s right I’m very curious about phenomena such as O.B.E. s, more conventionally known as “out of body experiences”, and the basis that paranormal experiences, such as visual, auditory, and olfactory “ghostly experiences” can be products of neurological activity whether in the realm of ESP or in that of simple hallucinations. For it is known that when stimulating certain parts of the brain, a person can “smell” certain smells or “hear” certain things, or even have the sensation of floating above their own body. In the same vein I am also interested in general in behaviors (or perceived behaviors) induced by altered states of consciences, such as the sleeping brain (dreams, etc.), hypnosis, and their relationship to memories and how we retain and create “real” memories, as well as, fabricated ones. After all, I’ve have memories that may have been dreams and dreams that may have been memories before and am interested in there relationship. Also, kooky things such as “brain homunculi”, which is both the popular image used in text books to visually represent the proportional distribution of brain regions that deal with senses (the drawing is of a little man with exaggerated hands, lips, eyes, etc. in accordance to their allocation in the brain) and the idea that another “agent” so to speak inhabits the brain and processes stimuli and thoughts, are generally interesting theories to read about and view in their own right as a specific kind of behavior.


jwong's picture


Hello hello classroom buddies. My name is Jenn Wong and I am a junior at Bryn Mawr College double majoring in Biology and East Asian Studies. I’ve never really taken any classes specifically about neurobiology but have had a bit of exposure from what was taught in the Intro Bio courses. I am still undecided/unclear about what I want to do with myself after college and am looking to learn more about possible fields of research or biology-related studies to look further into.

Something that I’m interested in learning about is human behaviors and why people ‘do the things they do.’ I think a lot about the people around me, their relationships and interactions with one another, and why they desire to conform to specific behaviors or roles in society, (as well as my own role in these same positions). Are their reasons behind their actions generated from societal/cultural demands or biological demands? Or both? I think understanding these ideas is important for myself as well as all of you to continue to grow and function in today’s changing society, cliché as that definitely sounds.

I am also interested in learning more about the human thought process itself. I chose to be a Biology major because I thought understanding these ideas at a biological was equally important as understanding it at a social/psychological level. I would love to learn more about what makes us remember and/or dream about certain things that cannot be recreated in any other place except in our minds; the fact that this sets us apart as individuals from one another binds us together as a group as well.

See you all in class tomorrow! =)

Nelly Khaselev's picture

Hello everyone!

Hello everyone!

My name is Nelly Khaselev and I am a freshman at Bryn Mawr College. Coming in, I had planned on being a biology major with a concentration in neurobiology & behavior because the subject of the complex human mind had always fascinated me all through high school. I have always been interesting in learning about the physiology of the brain. What part is responsible for our thoughts, movements, choices, dreams and pretty much everything else we do in life? It is remarkable to think to everything is controlled by our brain – from heart rate to our subconscious. After the first class, I realized how wide the class title can really span and am excited to get going!

Emily Alspector's picture

My Info

Hi, I'm Emily Alspector, I am a senior Psych major at Haverford, and I also am completing an NBS concentration and a minor in linguistics. I have no clue what I want to do with my life, except I know that it's going to be interesting because I get bored easily. I really enjoy travelling and observing people, so if I could somehow get to do that and get paid, I'd be set. But I'm a realist, also, and I know I will probably end up travelling for a little while until my bank account gets dangerously low and I'll settle down somewhere, maybe wherever I am when that happens.

I am very interested in cultures and learning about cultural differences, especially with regards to cognition and language. I think the developmental processes of language are interesting as well as nonverbal communication and what we are saying through gestures, intonation, etc. I'm not exactly sure how I can relate neurobiology to linguistics, but I would be very interested if anyone has any ideas or articles I could read.

I am also taking my senior sem with Professor Grobstein and am very excited for both of these classes. I think they will be a great opportunity to think differently about psychology and science in general. I would be very interested to learn more about psychosomatic symptoms and what they entail, and maybe how they relate to phantom limbs and other post-traumatic-related phenomenon.

Skye Harmony's picture

Hey Emily, I'm a linguistics

Hey Emily, I'm a linguistics major and I'm also really interested in the relation between linguistics and neurobiology. I haven't read a lot about it but I would like to learn more. If you have not already read "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker, it's on the list of books we can read for the book review for this class... I haven't read it yet but I'm sure it would begin to address these issues. I don't have any other advice right now, but it's cool to have someone else interested in linguistics in the class! :)
Jessica Varney's picture

Hi everyone

Hi, everyone. I'm Jess(ica) Varney, a sophomore biology major at Bryn Mawr. I'm on the cross-country and track teams, so you may have seen me running around campus. I've never taken a neuroscience course before, but I have taken a course with Professor Grobstein, his CSem in fall '07. I've also taken intro bio and both semesters of introductory philosophy, so I can contribute to discussion with those perspectives.

I've been curious about neuroscience since 1997, when my grandmother had a stroke and suffered single-infarct dementia. I am interested in exploring neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia, the behavioral aspects of exercise, and the idea of willpower or self-control. Finnish Olympian Paavo Nurmi has a great quote that kind of relates exercise, self-control, and behavior. He said, "Mind is everything. Muscle - pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind."

I can't wait to learn from you all this semester!
Rica Dela Cruz's picture

About me

Hi, my name is Rica Dela Cruz and I am a sophomore here at Bryn Mawr. My major is currently undecided, but I am leaning towards biology. I have never taken a neurobiology class before, which is why I wanted to take the class. I have read many articles about the brain and behavior in the NY Times and various magazines, which has made me eager to learn more about the subject and has led me to this class. I am really interested in just about every aspect of this area such as memory, dreams, sleep disorders, brain and behavior differences in genders, mental illness, emotion, evolution of the brain, etc. There is so much to learn about neurobiology and I want to know it all.

I especially would like to learn more about depression. I have a few relatives who have been diagnosed with depression. I want to know why and how people are diagnosed and the brain functions that lead to this type of illness. I also have a strong interest for behavioral differences of people from different cultures. How does being raised within a certain culture affect one's behavior? Moreover, to what degree does the brain affect these behaviors? I lived in the Pacific all my life. I was born and raised on Saipan, an island in Micronesia, and then lived in Hawaii during high school. Since moving to Bryn Mawr, I have noticed some behavioral differences. The mentality of the people, in Micronesia, is somewhat different from those who live on the Mainland US. For example, having children at a young age, such as during your teenage years, is much more prevalent on Saipan and is hardly shunned. In addition, presently in parts of Micronesia, such as the island of Yap, women go topless and view their legs as being sacred, which must always be covered.

Anna G's picture

Hi, I’m Anna and I’m a

Hi, I’m Anna and I’m a sophomore at Bryn Mawr. I’m pre-med now, and deciding between a major in biology and chemistry, and if biology a concentration in NBS. I would like to go on to medical school and become a neurosurgeon or research more about the brain and get a PhD.

I’m interested in pretty much everything, especially about science. I would love to find out more about the circuitry of the brain, how it is wired, and from that how it interacts with the environment, such as culture and drugs.

As a sports fan, I’m interested in the athletic mind set, and how behavior that athletes display affects their brain and development. In addition, I’m interested in how the mind has evolved in conjunction with human evolution.

I’m looking forward to learning more about this, from readings and from others in the class.

Penn Tong's picture

What's Up

Hey all, my name is Penn Tong and I'm a junior at Haverford, however, I am majoring in Biology at Bryn Mawr. I've never taken a neurology class, but I'm very intrigued about the many functions of the brain that we don't fully understand yet. I'm fascinated in questions such as "What are dreams?" "How do we decide from right or wrong?" and "What is a soul? Can it be broken down and explained in parts?". I feel that many of my questions will be addressed by my peers and I'm very excited to know what you all have to say.

I am also a member of the Men's Tennis Team at Haverford and I'm also interested in the concept of competition. I want to know what sparks it and why competition can be so fierce when it is only a game. In a sense, I want to understand myself more. I think being able to understand it and then trying to apply it on myself would be an awesome experiment.

To be honest, I don't know how I can contribute to the class discussion YET, other than my opinions and thoughts as a member of the Y chromosome. However I am very much looking forward to sharing ideas with everyone in class. See you all Thursday!

Angel Desai's picture

Hey all!

Hi guys, My name's Angel Desai and I'm actually a postbac here at Bryn Mawr, with the hope of (someday!) becoming a physician. I graduated from Georgetown University in May '07 with a degree in International development (and a concentration in globalization), but became interested in neurobiology after having a few close, personal encounters with mental health issues. I've been a volunteer since June '07 with the Global Neuroscience Initative Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to advocating on behalf of patients afflicted with mental illness.

That being said I sometimes think I have too many interests for my own good! I'm especially passionate when it comes to global politics (particularly those concerning South Asia), music, and literature (I'm currently on a non-fiction kick, reading all I can about health, security, and international development!) I am really interested in the connections between neurobiology and music, as some fellow classmates have described, behavior and cultural exchange, and dreams!

 Related specifically to culture, I found an article the other day that might be of interest to others at entitled "Culture fundamentally alters the brain." Jan. 18, 2007. It's a little bit dangerous because it suggests a relationship between biology and culture-an interesting implication in today's world.

mkhilji's picture


Hi I am Michelle Khilji and am currently a junior here at Bryn Mawr. I am an Economics Major but Pre-Med Student. The only exposure to neurobiology is what I learned last year in Introduction to Biology. I was interested in taking a Psychology course but realized that this course seems more geared to whatever topics I may find as more interesting. From my economics major many of the principles of consumer and demand are based on the behavior of consumers and producers--the market essentially relies on how individuals react to change in prices, etc.

One topic that is interesting to me is depression. Many people in my family have been recently diagnosed with depression or bipolar--and it has been difficult as some make the argument that depression is all "pschological, and therefore nothing is really wrong chemically". I would like to learn more about depression and find out for myself whether the fact that it seems more and more people are being diagnosed is mainly because of the fact that science is getting better--or if there may be an outside element impacting the rise in depression in at least this country if not the world.

I am really excited for this semester and am willing to listen and learn from my peers.

Margaux Kearney's picture

About Me

Hi my name is Margaux and I am currently a freshman at Bryn Mawr. As a pre med, I plan on double majoring in Biology with a concentration in Neural and Behavioral Science (wish I could have majored in neuroscience!) and French. This is my frist neurobiology course, but I hope that I can contribute to the conversations by sharing my experiences as a shadow student in neurology and neurosurgery departments both in Dallas and overseas, and also as a volunterr with mentally disabled children. I followed the head of the neurology department at the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas and attended a couple of neurosurgeries in France. I also shadowed a neurologist during his office consultations and hospital visits. I have been fascinated with the brain and its complex inner workings for as long as I can remember and would like to become a pediatric neurologist. When I lived in South Africa, I helped a clinical psychologist work with children who had cerebral palsy with horse therapy. I am wondering how the rhythmic movements of the horse affect the brain of these children? Which region of the brain is being stimulated? I am also interested in sleep disorders. In sleep apnea, people unintentionally hold their breath for periods of time and wake up feeling as if they had never fallen asleep. What makes their brain different from ours? My sister has reflex sympathetic dystrophy and I was wondering why the pain migrates to new locations in the body? Not much is known about this disease and it is often misdiagnosed. I would love to explore anything that has to do with the human brain and I'm really looking foward to learning more about this fascinating subject!

Lyndsey C's picture

Hello! My name is Lyndsey

Hello! My name is Lyndsey Carbonello and I am a psychology major here at the mawr. I have taken Behavioral Neuroscience with prof Thomas and a couple other psych courses that discuss neurobiology so I have a little background in this area, but there is so much more for me to learn which is why I am taking this course! I am really interested in cognitive neuropsychology, neurological disorders (particularly those regarding executive functioning), sex differences of the brain, brain anatomy, memory, and emotions. I guess there's just a whole lot I'm interested in, so I'm really looking forward to this class.

Over winter break one of my friends mentioned a presentation one of her classmates gave during the fall about anesthesia and how current studies haven't made any conclusions about how it affects the brain or why it works. I think this would be a really interesting topic to research or discuss in class if we have time. Also, I am hoping to study the WADA test in depth. I don't know much about it other than the fact that doctors perform this procedure on many patients during which half of the brain is shut down for about three minutes. How and why does this procedure work? What does it test for and is it effective? Are there any side effects? Doesn't it sound kind of dangerous? Lastly, I am wondering how brain surgery works. This is sort of a broad question but the whole idea of cutting open one's brain is fascinating and intriguing, so I'd really like to learn more.

Well, thats all for now. See you all on thursday. Nice to meet you!

Paul Grobstein's picture


Yep, a good paper (or more) on what we do/don't understand about various forms of anesthesia would be a wonderful contribution.
Jackie Marano's picture

Hello all!

Hi I'm Jackie and I'm a sophomore at Bryn Mawr. I consider myself to be pre-med, and I am leaning towards a biology major, but for now I am still 'undecided.' I learned a decent amount of introductory biology in high school, and I continue my studies of biology in Bio 101 and 102 here at Bryn Mawr, but I have no other experiences in the field of biology. The material and style of this course are new to me, but I see this as a positive characteristic and I am excited to learn more about what has always interested me, and to explore these topics in the context of neurobiology and behavior.

I consider myself to be a person with a large number of interests in many areas. I have always loved the outdoors, I played many sports when I was younger, I have always been an active person, and I enjoy exercising. Also, from a very young age I have traveled to many places both in the United States and in Europe. As I grow older I find that I have an increasing interest in and appreciation of other cultures, especially in Europe. I lived and studied in Pisa this past summer (under the auspices of the Bryn Mawr Summer Study in Pisa program) and I had the time of my life. Another strong interest of mine is in music. I have played the piano since I was three years old, and picked up the clarinet and saxophone in middle school. I have played in many concerts/recitals in the past, but since I came to Bryn Mawr, I find that I enjoy playing the piano for fun/leisure in the quiet of my dorm room (electronic keyboard). The last big interest of mine that I'll mention is that I love to cook, bake, and experiment with foods/flavors. As a high school graduation gift, I enrolled in a 5-week, 40hr breadbaking course at the French Culinary Institute in NYC and I have since expanded upon my knowledge/enjoyment of breadbaking and the culinary arts in general.

So, with all of that said, I would love to incorporate my interests in exercise, travel, music, and food/foodscience into an investigation of behavior. I would love to explore the power of memory or memories, or the science of the 5 senses, or maybe the origins of stimulation or motivation. I am excited to learn about the interests/thoughts of others, to learn more about my own interests, and for a great semester in general!

Paul Grobstein's picture

brain and food

Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center has Nutrition and Appetite among its areas of research. And there's lots of interesting stuff about the neurobioogy of taste and smell that you could explore.
merry2e's picture

Hi and Intro

Hi…My name is Meredith and I am a McBride Scholars student in my first year at Bryn Mawr. After many years of discovery I have finally decided on Psychology as my major with an interest in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, Caila, 10, and Lily, 3, and I am determined to raise them in a family and community where they can flourish and grow surrounded by love and support.

Concerned by how the brain is affected by repeated trauma in childhood (sexual, emotional, verbal abuse) and the mind/body connection, I am interested especially in how trauma changes the brain chemistry which could cause mental illnesses. How can we treat survivors and people who suffer with illnesses such as schizophrenia, DID, somatic disorders, etc., with more dignity and respect? My experiences as a child growing up in a family with a mother who suffers with bipolar disorder and a brother who was born with Neurofibromatosis has provided a clear definition of the bias in how our society views different types of illnesses. My brother, after diagnosed with NF and four brain tumors was provided for not only physically by his doctors, the insurance company, his family, and friends, but nurtured, loved, and always held in high regard, no matter what his mental state had become. My mother, who suffered with a severe illness also, but one that regarded by society as “crazy,” had limits set on her recovery regarding when she had to be well or her medical insurance would run out, and her friends and family gave up on her. Is there a difference between the two? They are both diseases of the brain…I want to know more about the neurobiology of mental illnesses.

I am looking forward to lots of wonderful discussions and learning and growing!

Paul Grobstein's picture

neurobiology of "mental illness"

Maybe Models of Mental Health: A Critique and Prospectus would give you some starting points for further exploration?'s picture

I am...

My name is Jean Chung and I am a current junior, biology major, premed student at Bryn Mawr.  I have never taken a neurobiology or psych class ever, however, wish to become a neurosurgeon...So I am very, very excited about this class. 

I have many questions that relate biology along with human behavior and emotions.  These questions specifically relate to the effect that music has upon the human nervous system and the response that the human body gives when a certain sound is heard.  After gaining experience from neurosurgery, I wish to do research in music therapy and see how exactly sounds and human feelings can be regulated with different chemical levels in the human body.  Although many people can argue against the fact that all human feelings are based upon chemical levels, I am a strong believer with that thought.  I think that everything is very scientific and consistent to a trend.  But I have a feeling that by the end of this semester, I will have very different ideas about all of this. 

Like mentioned before, I only have knowledge based strictly through numerous human anatomy classes about neurobiology and behavior.  This class will be very eye-opening in the sense that I will be introduced to many other viewpoints of the wonder works in the human brain.  I look forward to all challenges and confusion that come by my way. 

Paul Grobstein's picture


anonstudent01's picture

An Introduction

Hello Everyone,

My name is Anne and I am a freshman at Bryn Mawr. I am planning on majoring in Biology with a concentration in Neural and Behavioral Sciences and a minor in French.  Biology in high school never covered topics in neurobiology and I am excited to learn as much as I can about the biological foundations of human behavior.

Growing up I am sure that everyone was told by their parents on more than one occasion to "behave themselves." I am interested in finding out what that meant for me then and what it means now that I don't habitually fight with my brothers in public or speak out of turn. How do we go about "behaving ourselves"? Are we finished forming certain aspects of our behavior our can our brains respond and adapt further? I also am fascinated by the idea of nature versus nurture as it relates to human behavior, whether aspects of behavior are innate and others specifically informed by surrounding environment.

I am also interested in the connection between natural ability and behavior. If one person is particularly gifted athletically or in one academic field does that natural ability affect corresponding behavior? For example, if I struggle with mathematics does that also naturally affect my character, preferences or social behavior that may not appear to be outwardly related? I am looking forward to our discussions  and learning together! 

Paul Grobstein's picture

"behave yourself"

An intriguing question indeed. Maybe some web exploring on "executive function" would be a starting point. And maybe "struggle with mathematics" is part of someone's character rather than affecting it?
Caroline Feldman's picture

about me

Hi my name is Caroline Feldman. I am a junior at Haverford, but I am majoring in Biology at Bryn Mawr. I have never taken a neurobiology course before and I am excited to learn more about the topic. Animal behavior always has fascinated me and I would really like to explore that topic. Actually, merging human and animal models of brain and behavior raises an interesting point: Do homologous brain regions among vertebrates, or at least mammals, guarantee similar neural processes? This is a difficult question. If the brain were a computer, then it would be easier to predict that two computers with the same architecture and processor would show similar "physiology." However, matching neural blueprints are no guarantee of consistent responses. Two species may both possess a structurally similar region of the brain, yet the size of that region relative to the rest of the brain may differ.

I also play on the Haverford Women’s basketball team and athletics has always been a big part of my life and daily activity. Another question I would like to explore is what motivates people to be active and athletic? How do kids become interested in sports? I would like to understand the neural processes of motivation as they relate to athleticism. This involves understanding, at the most basic level, the foundations of motivation and then of course exploringthe topic on a more scientific level. I am looking forward to taking this class and learning from other students.