Brain, Behavior, and Cognition

Co-Director: Nancy Day, Psychology

Co-Director: Ginger Withers, Biology

Paul Hamilton, Psychology

Wally Herbranson, Psychology

Thomas A. Knight, Biology

Matthew Prull, Psychology

Christopher Wallace, Biology

Rachel Wilson, Biology


About the Major

The Brain, Behavior, and Cognition (BBAC) major integrates foundational knowledge from courses in Biology and Psychology as they apply to neural science. Students majoring in BBAC will interrogate what, if anything, is special about the human brain, and how diversity in nervous system organization contributes to specializations in behavioral complexity and diversity across animal species.

Learning Goals

Upon graduation, students will:

  • Have a basic understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system, and know core concepts that are the basis for understanding the neural sciences, drawing from biology, psychology, chemistry, and related foundational areas.
  • Be able to apply the scientific method to evaluate published work, to conduct a structured scientific inquiry, and to be able to collect, analyze and interpret scientific information.
  • Be capable of communicating scientific knowledge in written and oral forms.
  • Apply the principles of research ethics, including responsible conduct of research, and research with human subjects or nonhuman animals, and understand the value of animal models in the study of neural sciences.

Programs of Study


Credits 1 Max Credits 2

Research projects or independent studies arranged with individual students. The students must consult with a faculty member prior to the semester of the anticipated project to determine if the project is suitable, and the project must be done with the supervision of a Whitman faculty member.


Consent of instructor.

Credits 1 Max Credits 3

After carrying out a supervised research project involving the collection and analysis of data, seniors will write a thesis on that research in an accepted scientific style with guidance from the thesis instructor. Research can take place between the sophomore and senior year, and may be completed at another institution. Each student also will publicly present their research results in the BBAC 499 Senior Seminar. A total of three credits are required in the senior year; credits may be taken in the Fall and/or Spring.


Consent of instructor.

Credits 3

Research and writing of the senior honors thesis. Students register for BBAC 490, not for BBAC 498. The registration will be changed from BBAC 490 to 498 for those students who attain honors in BBAC. Open only to senior BBAC majors.

Credits 1

The senior seminar will serve as the capstone of the major by providing a forum for all seniors to present their thesis research, address questions and discuss their work with their peers.