"I am thrilled that this major was approved," says
Psychology Professor Kelly Lambert.
In spring 2014, the Randolph-Macon College faculty approved a new major in behavioral
neuroscience. The major will offer students the opportunity to explore the brain
“I am thrilled that this major was approved,” says Kelly Lambert, the Macon and
Joan Brock Professor of Psychology and the chair of the
Psychology Department. “I have collaborated with students on many behavioral
neuroscience research projects during the past 25 years at R-MC, but now students
will have more curricular options and will receive the recognition—in the form of
an official major—that they deserve.”
The Behavioral Neuroscience Major
The behavioral neuroscience major will prepare students for a diverse array of careers
beyond the expected field of neuroscience: medical health practitioners, pharmaceuticals,
education, philosophy, animal behavior, veterinary medicine and certain aspects
of marketing and business in which decision-making is of interest.
“It’s safe to say that behavioral neuroscience is very appropriate for a liberal
arts college, as it will prepare students to be accountable for their personal neural
and mental health, and it will open doors to apply this information in many different
career paths,” says Lambert. “I can’t wait to see where this degree takes our students.”
Emily Kirk ’16, a psychology
and biology major and
chemistry minor, is enthusiastic about the new major.
“I am excited about this opportunity, and I am going to make behavioral neuroscience
one of my majors,” says Kirk. “I’ve also been inspired by the faculty to pursue
a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience.” Kirk, who in 2013 did a Schapiro Undergraduate
Research Fellowship (SURF) project at
R-MC’s primate satellite lab in Miami, Florida, loves behavioral neuroscience
because of its hands-on nature. “This year I worked in Professor Lambert’s lab as
a lab assistant, and I’m currently assisting her with summer SURF research,” she
says. “The research allows me to take what I’ve learned in class to a whole new
level. It’s an incredibly enriching experience to be immersed in the scientific
Samantha Scott ’15, a biology and psychology major, says the neuroscience
major adds depth to the psychology department’s already robust curriculum.
“I’m excited to further explore the complexities between brain and behavior,” she
says. “Moreover, it brings new research opportunities, and that is wonderful. What
excited me most about neuroscience is the biological and behavioral links that can
be made based on the brain’s reaction to different stimuli. I plan on making neuroscience
my third major.”
Noelle McKearney ’16 says she was very excited when Lambert told
students about the neuroscience major.
“I planned on getting an emphasis in the psychobiology section of psychology, and
now I am definitely considering adding the neuroscience major,” says McKearney.
“The study of neuroscience combines the aspects I love most from biology and psychology,
both of which are my majors.”
About Kelly Lambert
Kelly Lambert, who joined the faculty at R-MC in 1989 and holds the Macon and Joan
Brock Professorship in Psychology, is the 2013 recipient of the
H. Hiter Harris Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
In addition to teaching psychology and neuroscience courses, she maintains a behavioral
neuroscience laboratory where she and her students investigate the plasticity of
the mammalian brain. Her work investigating the paternal brain was recently funded
by the National Science Foundation.
Lambert served as president of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society
from 2009-2011 and has published research articles in journals such as Nature, Scientific
American, and Behavioral Neuroscience. In 2001 she received the State Council of
Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, and in 2007 she was awarded
the Samuel Nelson Gray Distinguished Professor Award at R-MC. In 2008 Lambert was
named the Virginia Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement
of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Lambert also serves as co-director of R-MC’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship
(SURF) program along with Chemistry Professor Serge
Schreiner. SURF offers students the unique opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time,
original research during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
In addition, Lambert was instrumental in helping establish
R-MC’s field laboratory at the DuMond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical
Forests in Miami, Florida. The lab opened in summer 2013.
Lambert’s books include Clinical Neuroscience: Psychopathology and the Brain
(with coauthor Craig Kinsley, Oxford University Press, 2010), Lifting Depression:
A neuroscientist’s hands-on approach to activating your brain’s healing power
(Basic Books, 2008), and The Lab Rat Chronicles: A neuroscientist reveals life lessons
from the planet’s most successful mammals (Perigee, 2011). She is currently
writing Biopsychology (Oxford University Press). Lambert earned her B.A.
from Samford University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.
Randolph-Macon College recently received a
two-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Lambert will
use the $429,192 grant to continue research related to rodent models of emotional
resilience. The research will provide multiple opportunities for collaborations
with Lambert’s R-MC colleagues and students. Psychology Professor Massimo Bardi
will contribute to the work as he monitors hormone responses and detailed behavioral
responses. During the second year of research, students will have an opportunity
to travel to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (at Chapel Hill)
to conduct research using an innovative methodology known as optogenetics, which
uses specific and targeted lights to turn genetically altered brain areas on and
off in real time. All of this work is an extension of Lambert’s 2013 sabbatical
research, the results of which were published on April 28, 2014 in the journal
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.