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Neuroscience and Computer Science: Double Major of Dreams

Can’t decide between two awesome disciplines? Choose both! Brain and computers is a power combination, which opens doors to breathtaking technology. In this post, we will dive into the wildest possibilities that exist through enrolling in neuroscience and computer science double major and present you with several options on how to combine the two fields in your career.

Why double major in neuroscience and computer science?

We live in time when neuroscience and computer science are considered complimentary disciplines. The discovery and research in neural pathways has led to our understanding of brain networks as binary communication systems, in which each neuron in the cerebral cortex acts as a transistor in the computer processor. This has led to numerous attempts to model the brain as a computational system, yielding some breathtaking results.

The truth is that computer science is an integral component in the study of neuroscience, and it is virtually impossible to understand the brain without computational methods and manipulations. What’s more, not only neuroscience is dependent on computer science for its progress, but also advanced subtopics in computer science, such as artificial intelligence, statistics, and deep learning, are largely based on our discoveries of the structure and functional anatomy of the brain.

Thus, combining computer science and neuroscience is highly advantageous for any individual who is professionally interested in either one of these disciplines.

Neuroscience and computer science double major student
Photo by Geralt @ Pixabay

Study options for neuroscience and computer science

If you want to combine neuroscience and computer science in your studies, you could do so early on as an undergraduate student or as a graduate student who has figured out the need or desire to study a complementary field to fill in the gaps.

Combining computer science and neuroscience as an undergraduate student

There are several ways to combine the two disciplines during your undergraduate college education:

  1. Majoring in computer science with a minor in neuroscience
  2. Majoring in neuroscience with a minor in computer science
  3. Neuroscience and computer science double major

Combining computer science and neuroscience as a graduate student

If you decided to combine the two fields after finishing your Bachelor’s degree, you have the following study options:

  1. Graduate degree neuroscience after majoring in computer science
  2. Graduate degree in computer science after majoring in neuroscience
  3. Graduate degree in one of the intermediate topics in neuroscience and computer science (see below)

Intermediate topics in neuroscience and computer science

Neuroinformatics – the discipline that concerns itself with the development and application of tools for processing, storing, and analyzing neural data.

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Brain-Computer Interfaces – heard about Elon Musk’s company called Neuralink? Brain-Computer Interface is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an electronic device. This usually happens through the use of neural signaling detector, a communication channel that transfers the information, and an interpreter that analyzes and translates the inputs into output commands, such as motor actions or screen-based reactions.

Computational Neuroscience – the field that involves interpretation and modeling of neural processes, such as sensory perception, movements, motivation, memory, attention, cognition, as well as pathological conditions.

Artificial Intelligence – computational field that attempts to simulate intelligent processes with the use of statistics and computer science methods.

Natural Language Processing – is an intermediate topic of computer science, neuroscience, and linguistics that works on simulating and reproducing the perception and communication of visual and verbal language with the use of programming tools.

Robotics – an engineering discipline that involves design and manufacturing of functional machines that aid humans with certain tasks and activities.

computational neuroscientist doing graph analysis
Photo by National Cancer Institute @ Unsplash

Computer science and neuroscience jobs

There are many careers that are open to you as a computer science and neuroscience double major. Some of these are:

Research Scientist – one of the most popular career directions for someone for someone who has training in both neuroscience and computer science is to join the academia. Research scientists conduct studies and publish their finding in academic papers.

AI Specialist – having background in neuroscience gives you an edge as an AI specialist, who uses computational methods to simulate intelligent behavior by machines and computers.

Deep Learning Engineer – as someone who has knowledge of both computer science and neuroscience, you could design and construct artificial neural networks in order to solve some of the most complex cognitive-type problems in computer science.

Computational Neuroscientist – you may choose to work as a computational neuroscientist in research or in industry, pushing the boundaries of science by applying your programming and neural processing skills.

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Neural Imaging Specialist – the study of neuroscience involves a fair share of imaging techniques, which include functional brain MRI and SPECT imaging. Processing of the data acquired by these methods requires robust abilities in computational methods.

My experience combining the two disciplines

During medical school, I was interested in the brain and participated in several neuroscience-related research projects. Being a programming enthusiast as well, I quickly figured out the connection between computer science and neuroscience, and decided to travel to a Computational Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory in one of major public universities in the US. The lab was involved in computational modeling of human cognitive functions, which I found interesting and enlightening.

After graduation and several years of working in clinical environment, I decided to join the research force by starting a neuroscience laboratory position at another large state university. I was mostly busy doing animal experiments and other classical research tasks, but also tried to get involved in computational endeavors.

At first, I made a presentation about the use of Artificial Intelligence techniques in neuroscience research, and then initiated a collaboration between the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Lab at the same university. I even wrote a grant proposal for using AI techniques in detecting and interpreting animal emotion through physical movement.

Later on, I also used my programming skills to automate division of animals into treatment groups based on parameters like body weight, place preference, and movement. The project was well acclaimed and used by other members of my laboratory for its simplicity in comparison to outdated manual grouping.

These are the few things I was able to accomplish during the 1.5 years I worked at the lab, and I could perhaps do more if I stayed there longer. I hope my story helps to shed light on just some opportunities you can pursue as someone with interests in both fields even if your lab or company is not a true user of both neuroscience and computer science.

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woman in black top using Surface laptop to analyze neuroscience and computer science data
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Salary expectations for combining computer science and neuroscience

You may be interested in how much does it pay to have a career specializing in both neuroscience and computer science. To answer this, let us give you a few examples of the careers we have indicated above.

  • Research Scientist – $85,000
  • AI Specialist – $125,000
  • Deep Learning Engineer – $135,000
  • Computational Neuroscientist – $100,000
  • Neural Imaging Specialist – $70,000

The future of computer science and neuroscience

Computational neuroscience and artificial intelligence undoubtedly have a sensational future. The global artificial intelligence market was valued at $93.5 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38.1% between 2022 and 2030. Brain-computer interface startups are becoming increasingly popular, and the possibilities can only be imagined.

If you are interested in neuroscience and computer science as your future career, we believe you have an exciting future ahead of you. We hope you have enjoyed this article and found it helpful and informative. Best of luck in your career pursuits!