Developmental neuroscience is a broad field that incorporates aspects from many other scientific disciplines, but it can be simply described as the study of the development of the brain and nervous system. While most of its subject matter has been known and studied by the medical community for decades, the field did not emerge as an independent pursuit until recently. Modern developmental neuroscientists find themselves a part of a complex and growing profession that has numerous applications for both humans and animals.
Combining Neuroscience and Developmental Biology
The core of developmental neuroscience revolves around the juncture between neuroscience, or the study of the brain and nervous system, and biological development. This covers a lot of ground, ranging from factors influencing prenatal development to those that provoke deterioration associated with old age. While some aspects of the field are largely theoretical or speculative, it has the potential to lead to groundbreaking applications throughout the medical community. Many developmental neuroscientists focus their studies on finding solutions or preventative measures for neurological disorders and other natural deficits.
Potential for Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Since developmental neuroscience lies at an intersection of several distinct scientific fields, many research projects and career opportunities involve cross-disciplinary collaboration. This also means that students and active professionals have a lot of options when it comes to specializing their degree or career path. There is potential for crossover with many different sciences, including veterinary medicine, pathology and genetics, depending on the specific research project or position.
Working as a Developmental Neuroscientist
Many developmental neuroscientists dedicate most or all of their career towards research efforts. Qualified and experienced professionals typically initiate or lead projects with assistance from junior team members. Researchers have several options when it comes to employment, including private companies, universities and medical institutions. Professionals pursuing medical sciences careers enjoy a strong job growth outlook through 2026 and earned a median salary of over $80,000 a year in 2017, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education and Career Preparation
Students usually need a doctoral degree to maximize their career potential, especially if they want to take on leadership roles in research projects. Prospective doctoral candidates often have some flexibility in choosing their degree path, since it is a product of both neuroscience and biology. However, students should take the time to investigate the specific requirements for their desired programs to ensure they fulfill all the necessary requirements during their academic career. There are also some job opportunities for those with undergraduate or graduate degrees. Many labs and medical facilities recruit technicians and assistants as part of their service team.
The brain is one of the last great frontiers in medical science, so there is still a lot to learn about its mechanisms and processes. Even though the field hasn’t been around as long as many others, it has promising applications and implications for dozens of different health conditions. Developmental neuroscience can be a demanding and difficult area of study, but the opportunity to push boundaries and find ways to help others provides the opportunity for immense personal reward.