Luther to purchase equipment and further develop neuroscience major

February 15, 2018

Luther College was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to enhance curriculum and provide educational laboratory experiences for students in the new neuroscience major.

“We are excited to partner with the Carver Trust on this strategic priority to help launch the neuroscience major in innovative ways and accelerate the implementation of new technologies not possible without the Trust’s generous support,” said Luther College President Paula Carlson. “I am confident in the expertise of the faculty team leading this initiative, and know they are dedicated to the success of our students and this interdisciplinary major.”

Luther faculty involved in the development of the major and the grant proposal are Scott Carlson, professor of biology, Stephanie Fretham, assistant professor of biology, and Kristy Gould, professor of psychology. Jeanie Lovell, director of corporate and foundation relations, coordinated the proposal process.

“The addition of the technologies supplied by this grant enhance Luther’s ability to provide state-of-the-art laboratory exercises that explore neuroscience concepts at multiple levels, and provide novel teaching and research opportunities for students in our new neuroscience major,” said Gould.

Luther will purchase technology that addresses neuroscience education on three levels: cellular, organismal and cognitive. To study dynamics of the cell, the college will purchase electrophysiology technologies that enable undergraduates to directly study neural function in a laboratory setting. At the organismal level, the college will install cutting-edge ScreenChip technology, which allows students to directly assess the contribution of specific genes, environmental conditions and pharmacology to the development and behavior of nematodes. And to investigate cognitive function, the college will purchase equipment that allows students to study behavior and learning, including a radial maze, operant chambers and an open-field area.

In addition to benefiting the neuroscience major, the new equipment will enhance the teaching of current and future biology and psychology courses.

“A foundational component of science education is the laboratory experience, regardless of discipline. These experiences afford students the ability to translate seemingly theoretical concepts into an observable principle that students see firsthand,” said Carlson.

The critical role of laboratory education was vital in designing Luther’s neuroscience major; faculty course developers focused not only on what classes students should take during their undergraduate experience, but also on what type of laboratory experiences they should have and what technologies they should experience along their journey.

“An important component of the program is a new lab course where students learn several important neuroscience lab techniques while exploring how scientists ask questions about the brain. The Carver Trust grant will allow us to incorporate additional lab techniques and enable students to ask their own questions by developing and conducting original research projects,” said Fretham.

“The Carver Trust grant is bringing cutting-edge technology to campus that complements existing equipment, thereby expanding and strengthening the neuroscience laboratory experience at Luther College. The addition will enhance the educational experience of both neuroscience majors and other biology and psychology students at Luther,” she continued.

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state of Iowa with assets of more than $300 million and annual grant distributions of more than $15 million. It was created through the will of Roy J. Carver, a Muscatine industrialist and philanthropist, who died in 1981.

Since the beginning of the trust’s grant-making activities in 1987, nearly $330 million has been distributed in the form of 2,100 individual grants. Biomedical and scientific research; primary, secondary and higher education; and other issues related to the needs of youth are the program areas of greatest interest to the Carver Charitable Trust.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: