Name: Jen Hession
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Morristown, NJ
Majors: Psychological and Brain Sciences and Public Health Studies
My high school didn’t offer any courses in psychology and when I came to Hopkins I had no intention of majoring in it. Of course, as tends to happen, things changed during my freshman year. I had taken Intro to Physiological Psychology, Foundations of Mind, and Animal Behavior. During these classes I started to realize that it was the psychological aspects of these courses that I truly enjoyed. (As an aside: all of those are interesting classes with great and engaging professors, so check them out.)
When I realized I might really be a pysch major at heart, I looked more into the program and found out the Psychological and Brain Sciences major at Hopkins is pretty amazing. Way back in the day – 1882 — G. Stanley Hall, aka the first president of the American Psychological Association, started the first psychology lab in America right here at Johns Hopkins. Following in that tradition, the psychology major puts an emphasis on practical experience. It is a requirement of the major that you complete at least three credits of laboratory work or independent study. That may sound intimidating but I promise that there are so many opportunities here that it is an easy requirement to fulfill.
For instance, in my sophomore year I was a research assistant in the Lab for Child Development (http://www.psy.jhu.edu/~labforchilddevelopment/), not coincidentally headed by Professors Feigenson and Halberda who teach Foundations of Mind. During that year, I actually ran an ongoing study under the supervision of one of the post-docs. I ran experiments, learned how to code, analyzed data, and wrote a paper on chunking ability in young children. It was both a challenging (there is a definite learning curve for recruiting participants and learning protocols) and rewarding experience (I mean I got to play games with toddlers for academic credit…). I gained a whole new set of skills and learned some invaluable lessons about conducting research.
The classes I’ve taken in the department have also been some of my favorites. Intro to Social Psychology with Professor Drigotas is a hit with psych majors and non-psych majors alike because it’s both informative and entertaining. I can say the same about all the classes I’ve taken with him, especially the upper levels, like Interpersonal Relationships, where lectures are supplemented by in depth discussions of the actual research articles. Then there is Abnormal Psych, which is a great subject in itself, but even better because Professor Noonberg has unforgettable real life examples and tries to prevent you from over-diagnosing your friends. Here are some of the other great classes my friends and I have taken to give you some idea of the range: Law, Psych and Public Policy, Positive Psychology, Human Sexuality, Altered States of Consciousness, and Psychopharmacology.
Of course, we all must eventually graduate (though I’m trying not to think about it). So what can you do with a major in Psychology and Brain Sciences? Well, here I have to make the confession that I’m actually a double major in Psychology and Public Health. Right now I’m looking at Public Health careers, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be using what I learned as a psych major. Quite the contrary, psychology classes gave me the perfect background to better understand theories in health behavior change, and my psychology research experience is applicable to almost any field. In fact, when I was in South Africa last summer, I drew on what I learned in my social psych and physiological psych classes to help me in my work with recovering addicts at a homeless shelter and in creating communications for an HIV/AIDS support group. So I guess my answer is that you can do anything you want with a major in Psychological and Brain Sciences, which is kind of a beautiful thing. (Though if you want to know what other PBS majors do after graduation check out the career center’s website.)
Whether you’ve decided on a major in psychology or not I definitely encourage you to check out the department and its classes. Best of luck!
Click here to access more information about the Psychological and Brain Sciences Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Psychological and Brain Sciences question thread.