Honors Program in Neuroscience first in Uskudar in Turkey!

Üsküdar University is breaking new ground. Turkey's first Honors Program in Neuroscience comes to life in Üsküdar. Meryem Özkan of Uskudar News Agency spoke to Prof. Dr. Tayfun Uzbay, Rector Advisor of Uskudar University Rector and Head of Internal Medical SciencesDepartment of the Faculty of Medicine.
"The multidisciplinary neuroscience honor program covering both the field of health sciences and other areas, whose directive is clearly defined within the curriculum, is launching now at the Uskudar University for the first time in Turkey," Prof. Dr. Tayfun Uzbay said.

What is an honor program?

We thought of creating an honor program at Uskudar University. That's what the Senate has decided on. The honor program is a program for successful and science-savvy students. It aims to honor these students and guide them to work successfully in the fields of R&D in the future. A program that aims to teach and direct students to be more successful students by strengthening the infrastructure of successful, science, and research-oriented students. It is necessary to start teaching science and scientific methods to students starting from studenthood. Successful students are included in this program. We choose students with a certain grade note average and we will have a certain quota.

As you know, we are a thematic university. Üsküdar University is a university that acts on brain contact, prioritizes neuropsychiatric diseases, and conducts studies in neuroscience and neuropsychiatry. Therefore, since our infrastructure is sufficient in this regard, we start the first honors program in neuroscience. Honor programs may be opened in other areas over time as well. Our aim in the neuroscience program is to create a multidisciplinary program.

To train the students selected here in the field of neuroscience in line with the issues I have just mentioned. We aim to tell them what neuroscience is, strengthen their infrastructure, and provide a multidisciplinary perspective. In addition, we will choose students from all programs of our university for this program. In other words, the students who will be from engineering will be either from the medical school, from the faculty of human and social sciences, and from the faculty of health sciences as well. We will raise students selected from here as honors in a curriculum.

What was the starting point of the honor program?

The idea of this honor program, as I remember, first came out from our teacher Prof. Dr. İbrahim Özdemir, Head of the Department of Philosophy. Later, our Founding President Prof. Dr. Nevzat Tarhan supported this idea greatly and asked to be done. When Sir Nevzat asked if we could run such a coordination job, do an organization, I thought this program would be very useful. This is a forward-thinking and very beautiful breakthrough. I have embraced it, I accepted it. I did the infrastructure works of this. First, we gathered how to choose students and what could be in the content of the program. Of course, a directive had to be created. We created this, and it was approved in the senate.

At this stage, its educational content is being to be built. After its content is been build, the program will be implemented in the curriculum of Üsküdar University with its course code and content. We are thinking of starting our first honors program by making our choices among students who have completed two years, that is, four semesters. Here we will take students from both Turkish and English departments. Our language of education will be Turkish.

Who can participate, what will be the criteria? 

Our criteria will be as follows: First of all, we will make the students whose grade note average is over 3.50 points, as candidate students as honors students. A commission will evaluate them. Our quota was determined as 20 people at first. We will open a class of twenty people. If we have 40-50 students with an average grade above 3.50, we will include 20 students in the system by evaluating those who are more prone to them, that is, those who are prone to research, those who want to conduct scientific studies, and who want to set academic goals for themselves. A student's grade point average may be below 3.50, but he may be skilled, skilled, and curious. We did not forget that there could be students of this kind.

The deans of each faculty and the directors of our institutes can suggest students with a GPA below 3.50, but who deserve to be included in the honors program. Just like the others, we will select them within the quota and put them in the system. So we can add two more over 20 people. We also have the chance to include students who have a grade note average below 3.50, but come to the forefront with their talent, and their talent is recommended by deans and institute directors. In addition to their diplomas, these students will receive a special certificate of honor when they graduate with the training we will provide them here. This certificate of honor will be a very important resource for their CVs and will give them priority when they want to do a master's degree or doctorate. Also, if these students want to switch to a postgraduate program in the field of neuroscience, they will be more successful there, because they will come from this program already.

Will the students receive a second education in the honor program?

You know there are elective courses. Many students can choose. Faculties can choose courses from each other and departments from each other. Some of our students can also enroll in a second section and read the two sections together. These students can also participate in the honor program. This is more of special education than a second one.  Our professors, who are prominent in their field, will have the opportunity to take courses specific to the field of neuroscience. So, the honor program will be in the education of the student. Don't think like a second secondary education.

Is this an application only at Üsküdar University? Do you have it abroad also?
This exists abroad. Many universities apply this abroad. I was at the University of North Texas for post-doctoral one-year education. That university had an honors program also, and students were awarded their second documents, as they graduated from the honors program while receiving their diplomas. Many prestigious universities do this abroad. There are few places as far as we know, it is not very common in Turkey. We see these programs mostly in programs such as literature, economics, and political science. Some universities do this in partnership with other universities abroad.

Currently Uskudar University, in a course where you stepped foot in Turkey, a specific directive, clearly defined, and health sciences, as well as other areas including multidisciplinary neuroscience, honors program, will be spent for the first time in its life. If we look at these programs within the universities in Turkey, we see that the programs are not as comprehensive as ours. It is a very comprehensive program and will be done entirely at Uskudar University. Students are not in a program that connects abroad or elsewhere. We do it entirely by ourselves, on our own means. In this respect, I can say that it will be an important beginning in Turkey, which can be an example to other universities. 

When will the Honor Program be implemented?

We agreed on this issue within the framework of our decision in the Senate. Programs in universities can be four years, five years, or six years long. For example, the Faculty of Medicine is six years, the Department of Biology is a four-year chapter. No matter what department, the student will have completed four semesters. Our aim here is that the student who came to Üsküdar University must first adapt to the university, adapt to the life of the university, and show himself to us.

Because we will take a grade note average. We thought of a period of four semesters in order to evaluate the grade note average. At the end of this period, if the student's grade point average is over 3.50, we can apply to the honors program or we can offer; this is possible also. It will be evaluated by a commission. The chosen student will have been added to the honor program of the remaining education. The difference from elective courses was, that students could choose the course they wanted. In order for students to choose this course, the GPA must first be 3.50, then it must be selected by the commission.

What will be the benefits of graduating from the honor program to the students?

If the student is curious about neuroscience and the brain, wants to be a part of brain research in the future, for example, if a student of the bioengineering department has completed the honors program, this means this student will do biotechnology studies in the field of neuroscience. Since it will be understood that he has a good infrastructure, he will be taken into consideration in job applications. It will surely take priority in any postgraduate or doctorate program that concerns neuroscience. Our lessons are not just theoretical as well. These students will also enter the laboratory if necessary. They will build projects by themselves. They will do project work with their teachers.

They will also attend a number of private seminars. So they will be well equipped in this area. Imagine, if a student usually wants to become a researcher or an academician after finishing the license degree, he makes his way. Military service can be intervening as well. Here, the student starts getting to know academic life much earlier. Students usually learn the academic life, follow the literature, try to experiment or do research in a specific area after entering the master's or doctorate program. Participants in the honor program will begin to learn them while they are still students.

On the other hand, they will have a theoretical infrastructure that can collaborate with different fields specific to neuroscience. Therefore, this program will open a serious door to students for neuroscience activities. However, if the student is not going to work in neuroscience, it does not give him an advantage. If he is going to apply for another program, he will not have a big advantage there. Our aim here is to train students who are keen on neuroscience. We want to bring qualified staff who can do high-level studies in neuroscience.

Can a for the honor program selected student, be removed from the program?

If a student chosen for the honor program does not fulfill the requirements of the program, of course, can be removed from the program. First of all, our student's grade note average should not drop after he/she is selected for the program. If there is a serious decrease in the grades after their selection, they can be removed from the program. They need to be an example of their discipline and harmony and human relations. That is, if he receives any disciplinary action, he is removed from the honor program. It also needs to comply with ethical values. Students who have negative attitudes and behaviors, do not comply with ethical rules, and have disciplinary problems are excluded from the program, even if they are having a high note or they are selected. We want to raise students who are not only a good scientist, but who also draw attention with their manners and kindness, respect scientific and ethical values, work in harmony with others, work in harmony with other fields, and have high knowledge and skills.

Interview: Meryem Özkan

Üsküdar Haber Ajansı (ÜHA)