Considered the first of its kind in the United States, a new master’s degree program in the art and science of neuroimaging will welcome its inaugural class this fall at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The one-year master’s of science in neuroimaging and informatics (NIIN) is offered through the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute. The research center, which joined USC in 2013, is considered one of the world’s finest neuro scanning and genetic testing labs.

“This program is a highly unique educational course of study for the field of brain imaging,” said John Darrell Van Horn, PhD, program director and associate professor of neurology at the institute and its Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. “It’s also unique for USC. It’s going to put us as leaders in the rich and dynamic field of neuroimaging.”

Classes will be held at the Keck School of Medicine. Students will be introduced to modern neuroimaging data through access to state-of-the-art neuroimaging systems. They will be responsible for collection of data and creation of analytics, and they will draw scientific conclusions.

In addition to intimate class sizes taught by neuroscience faculty, students will have access to the institute’s new brain scanning facility expected to open next spring.

“Students will be able to gather, analyze and explore piles and piles of neuroimaging data on brain form, function and connectivity,” Van Horn said.

The inaugural class includes about 30 students from diverse educational backgrounds. The program is suited for students who have earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology, neuroscience, computer science, engineering, physics and biology.

“This exciting new master’s program has something for everybody and provides an environment where everybody can make contributions,” Van Horn said.

The neuroimaging and informatics program is ideal for students looking to expand their knowledge before pursuing medical degrees or doctoral studies, Van Horn added.

The program consists of 10 courses; 26 units are required to graduate. The curriculum focuses on the basics of the human brain — particularly from the perspective of neuroimaging — and data collection using state-of-the-art MRI scanners and other systems, cell structures, genetic tests and microscopy.

Admission requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, along with GRE scores.

The degree program was made possible by a recent $50 million gift from longtime USC benefactors Mark and Mary Stevens. The gift is part of the $6 billion Campaign for the University of Southern California, one of the most ambitious fundraising campaigns in the history of higher education.

Neuroscience is considered one of the fastest-growing scientific fields, and demand for graduates with specialized neuroimaging training is expected to boom. USC’s graduates will be well-equipped to become scientific coordinators or lead analysts in research laboratories or to apply to a medical training program or to engage in public policy or regulatory administration of academic, clinical or business efforts.

“NIIN students will ideally positioned to enter any field related to the study of the brain,” Van Horn said.

by Douglas Morino