Dr. Mark Zrull is a professor of many hats. He not only teaches upper-level psychology classes and runs a research lab, but he also interacts with freshmen through his involvement in the “Brain Matters” Residential Learning Community, which he helped create, and its associated First Year Seminar course titled “Brain, the User’s Guide.”
The course explores the basic principles of neuroscience. Zrull has been teaching the class for approximately seven years, giving students the opportunity to explore different ways the brain is studied. Some of these students end up working in his research lab later in their academic career, he said.
Zrull’s research lab is where he gets to connect more deeply with his students.
Currently, students in Zrull’s lab want to know if changes in environment can affect an adolescent rat’s risk taking behavior. What affects the adolescent rat’s choice of something unfamiliar versus choosing something familiar?
Zrull said that students who wish to study neuroscience often choose the Psychology (BS), Natural Science degree because it offers an interdisciplinary education that includes biology and chemistry. And, recently, more students have gained interest in that approach to psychology in preparation for medical school.
Zrull also teaches a biological psychology class, which has mostly upper-level students.
Throughout his roles as teacher, researcher and mentor, Zrull said he is backed by a supporting community.
“Faculty have a great deal of support in this place,” Zrull said. “It is also certainly supportive of students, and I love that you can make connections with different parts of the university as you spend more time here.”
Zrull said he sees students make connections across campus through the interdisciplinary nature of the Natural Science concentration. Students learn from faculty of psychology, biology and chemistry, all of whom support their students.