‘We’re excited’: UNB Fredericton creates joint bio-psych discipline

    Still of a University of New Brunswick, testing the Electroencephalogram machines, available for the Bio-Psych program. (Submitted: Veronica Whitford)

    An idea that was 10 years in the making will become reality as the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus announces it will offer a joint biology and psychology undergraduate degree, starting this September. 

    The four-year bio-psych program gives students the ability to major in two disciplines and will include 134 credit hours, split between both biology and psychology courses for those interested in learning about the human body and human behaviour. 

    Paul Mazerolle, UNB’s president and vice-chancellor, said in a press release the interdisciplinary approach to biology and psychology provides a unique experience and enhances flexibility for students. 

    “This program incorporates strengths from biology and psychology that enhances options and flexibility for students to meet their personal and academic goals,” he said. 

    Students who graduate from the program will obtain the equivalent of a double major. 

    Veronica Whitford, a psychology professor and science advisor at UNB, said in an interview the university developed the program due to the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience and its growing popularity among students. 

    “The faculty of science offers very few opportunities for students to functionally complete two majors within the span of a four-year bachelor of sciences,” she said. 

    “It’s going to fill that void for students who are interested in both areas.”

    Whitford said the program was on the works for a while before she joined, but it was a collective effort from the biology and psychology departments.

    The bio-psych program will run similar to the stream offered on UNB’s Saint John campus, with small changes allowed by the larger biology and psychology programs in Fredericton. 

    She said students were quite vocal about wanting a bio-psych program to be made available on the Fredericton campus.

    Katherine Barclay, director of undergraduate studies at UNB, said the university is modelling the program on its current interdepartmental streams, similar to bio-chemistry. 

    Though there is already a bio-psych program at UNBSJ, Barclay said the Fredericton campus’ structure “started from scratch” when designing the program, noting significant differences in what both campuses have. 

    “We just felt it was easier just to go ahead and start it over,” she said.

    Barclay said the new program will prepare students for careers in any health-care setting, where employers place more emphasis on social sciences and understanding of behaviour. 

    The overall consensus among staff and students is excitement, she said. 

    “We’re a little nervous because we’re worried we’re going to be overwhelmed, but we’re excited,” said Barclay.