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Brain and Cognitive Sciences
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Leo van Brussel (BSc in Philosophy and Dutch Language and Culture)

Somewhere around January, I had a difficult conversation with my study advisor. I was at the verge of completing two bachelors – Philosophy and Dutch Language and Culture – but I had absolutely no clue what to do once I would have completed them...

'I saw no interesting career options for either of their subsequent master programmes, and besides, I was kind of done dusting off old books and ideas. I wanted a masters programme that would teach me about recent ideas and theories, would allow me to learn new techniques, and would have an object of study that was far from discovered. Basically, I wanted to get involved with the type of science that makes you say “hell yeah”.

I decided to challenge myself 

'At this point in the conversation, my study advisor suggested that I could check out the field of Cognitive Neuroscience. After all, she said, the field fits my interests and it is making new discoveries every day. Besides, with a background in philosophy of mind and linguistics, I just might be able to apply and get selected. She warned me though, that enrolling in such a competitive master would be a long shot. I decided to take it'.

Make my own choices  

'I visited a few Master’s days of possible universities and learned about the programmes they offered in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience. Many programmes pushed me in the direction of linguistics and did not really allow me to further broaden my interests and horizon. Many programmes, but one. The Brain and Cognitive Sciences programme offered me an interdisciplinary environment, in which I would be free to choose what types of courses I wanted to take, what type of techniques I wanted to learn, and what type of research I wanted to conduct. My background would be valued, whether I would be interested in neurons or behavior'.

Diversity 

'Roughly one and a half year later, one year into the programme, I can reflect on this promise and state that it hasn’t really been kept. It has been more than kept; surpassed if you will. The past year I have been able to study fear in all it’s facets, ranging from microbiological interactions to theories of complex emotions. I have learned about the brain mechanisms involved in decision-making, have tackled complex statistical methods and have watched the most state-of-the-art neuroscience techniques in action. I find it incredibly awesome to be able to get involved with so many new and interesting topics, and the guidance teachers and academic staff have offered for moments when I lacked some background knowledge has been superb'.

Close contact with fellow students

'The absolute highlight of the past year has been my internship, in which I have come up with a new way to study perceptual decision-making by means of a conflict task. I have developed an experiment, programmed it, conducted it and am currently writing a report. Continuing to work during the summer months might sound like a pain, but my enthusiasm for the study has not even faded the slightest, so I am happily continuing to work on it. Perhaps the only downside for now is that in these months there’s less contact with fellow students, which is also a key aspect of why this masters programme is fantastic. The Tuesday night drinks, the study trip, drinks after lectures and all the Cognito activities really help to get you through the harder times'.  

My future changed because of this Master 

'Overall, the Brain and Cognitive Sciences master is a study programme that perfectly fits my interests. The outstanding quality of education, the interdisciplinary approach, and the freedom to choose according to your interests, creates an academic environment of which I am happy to be part of.  In fact, I hope that after next year, I will be able to pursue an academic career in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience. Considering how I felt before, I owe this turnaround completely to this magnificent master.'