University of South Carolina

Undergraduates edit their own neuroscience journal


When Anna Walton and her undergraduate peers at Carolina make it to medical school or graduate school, they'll have scientific experience under their belts that not many other students can claim.

Faculty-mentored research? Yes, they've done that, and so have lots of students at other universities. But not many undergraduates will have learned the rigors of writing, reviewing, and publishing the findings of scientific research.

Walton is editor-in-chief of IMPULSE, an online journal for undergraduates that publishes articles exclusively on neuroscience topics. IMPULSE began at Carolina and now includes hubs at Appalachian State University and Middlebury College. Undergraduates from across the United States and around the world submit articles to the journal. Undergraduates also serve as reviewers, scrutinizing each submission for accuracy, clarity, and purpose just like big-name scientific publications.

"As reviewers, we're exposed to many different topics in neuroscience research, and it helps develop your critical thinking skills as you read through these papers," said Walton, a rising senior majoring in biology and Spanish who aspires to become a primary care physician working with underserved populations.

"You're asking things like, ‘Is this a logical hypothesis? Is this good science?' We really push each other to ask hard questions and, in some cases, either reject an article or ask for more information."

Which is exactly what happens in the real world of scientific publishing, said Sarah Sweitzer, a neuroscience faculty member at the University's School of Medicine and faculty advisor to IMPULSE undergraduates at Carolina.

"They had a paper recently that stated a hypothesis but the experiment didn't test what the hypothesis asked," Sweitzer said.

Sweitzer sees her mentoring role as helping the students "to think scientifically and critically about a paper. I also help them find places in faculty labs so they can engage in neuroscience-related research, too."

IMPULSE has published an online edition every year since 2004. Current and past editions can be found at

Posted: 11/11/09 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 08/09/11 @ 9:13 AM | Permalink