Biological Basis of Behavior Program

The Biological Basis of Behavior Program was established at Penn in 1978 in response to student demand.  As the field of neuroscience was becoming increasingly interdisciplinary in the 1970’s, students began to pursue “individualized majors” which combined the study of biology with coursework in the behavioral sciences.  Penn took notice of the interest and asked Professor Norman Adler of the Psychology Department to design a cohesive program that would address the growing appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience.  In 1978, BBB was born.

The BBB Program is not a traditional department, but incorporates faculty from the Departments of Biology, Psychology and the Institute for Neurological Sciences who teach BBB courses.  The Program is overseen by a Director, who is a faculty member actively involved in neuroscience research.  Dr. Adler was the first BBB Director (1978 – 1989). He was then followed by Dr. Edward Pugh from 1989 to 1993. Dr. Pugh, a world famous retinal physiologist, was a Professor of Psychology with secondary appointments in ophthalmology in the School of Medicine.  He is now a professor at U.C. Davis.

Dr. Steven Fluharty, Professor of Pharmacology in the School of Veterinary Medicine with secondary appointments as professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology in the School of Medicine and Professor of Psychology in the School of Arts & Sciences, served as director of the Biological Basis of Behavior Program from 1994 to 2005 and is now the Senior Vice Provost for Research at Penn.  In 2001, the position of Associate Director was created to provide greater academic and advising support for the students in the BBB Program.  Dr. Jennifer Heerding has held the post since its inception.

More recently, Dr. Ted Abel, Brush Family Professor of Biology and Director of the NIMH Predoctoral Training Program in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, took over as BBB Director in 2006.  He was joined in 2010 by Dr. Marc Schmidt, Associate Professor of Biology and a director of the Neuroscience Graduate Group.  Drs. Abel and Schmidt currently serve as co-Directors for the BBB Program.