Why Major in NPB?

Human neuroanatomy diagram

What is NPB?

While some might think that NPB means “no peanut butter,” “no paper bills,” or “no problem, Bob,” ask any NPB student and they will tell you its true meaning – Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior.

With a yearly average of over 966 students, NPB is the third largest major in the College of Biological Sciences1. So why is this elaborately named major so popular?

N = Neurobiology

This aspect of the major focuses on the lovely gray matter in your skull and how this singular organ coordinates perception, sensory and motor function, cognition, learning, memory, and basic reflex pathways. Did you know that about 50% of your brain is dedicated to vision? Do you ever wonder how a pain in your toe – the furthest body part away from your brain – can almost instantaneously transmit sensory information up into your nervous system? This occurs through various neural circuits that integrate information in the brain from environmental signals at different parts of the body. You will learn more about this circuitry in NPB 100 (Neurobiology), which is a required course for the major.

P = Physiology

This aspect of the major focuses on the physiological mechanisms that regulate basic functions, such as growth, reproduction, movement, response to stimuli, and the maintenance of homeostasis. These functional mechanisms occur at the level of the cell, organ system, and whole organism and are common to all animals. There is also an emphasis on human physiology and the systematic functions of major organ systems. The amount of interconnection within the human body may surprise you! For example, nerve impulses to and from the brain can travel as fast as 170 miles per hour and the human body is estimated to have up to 60,000 miles of blood vessels! This intricate and extensive circuitry is essential for overall physiological function. You will learn more about the human body in NPB101 (Systemic Physiology), which is a required course for the major.

Human body systems diagram

B = Behavior

This aspect of the major focuses on how the nervous system (neurobiology) and the endocrine system (physiology) integrate to determine behavior and the interaction between organisms and their environments – both physical and social. Wouldn’t you be curious to find out how nerve impulses can release specific hormones that can influence your mood or behavior? For example, do you ever wonder why you might feel pain from a sports injury hours after you’ve stopped exercising? This is due to a “runner’s high” which is a secretion of endorphins that may inhibit pain during physical activity..

N + P + B = NPB

As a whole, the NPB major provides a multifaceted approach to how organisms regulate basic and complex functions, the mechanisms underlying these functions, and how neural and physiological information is integrated to influence behavior.

For more information about the NPB major, visit the department website at http://www.npb.ucdavis.edu/.

NPB-EXB Handbook

Major Requirements and Coursework

First and second-years will focus on a more general science background course that are common to other majors in CBS. These courses include introductory courses in mathematics (MAT17ABC or MAT21AB), chemistry (CHE2ABC), biology (BIS2ABC), physics (PHY7ABC), and organic chemistry (CHE8AB or CHE118ABC).

Third and fourth-years will focus on upper division courses that are more specific to NPB and other relevant subjects, including biology (BIS101, 102+103 or 105, 104), statistics (STA100), evolution (GEL107 or EVE100 or ANT151), NPB (NPB100, 101, 102, 101L*), upper division depth, and an additional lab requirement.

The upper division depth requirement can be satisfied by 12 additional units of any upper division NPB courses that are not already required by the major, giving students a wide range of options to choose from. Fun fact! In addition to any NPB upper division courses, the depth requirement can also be satisfied by the following: ANT154AB, EXB101, 102, 111, 125, ENT 104. This offers students even more flexibility in selecting courses that are most interesting to you in fulfilling major requirements.

Since there are so many options, the most effective way to choose depth courses is to browse the catalog and read through the course descriptions to find courses that seem most interesting to you – you’ll succeed more in a class that you actually enjoy! Then use the catalog or class search tool to check when these courses are offered throughout the year – some courses are available every quarter, and others only once a year. Be proactive and plan ahead!

Upper division NPB courses

*The lab requirement can be satisfied by a number of courses, including NPB101L. However, the courses that can be used to satisfy this requirement may vary depending on the year that you were admitted into UC Davis – it is best to check with an adviser for more information.

For more information about major requirements and coursework, check out the NPB Major Handbook!



The NPB major provides the foundation for a number of different careers, ranging from training in the health professions to laboratory research to teaching at various levels.

Graduate Programs

UCD Neuroscience Graduate Program

If you are interested in research – laboratory, clinical, or biotechnology, you should consider a graduate program in one of the many different fields offered, including programs in Physiology, Anatomy, Animal Behavior, Endocrinology, Neuroscience, Nutrition, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Exercise Biology, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, and many others.

  • Talk with faculty members in the department in your area of interest about research opportunities or graduate school programs.
  • Research programs that you might be interested in and request more information from those schools. For more information about the UC Davis Neuroscience Graduate Program, go to http://neuroscience.ucdavis.edu/grad.
  • Visit Pre-Graduate /Pre-Professional School Advising in 111 South Hall.

Professional Schools

UCDMC School of Medicine

If you are interested in attending a health profession school, the NPB major provides preparation for applying to programs in human and veterinary medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, nursing, medical technology, biotechnology, and other health science professions.

  • Visit Health Sciences Advising in 111 South Hall for more information about prerequisite coursework, the application process, and the different programs available.

SASC Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional Advising

Teaching Credentials

If you are interested in teaching as a career, whether at the high school, college, or research level, look into programs in education that are of interest to you and visit an adviser at the School of Education at 106 AOB IV for more information.

Career Advising and Opportunities

If you are interested in research and internship opportunities, the Health and Biological Sciences (HBS) program at the Internship and Career Center (ICC) offers career advising and internship placement for students interested in the life sciences. Research opportunities include positions at the industry, academic, and government levels in laboratory, clinical, or biotechnology fields. Internship opportunities include hospital, clinical, and nutrition options at the UC Davis Medical Center, student-run clinics, private offices, CommuniCare Health Centers, and more. These health-related internships include medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, dentistry, physical therapy, public health, speech therapy, chiropractic, and dietetics/nutrition.

In addition to research and internship opportunities, the ICC also provides advising, resources, and workshops to help students with searching for jobs, resume writing, and interview skills.

Visit the ICC in South Hall for more information!

ICC HBS Online Signups

NPB Advising

NPB-EXB banner

If you have any questions, peer advisers and staff advisers are available at the Biology Academic Success Center (BASC) to discuss class scheduling, major requirements, GE requirements, internship and research opportunities, and much more. Feel free to stop by if you have any questions, or just to say hi!


Links and Resources:


Kimberlee Hu
BASC Peer Adviser
Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior
Class of 2014


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