JUNE Editor's corner 2020
Thursday, February 6, 2020
by: Bruce Johnson, Cornell College

Section: JUNE Editor's Corner

This was a busy year for JUNE with two regular issues and an issue of presentations from the 8th FUN Workshop (Vol 16[3], http://www.funjournal.org/ ), held in July 2017 at Dominican University, and hosted by Irina Calin-Jageman and Robert Calin-Jageman.  The
Workshop issue highlights the creativity of FUN members in their teaching of undergraduate neuroscience. See the Workshop editorial for details (http://www.funjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/june-16-e42.pdf?x91298).

The Fall 2018 JUNE issue (Vol 17[1]; http://www.funjournal.org/current-issue/) starts with a perspective piece that describes the “Understanding Checkpoints” strategy for learning (Schaefer). After course content is presented in class, students receive journal figures about this content and answer questions about methods, results and their implications. They then read the original publication and self-grade. Student and instructor feedback suggests this process develops a deep understanding of the course material.

The full Article section in this issue incudes active lab learning activities. An inquiry based lab for freshman biology students examines the effects of ethanol on movement and learning in C. elegans (Brabec et al.). Students gain technical skills and positive attitudes toward research-like experiences. Ledwidge et al. provide practical advice for setting up a cost-effective EEG lab for student research and teaching. Petersen et al. teach hair cell structure and function using fluorescence microscopy to characterize pharmacological block of ion channels in zebrafish. Student learn fluorescent labeling, microscopy, data acquisition and image analysis. The effects of caffeine and pseudoephedrine on anxiety in rats is the theme for a student research experience (Howerter et al.). Students participate in all steps of a research project to learn the scientific process and the practicalities of vertebrate research. Glover and Lauzon present a simple psychophysical exercise for students to study the Hermann Grid illusion.

Three Articles have an outreach component or student community engagement theme. Fromherz et al. describe 2 classroom-based programs to support the success of underserved STEM students. Participants gained an understanding and appreciation of the scientific process, and confidence in the skills needed to do science. In the second, undergraduates teach STEM based activities with neuroscience themes to elementary school students (Bazzett et al.). In the third, Health Psychology students educate their peers through “action projects” (Kennedy). Student media presentations inform their peers about the harmful effects of abusing prescription stimulants.

Four Articles have new approaches to traditional material. In a Brain and Behavior course (Wolfe and Lindeborg), students complete a stand-alone, online “Environmental Neuroscience Module”. They link neuroscience concepts with environmental effects on brain function, and report greater environmental concern after the module is completed. Olsen describes integrating traditional neuroscience topics and lab activities with contemplative practices. Students expressed increased positive attitudes toward neuroscience and meditation. In the third (Pollack), students read text before class, individually answer quiz questions in class on the material, and then re-answer the same  questions in teams. This promotes collaborative learning and taking responsibility for self-study. Lastly, students work with fictional datasets to understand principles of synaptic transmission and changes in synaptic strength (Cammack). This activity promotes critical thinking and deep learning.

Two Articles round out the full Article series. The first is a description of an important web resource for neuroscience students, IBiology (Rajan and Veguilla). A reviewer commented that the web site had so many interesting resources that she spent her planned review time just browsing it. The final Article reports on a survey of qualities that neuroscience graduate schools look for in applications (Boyette-Davis). It has helpful information for faculty advising, and for undergraduate students interested in graduate studies.  A paper in the FUN Workshop issue also gives useful advice on graduate school qualifications (McLoon and Redish, 2018), and the following advice appeared recently in NEURONONLINE: “How to choose a grad school (and decide when to start)” by Amy Jo Stavnezer, “5 factors to consider (besides research) when applying to graduate programs” by Kavya Devarakonda, and “The benefits of taking a gap year before grad school” by Rahul Patel (see links here).

There are journals that publish undergraduate research, but JUNE uniquely disseminates best practices in neuroscience education. We also welcome articles on graduate neuroscience education and neuroscience faculty development.

A Technical Paper in the Fall issue describes how to train honey bees to a new food source as a learning and memory project for undergraduates (Van Nest and Moore). There is a rich literature on the sophisticated learning and memory capabilities of bees that merits closer attention for our neuroscience teaching (Greenspan, 2007). Two Reviews wind up the issue. Lom offers a candid, positive opinion of the new book, “A Review of Developmental Neurobiology” by Lynne Bianchi. Palissery et al. review 6 autobiographies and 2 realistic fiction books that address mental illness. They give sound advice to present these topics with care for student mental health.

Several years ago, Michael Zigmond, Michelle Mynlieff and I searched for educational journals focusing on neuroscience education. There are journals that publish undergraduate research, but JUNE uniquely disseminates best practices in neuroscience education. From JUNE’s origins, undergraduate education has been the priority, but we also welcome articles on graduate neuroscience education and neuroscience faculty development. My description of new and recent JUNE content emphasizes that JUNE is THE journal of neuroscience education.

I end my 3 year term as JUNE Editor in Chief with a gratifying feeling of helping facilitate the spread of novel and effective ways to teach neuroscience. I rode the wave of creativity initiated and sustained by previous Editor in Chiefs, the JUNE Editorial and Review Boards and the FUN Executive Committee. Raddy Ramos will continue the tradition as the next JUNE Editor in Chief.

Greenspan JR (2007) An introduction to nervous systems. Cold Spring Harbor Press.

McLoon LK, Redish AD (2018) Demystifying graduate school: Navigating a PhD in neuroscience and beyond. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 8(3):A203-209.