FUN Newsletter

FUN publishes a weekly digest of new website content.  In addition, FUN is now publishing a quarterly newsletter of news, views, and other content from our users.

Current Issue: September 2018

Next submission deadline:

    December 1 2019: see FUN Newsletter - Call for Submissions

Questions, comments, or submissions?  Email [email protected].

Newsletter Issues

Past FUN Newsletter Issues:




FUN Newsletter, May 2013, v1, issue 1

FUN Newsletter: Table of Contents

May, 2013: Volume 1, Issue 1

President's Column

FUN President’s Column

Noah Sandstrom


Happy Spring! I am thrilled to write the first President's Column for the FUN Newsletter. The publication of this Newsletter marks the next big step in our efforts to enhance communication among members of our exceptional community. A huge "Thank You" to Amanda Clinton and Amy Jo Stavnezer who have embraced the challenge of soliciting and organizing the contributions. I hope you find our content to be helpful and stimulating. I'm particularly excited about the "What I Wish I'd Known Then" column in which contributors can share the wisdom they have accumulated over the years. Just as our field is rapidly changing, so too are the methods we use to teach it. Despite over a dozen years of experience, I'm excited to learn some new strategies and techniques for sharing neuroscience with my students.

So much of of our work is focused on working side-by-side with our students in the laboratory. In each issue, we hope to highlight a successful collaboration between students and faculty. Our members do amazing work with students and we look forward to celebrating this and learning about some of the forms that these projects take. If you have a new publication with a student, let us know! If you have a creative way of managing a team of undergraduate researchers, let us know!

As many of you know, Educational Resources in Neuroscience (ERIN) has gone live. This catalog of neuroscience resources is a truly exceptional tool for professors looking to enhance their teaching. In each Newsletter, we hope to highlight one of these resources. Bob Calin-Jageman's piece on Mendeley in this issue has prompted me to get my own database of articles in order!

I also want to celebrate our establishment of a new listserve. As many of you know, our listserve had become outdated and unmanageable. Through the dedicated efforts of Bob Calin-Jageman and Elaine Reynolds working with Deb Colbern, we now have a functional listserve to faciliate the exchange of ideas among our members. Within minutes of activating the listserve, messages were posted and responses poured in! This listserve has tremendous potential to enhance our communication. Already, I've been amazed by conversations about creating neuroscience programs, announcements of regional undergraduate neuroscience meetings, and pedagogical ideas. If you aren't receiving these messages or would like to receive them as a single daily message, you can easily subscribe and customize by visiting your account on the FUN website.

The Newsletter Editorial Board welcomes your contributions to the Newsletter. It will only thrive if our members share their wisdom and their ideas. If you have a new publication with a student collaborator, have a teaching demonstration that works well, or have any other ideas to share with your FUN colleagues, please let us know!

Finally, I want to strongly encourage you to consider applying for Student Travel Awards with your students who will be presenting at the Society for Neuroscience meeting next fall. I also encourage you to apply for the Brain Awareness Travel Award. Please know that your outreach activities do not need to occur during the formal Brain Awareness Week -- it can be any time during the year! I know that a great many of you engage in outreach with your students, whether a visit to a local elementary school classroom, creation of a museum exhibit, or speaking at a retirement community. There are countless ways in which our members are taking neuroscience out into their communities. Please, share those ideas with FUN and SfN by presenting at the annual meeting and by applying for a Brain Awareness travel award!


Enjoy the Newsletter!

Noah Sandstrom,

President FUN

What I Wish I Knew Then...

What I Wish I Knew Then….

Amy Jo Stavnezer


As I begin work on this column, two things become very clear to me:  1. I don’t take enough time to write creatively (not counting incredibly witty emails to friends) and 2. Taking time to write this will come back to bite me (as two stacks of exams block the view out of my window); perhaps 2. explains 1…  Though there are many things I could look back on and wistfully wish I had known, for this month I’ll take on, “I wish I had known that undergraduate students do not think like we do.”  We, those who pursued the PhD, who covet a tenure-track teaching position, are few in numbers, select in perseverance and, dare I say, a tad bit different. We left graduate school with high expectations of an academic mind, oh, and yes, assume that our students want to achieve that same end.  I wish I had known that I would have to teach the undergrads how to meet my expectations and travel with me to achieve high standards of an academic mind. 


Perhaps the most telling example is in how they read empirical research: Introduction, Discussion.  Really, that’s it.  They skip the entire results section; those figures that take us days to get formatted just so, ignored.  They do not really understand that textbooks we assign are but a large review paper, and the names in parentheses mean something.  Please do not confuse my comments to indicate that they do not know about citations, though that might be true.  What I mean to imply is that they fail to see how data, theories and ideas inform others’ work.  They fail to see points of intersection, because they have not yet been taught to do so, yet. So take time to point this out to them beginning in Introductory courses, show them the citations and how they match up to the references, and be direct in describing how the author of the text has consolidated the work of others.  When you introduce empirical sources, be prepared to spend more class time than you might anticipate on HOW to read, before you assign what to read.  It’s best to walk the students through several papers (I do this slowly as a class) before expecting that they generate their own Introduction from published works.  If you have a curricular structure that scaffolds this through the years, good for you.  I have created several different documents that step from 17 to 6 questions to help the students work their way through manuscripts.  For example, from the Introduction I might first ask:

  1. What background information has been provided that led to the current study (i.e. why is this study being done)?
  2. What questions did the previous studies leave unanswered?
  3. How are the current researchers extending the previous findings?
  4. What is the hypothesis?

Then I might pare that back to:

  1. What is the overall importance (in 2-3 sentences) of the research the authors reviewed to formulate their experimental question?
  2. What experimental question did they propose? 

All the while I am trying to help the students reach that academic mindset that will provide them with the best chance of producing a concise, empirical research article at the conclusion of our semester together. 


An activity that has really opened students’ eyes is to have them read two published papers, one that is well written, and one that is not.  They know that one is harder to plod through, and when they get to class they are sure to tell me how long it took to read.  After exposing that I’ve played a trick on them, we dissect why one was harder by comparing the clarity of thought, sentence structure, empirical design and figure presentation between the articles.  I make sure that they see how mimicking that writing will not be a happy outcome for either of us!  The students are surprised to know that some published papers are not good, despite a peer review process, and that all papers should not be treated equally (also a nice place to point out number of citations). We count the number of sentences in published research that begin with an author’s name and look for patterns that manuscripts fall into to help them understand the conventions of scientific publications and to provide hints for their own writing.


Clearly I have chosen to focus on reading science as a means to thinking science, and that was a purposeful choice. Remember, we’re a little different. Aside from your scientific colleagues, how many people do you know who have an entire filing cabinet (physical or electronic) full of empirical research that they have actually read?  There is a chance that we cited more articles in our thesis than our students will cite in their entire college career. But we can get them to meet us on the path.  I’ve learned that with planning, patience and practice, my students can and do reach that high expectation of an academic mind. 



Technology and Teaching: FUN with Mendeley

FUN with Mendeley:

The Swiss-Army Knife of Reference Managers That You Really Ought to Try

Bob Calin-Jageman


Are you on Mendeley yet?  Mendeley is the new end-all-be-all of software for academics.  It's a reference manager, a pdf organizer, a file synchronizer, an academic free-associator, a microblogging platform, and an academic social network.  Sounds terrible, right?  Normally, software that tries to do it all ends up being a disaster (I'm looking at you Outlook).  But Mendeley is gooood.  It makes the never-ending process of managing your reference collection simple and easy.  Along the way, it adds in features you never dreamed of in a reference manager, but that you'll soon find indispensable.  Best of all, it's free (mostly) and works on all platforms (even Linux, for the FUN members out there kicking it open-source style).

Mendeley is the best reference manager around.  That's the number one reason to check it out.  You can ignore all the other bells and whistles and get up and running with Mendeley as a great reference manager in no time.  Just download, install, and start slurping up articles into Mendeley.  Mendeley can import records from PubMed and many other search indexes.  Unlike Endnote and Reference Manager, however, Mendeley has an emphasis on Pdf records: it can scan a folder of pdfs, recognize their meta-data, and add them to your reference collection.  You can even setup a 'watched folder' on your desktop--save a pdf to it, and Bam! it's in your reference collection.  Did Mendely get the meta-data wrong?  Just put in the PMID and it will re-pull the data directly from the Web.  Mendeley can also get full records from DOIs and ISBNs: no need for manual entry.

Once you get some articles into Mendeley, it has nice facilities for taking notes, organizing into collections, tagging with keywords, etc.  The search feature is fast and it indexes the full-text of the pdfs in your collection!  It's crazy how quickly and easily you can put your finger on just the right information once you've stocked up Mendeley with your library of pdfs. (Pro tip: Mendeley struggles with older pdfs; have an undergrad work on matching these with their PMIDs and correcting the meta-data for you.  They get work-study, you get a pristine database, angels get wings).

Like other reference managers, Mendeley also helps you write and organize manuscripts.  Plugins automatically install for Word and Open Office Writer--no complex setup.  As you write, you can pull up a dialog to search your library and pop in a citation.  When you're finished, just click 'update bibliography' and the reference section is auto-generated in the style of your choice.  Mendeley's styles are archived in an online library, and it is very extensive (and customizable). 

If you are used to End Note or Reference Manager, the transition to Mendeley is quite easy--you'll actually be blown away at how much easier it is to use.  The emphasis on Pdfs is a bit different, though.  Mendeley is not as good as End Note and Reference Manager at slurping down huge sets of abstracts (e.g. it can't search PubMed directly).  Mendeley's design philosophy, however, is focused on managing actual documents over abstracts (though it does fine with these).  If End Note is your archive of papers you meant to read, Mendeley is your archive of papers you've actually read (or will soon).  It's a critical difference.  Personally, this took me a little while to get used to, but I've found it is a very worthwhile change.  Rather than having an aspirational database bloated with articles I've barely screened, Mendeley is my living database of things I know well (at least well enough to have pulled the pdf).  Therefore, searching the database and writing papers with it is a lot more useful--it's like searching your own brain (but less prone to tip-of-the-tongue phenomena).

Mendeley is a strong enough reference manager that my university's library recently ditched their old reference management software.  Mendeley has now been installed across campus, students are registered for the basic-level free account, and all library training now features it.  Student seem to love it, too.

Sync your library.  Mendeley also adds some cool bells and whistles to the basic notion of a reference manager.  First up. it can synchronize your database to "the cloud' and across devices.  The meta-data and notes are synchronized for free.  Pdfs are synchronized up to 1GB for free, more than that and you have to start paying (though plans are reasonable and available for both individuals and institutions).   So imagine: you pull a pdf at your office, save it to your 'watched folders' directory, and it pops up a few minutes later on your Mendeley app on your iPad.  You can read it and take notes while watching Fringe that night, and your notes will be back on your desktop in the morning.  Mendeley will get you reading more of what you meant to read!  One caveat--the apps available for Android currently suck. 

Social media bells and whistles.  Normally I react to social media about as well as my beloved Aplysia react to salt (you've never seen that?  it ain't pretty).  I've never wanted or needed to Tweet anything, and I hope no admissions initiative will ever change that.  I've been surprised to find, then, that I love the social media side of Mendeley.  Let's start with it's recommendation engine--because it's synchronizing many libraries to the cloud Mendeley can tell you some articles not in your library but in the libraries of other academics like you.  Some of the recommendations are pretty good! 

Mendeley also gives you a profile and you can 'friend' other academics.  It's kind of like Geekbook--a social network for people who know what a PMID is (no friend requests from your aunt!  yes!). 

Mendeley also has Groups that you can start or join.  Public groups can be as large as you want.  The main activity of a group is to share and comment on articles.  It's a cool way to crowd-source keeping up with interesting topics in your field.  For public groups, however, only the reference is shared (not the pdf).  Private groups are the same, but limited to 10 people and the pdf is also shared.  Pro tip: if you have a couple of friends at a big university, start a private reading group with them.  It will be fun and they can easily slide you pdfs! 

I've found private groups to be perfect for small seminars: I can post pdfs, students can post pdfs, we can all comment on papers and on each other's comments.  The size restriction means it can only be done with very small classes, but in these cases Mendeley can basically replace Blackboard.   My lab now runs with a private Mendeley group as well--once a student joins the lab I add them to the group and they have access to all the Pdfs for the lab: background reading, recent pubs, etc.  Finally, you can use a group as a 'microblog'--just set one up on your own, and add articles/comments as you'd like.  RSS feeds are available for each group.

Try it out.  Well, this pretty much outs me as a huge Mendeley fanboy.  But that's fine.  It's made my writing process easier, it's helped me read more, and it's given me a much easier way to ensure my research students have access to all the papers they need.  All that for $0.00 really is worth getting excited about.  So take some time this summer and give it a whirl  If you do, please do email me with your likes/dislikes.  I'll live tweet them all summer long.

Undergraduate Research Highlights

Undergraduate Research Highlights

Neuroscience Faculty and Undergraduates are having FUN at

The College of Charleston

  • Bradley King & Dr. Michael Ruscio, Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience

Bradley King & Dr. Michael Ruscio, Department of Psychology and Program in Neuroscience Bradley King has been a member of Dr. Michael Ruscio’s Behavioral Neuroendocrinology lab at the College of Charleston lab for the past two years.  His research in the lab has focused on quantifying rates of neurogenesis as they relate to adult social isolation in a highly social, biparental and monogamous rodent, the California mouse (Peromyscus californicus).   His results demonstrate that the duration and timing of isolation are critical regarding its effects on neurogenesis.  Although somewhat nuanced, the general patterns of his findings have shown that short term isolation can cause an increase in neurogenesis, but that this increase is not sustained with longer period of isolation (lasting several weeks).  Patterns of neurogenesis are similar across both sexes, but appear more prominent in males.  Bradley is also considering how these changes in neurogenesis are potentially modulated by estrogenic activity, by quantifying co-localization of estrogen receptor alpha (ERa) within newly born cells.  Throughout his undergraduate career Bradley has received several accolades including a travel award from the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience to present his work at SfN 2012.  He has also received research grants from the College of Charleston including a Summer Undergraduate Research with Faculty (SURF) grant in 2012.  He will graduate magna cum laude this spring 2013 with a psychology major and neuroscience minor.  Fall 2013 he will begin his graduate work in the Psychology/ Biobehavioral Psychology program at the University of Vermont with Dr. S.E. Hammack.


  • Robert Raidt, Steven Dix & Dr. Sorinel Oprisan, Department of Physics and Program in Neuroscience

 The Neuroscience Program at the College of Charleston also created new opportunities for undergraduates from Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science/Discovery Informatics programs in the subfield of computational neuroscience (CNS). One research project, which is funded by a NSF-Career award to Dr. S.A. Oprisan, uses input-output characteristics of neural oscillators (called phase resetting curves) to predict numerically the behavior of large neural. Mathematically, we are searching for combinations of network couplings and external stimuli that force the network to switch between different stable firing patterns. For example, the same central pattern generator that controls the gait can switch between walking, running, and hopping. What makes one gait unstable and triggers the switch to another firing pattern of the neurons? How is the mutual resetting among interconnected neurons responsible for selecting a certain behavior? What triggers a sudden synchronization among neurons during epileptic seizures and how can we disrupt such synchronous states until they lose their stability and terminate the seizure? Robert Raidt was one of the undergraduates who worked on this project and presented his results at local professional meetings (Neuropalooza), state (South Carolina Academy of Sciences - SCAS) and national/international (the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and at the annual meeting of the Organization for Computational Neuroscience). For his contribution, Robert received the Outstanding Undergraduate Research award from SCAS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award to the Outstanding Male Undergraduate Scientist, and he was invited to publish his original results in the Journal of SCAS (January, 2013). Robert will start his medical studies at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in the fall of 2013.  Another ongoing research project with the Neuroscience Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina uses a computer model of the cortico-striato-thalamic network involved in interval timing in an attempt to explain behavioral data. A computer science major – Steven Dix – worked on implementing some aspects of the neural network and carried out numerical simulations. He showed that distracters (such as noises) presented while subjects perform interval timing tasks could disrupt timing and force the subjects to start over, which is called behavioral reset. Steven found that strong inhibitions of prefrontal cortex oscillators that could occur during the presentation of distracters paired with post-inhibitory rebound explain the cell- and network-level mechanisms involved in behavioral reset. His results are under review in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Processes.





Tips for Teaching and Research: A Dozen "Don'ts" for a Successful Career in Research

A Dozen “Don’ts” for a Successful Career in Research

Alexis D. Grant & Barbara Lom

Davidson College

Biology Department & Neuroscience Program

The undergraduates in our lab recently asked to discuss advice they should hear as they begin to build successful research careers.  To kick-start the discussion they asked the PI to generate a list of “don’ts” for research success. 

1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.  Asking questions is a very effective way to make a positive impression.  Asking a question at a presentation or in a conversation powerfully demonstrates that you are engaged.  Who doesn’t appreciate such attention and investment?  Similarly, in situations where you need information, don’t wait to ask questions until someone looks available.  Opportune moments with PIs can be rare because they are busy people.  It’s helpful to let colleagues know when you have questions and how rapidly you need a response (ASAP, today, this week, etc.).

2. Don’t avoid criticism.  Soliciting feedback is important to every aspect of research success, from designing experiments to publishing results.  You know that person who has a talent for pointing out fatal flaws?  Use her/his critical eye to your advantage when it comes time to edit a poster or an article for publication.  While no one enjoys receiving criticism, it is far better to hear that criticism and then address it in advance than to read that criticism on a review.  

3. Don’t assume you’ll remember.  Was that a 3 mM or a 3 uM solution you made last week?  Small details can make big differences.  The importance of maintaining organized and complete records cannot be overstated – for yourself, your boss, and subsequent students.  When you leave, your records will stay in the lab as your legacy and this legacy must be understandable to others.  At some point you will get an email out of the blue asking you for a procedural detail or result.  Being able to point to that information may save a colleague hours of time or even mean your data gets included in a publication.  We have a colleague who photographed the table of contents of her lab notebooks before she left.  That way, when she needed to reference old data, she called the lab and told them exactly what pages she needed to see.

4. Don’t toss your originals.  Raw data is sacred.  Everything you collect (numbers, images, recordings, responses, etc.) will at some point be collated, blinded, labeled, and/or analyzed, meaning there’s opportunity for unintentional errors.  In cases where confidence about labeling, interpretation, or other events comes into question, keeping a pristine back-up copy of your original results may save you from needing to repeat entire experiments..

5. Don’t cut corners.  Compromising the quality of your research is never a good idea, even when circumstances overwhelm you.  A quote posted in a chemical stock room said it best: “If you don’t have time to do the job right, how ever will you find extra time to do the job over again?”

6. Don’t discount your ideas.  Your input, no matter where it might fall on the spectrum from boringly obvious to paradigm shifting, is important to the dialogue of lab meetings and presentations.  It is always better to share your ideas than to hold them inside for fear of inadequacy. 

7. Don’t interpret silence as rejection. In this age where instant communication is expected, patience and persistence can fall to the wayside.  Being persistent and patient with feedback—and learning not to assume that no response is a bad response is an important skill in a research career.  Sometimes, busy PIs make a habit responding only after receiving a second (or third) email.  If something is important to you—be it a question, a job, or a recommendation—make that known by being persistent (and polite) in your communication.

8. Don’t be 100% critical.  Scientists are critical and skeptical by nature and, for this reason, not always the most mannerly.  While peer review moves science forward, it is essential to keep in mind that scientists have feelings and are personally invested in their research.  When reviewing scientific work remember that no matter how weak the experiments or questionable the interpretation, the work you are reviewing represents someone’s sweat and tears.  Point out the good elements and deliver criticism specifically and constructively.  For example, saying, “that’s a terrible figure” is not nearly as helpful as saying, “the graph format obscured the main point of your data.”

9. Don’t forget to plan.  Time management is something that all successful people struggle with regularly. If a task is important, make it a priority, make it a habit, put it on your schedule, and/or hold yourself to a deadline.  Many research tasks can be overwhelming, but are easily broken down into many achievable “bite-sized” pieces.

10. Don’t work in isolation.  Two heads are always better than one; if you do not share your results or learn from your peers, your science will not be as strong as it could be.  It is imperative (and challenging) to stay up-to-date with the current research in any scientific field.  Reading papers, attending conferences, and networking with people in your field is an important part of any scientist’s success.  It is also important to spend time learning from related disciplines.  Be open to new ideas; inspiration often comes from entirely unexpected sources outside your field.

11. Don’t assume that information is always correct.  While it can be tempting to take information (particularly from senior scientists) at face value, even textbooks get a few things wrong.  If the ramifications of a statement are particularly important for your research, do your fact checking and go back to the original source(s). It is surprising how quickly a subjective interpretation or typo can propagate through the literature.  Not to mention, there is much to be learned by reading the original in addition to the synthesis.

12. Don’t keep your dreams quiet. Articulating what you want and sharing your aspirations is an essential step to reaching your goals.  Sharing goals with friends, family, colleagues, and especially bosses not only makes you accountable for achieving those goals, but increases the likelihood you will build a network of the people who can support and even catalyze your success. 



Reflections on Teaching Neuroscience - Yes, Neuroscience is a Social Issue

 Yes, Neuroscience is a Social Issue:

Integrating Social Aspects of Psychology across the Curriculum in Puerto Rico

Amanda Clinton, Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, a 100 mile-long and 30 mile-wide land mass located approximately 1,000 miles from Miami and 700 miles from Venezuela is, geographically speaking, an island. In spite of modern technology’s many wonders, living in Puerto Rico is, in many ways, physically isolating, as well. As a teacher and mentor to undergraduate students in the Psychology Program at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM), I believe my role is to help students build bridges and broaden their understanding of psychology to expand beyond the shores surrounding us.


Puerto Rico: The Island and its University

According to the 2010 U.S. Census (, Puerto Rico, whose population is 98.8% Hispanic, is “the poorest state in the nation.” The low socioeconomic conditions impact the public education system, including the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and its campuses across the island. In the past five years, the UPR has experienced significant financial struggles, much like public institutions of higher education on the mainland United States. The implications at the university, particularly my campus, have included extended strikes by employees and students, years of delays in awarding promotions, the end of sabbaticals and a lack of upkeep of facilities so severe that OSHA closed the campus library for health and safety reasons.

In spite of the financial upheaval, tuition rates have remained steady, providing the most economical place to earn a four-year degree on the island. On average, a credit hour costs $53 and virtually all courses are presented by doctoral-level faculty. Admission is highly competitive as a result of its high quality, low-cost programs. The student body, like the rest of the island, is nearly 100% Hispanic, and the majority of students indicate Spanish as their native language ( It is not uncommon for students to have had few to zero opportunities to travel outside of Puerto Rico prior to reaching university.


From a Small Island to the Broader World

The study of psychology pertains, in effect, to all we do and who we are, from cellular level influence on behavior to social interaction and social institutions. As a teacher of psychology, I encourage my students to think about the field thought this broad lens. Serving students in ‘the poorest state in the nation’ who are a classified as ethnic and linguistic minorities by the government that grants them citizenship, and yet identify as uniquely Puerto Rican and form the majority in their own country, presents unique pedagogical challenges. The poverty and political instability of Puerto Rico’s government and the university administration (which is appointed by the party in governance and changes practically every four years) leads students to believe their own futures are of limited significance. Most graduates understand that, even in the best economic times, earning a livable wage means leaving the island and moving to the mainland which means leaving family and home for opportunity.


Social Awareness in Biopsychology

In an effort to increase awareness of the broader implications of psychology, I incorporate social issues in every course I teach. This includes my Biopsychology course though it may seem, on the face of things, to be the least likely course in the curriculum for emphasizing social aspects of psychology. The course draws students from several departments, including psychology, biology, chemistry, and nursing.

Teaching social issues to my students at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez is critically important since many students are marginalized and, as a result, may perceive a tenuous connection between effort and outcome, particularly since the unique nature of the context makes many examples seem less relevant. Using the example of biopsychology, I will explore two pedagogical areas of focus that I utilize to connect biological bases of behavior with social issues: 1) context and 2) social implications and applications. Each of these will be explained briefly below and subsequently integrated in order to show the importance of these teaching strategies.

Context. The Puerto Rican context is complicated by the history, the relatively impoverished socioeconomic conditions, the political situation (from corruption to the being caught in the “middle ground” of being a “territory,” and ethnic and linguistic considerations. A course that includes a significant amount of passive listening during PowerPoint presentations draws ire rather than interest and inspired thinking. Active learning, from drawing to singing to dissecting sheep brains to presenting research and making videos, forms the biopsychology course. Furthermore, students’ social inclinations result in a tendency to elect to work in pairs or small groups. Many of the aforementioned activities are, therefore, designed to promote working with peers rather than individually. The result is a class designed to be mindful of student preferences and, in particular, their culture. However, this is done methodically rather than in a haphazard manner.


In the following paragraphs, I will explain how anatomy is addressed. Next, I will explore the way in which social issues and applications are considered in my biopsychology class.

  • Is this all there is? Prior to beginning with key aspects of anatomy, discussion is dedicated to “the mind” and neurophilosophy. This once highly Catholic island continues to be very religious, although many faiths are currently observed. For this reason, a theme such as the biological basis of behavior might be an uncomfortable one. However, we begin with a debate and a “vote” is held on the question of whether we are ‘just biological material’ or ‘there is something greater than us that makes our biology so amazing.’ This vote is revisited at the end of the term to assess student changes. The aim is to incorporate and welcome all perspectives, even those that seemingly contradict the nature of the class.
  • “Homero Simpson” A subsequent activity to increase personal relevance of the class is that of drawing one’s “mind” and comparing it to his or her “brain.” A cartoon of Homer Simpson that shows his head is full of topics such as beer, TV, a desire to nap, and so on provides a reference point for students who develop their own “mind-brain” design, attaching their interests, dreams, time-drains, responsibilities, etc. to space in their heads. Later, they must respond to questions such as, “Where is ‘family’ actually located in your brain?” That is, what is important to them must be identified not just as key in their minds, but as a function of their brain.
  • Neuroanatomy. In order to learn anatomy, several activities are incorporated into our class:
  • Students are gifted boxes of crayons or markers and paper on which they draw an outline of their brain to which key structures are added as we discuss them in class. We refer to this project as “habichuelas,” the typical Puerto Rican bean, given its similar structure.
  • Once students possess basic structure-function knowledge, we sing and dance (It is the Caribbean, after all)! First, students learn “Brainstem” from Pinky and the Brain ( A friendly competition over a few bonus points ensues as each group is video-taped singing and the videos are posted online.
  • Next, when the cranial nerves are memorized, students create their own music videos using their preferred rhythms and language (English, Spanish or Spanglish), effectively extending and personalizing the techniques utilized for general anatomy. One of my favorites is a video titled, “The Macarena of the 12 Cranial Nerves.”  

In sum, this approach takes into account the importance of students’ personal experiences, cultural context, and learning preferences in order to enhance outcomes and expand understanding.

Social Implications/Applications. Although biopsychology requires a significant amount of content acquisition in order to arrive at the point where social implications of the brain and human behavior can be analyzed, this social analysis is the broader aim of the course. Indeed, in my mind, the purpose of education is to make students aware of the applications of learning and consider meaning within a particular context and across situations. In my biopsychology course, social implications begin locally with a focus on individual students, their families, and their communities. Subsequently, the societal implications of neuroscience and behavior are explored through social issues topics.

  • So What?! The ultimate goal of the class is not to memorize anatomical structures nor name neurotransmitters, but to put neuroscience in the context of their own lives, those of people they care about, and their community. Thus, activities and assignments subsequent to the aforementioned basic topics address meaningful applications of neuroscience. Themes include: memory and the brain, multi-tasking, the brain and love, the brain and depression, the brain and “Aha! moments,” the criminal brain, the brain and exercise, and more. I teach fundamentals on these subjects in order to provide background and students then read original research on these topics and, in small groups, prepare an oral presentation and a video on a topic of their choice. The presentation requires summarizing research findings with an emphasis on their meaning for their lives and those of their peers and loved ones, the Puerto Rican community, and beyond. Examples follow.
  • The day we talk about exercise and the brain we actually exercise (students are advised to dress comfortably!). After a few minutes of Zumba!, we discuss research findings that neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus as a result of moderate exercise. This leads to discussions not just about the brain structures and systems involved, but their implications. Can students consider exercise a luxury (“I don’t have time…”) or should it be a necessity? How can neuroscience inform the education system in Puerto Rico? What does it tell us as future policy makers about the benefits of public transportation in terms of general health, neuro-health, and the environment?
  • In their music videos on neuroscience, students write lyrics about neuroscience so that it is meaningful to peers. For example, a student created a reggaeton (music of Puerto Rican origins) video depicting him “going crazy” as a result of his feelings for a girl. Later, he understands he’s not insane, just experiencing a biochemical process we call love. This process is detailed in the video, showing how our brains change when we are attracted to someone. The language, the rhythm, and the scenes are all within the student’s context. This experience dovetails into discussions regarding the nature of marriage in the U.S. and Latin America. If love is biological, should marriage be defined by the state? How does the neuroscience of human love inform us in terms of policy, such as gay marriage rights?
  • A student favorite is the neuroscience of multi-tasking. This activity allows them time to make calls on their cell phones during class. Students are instructed to call mom, grandmother, friend, or even the person sitting next to them and chat. However, at the same time, they must write a paragraph detailing their activities of the prior weekend. Just as neuroscience shows, composition of a thoughtful paragraph is virtually impossible while distracted by conversation. The inability to adequately engage in two tasks, particularly if they are similar, could potentially tell us something about studying and using Facebook at the same time. The benefits and consequences of modern life are debated in verbal form briefly. Later in the course, students write a position paper on the topic.
  • A final example would be analysis of the criminal brain and neuroscience. If we know that many violent criminals have biological differences, how does this information enlighten the prosecution or defense teams in court? Once students debate this in pairs and small groups, they engage in a larger group role play activity. This role play involves an expert (neuroscience) witness and additional research showing that some persons with ‘the criminal brain’ do not act pathologically. The role play allows for review of the bio-psycho-social implications, and students develop a treatment plan for the individual with a criminal brain for avoiding a criminal life.

By connecting brain function and human biology to the larger social world, students gain a new lens through which to see themselves and others. Course attendance is nearly 100% throughout the term, suggesting that students respond well to a class known as unpopular among psychology majors. Class evaluation forms often offer comments like, “Uno aprende porque aprende” [Meaning: “You learn in spite of yourself!”] In terms of day-to-day outcomes, students who understood biopsychology as a torturous requirement begin to change their language after we discussed stress as “increases in cortisol combined by a need for more dopamine and serotonin.” They come to class and report that their parents have agreed to walk 30 minutes a day to improve their memory or that they are turning off Facebook to study. In broader terms, however, many students decide to continue to expand their awareness of the social implications of psychology, science, and, in particular, neuroscience. As per the letters, emails, and text messages I’ve received from my former students, the class helps them look at the world differently. Furthermore, as they overcome the intimidation that once was neuroanatomy and it’s “real” to them, they become more empowered. Several students report feeling inspired to pursue graduate or medical school. Most of them continue to be interested in the “real world implications” of neuroscience whether they are researchers, teachers, lawyers, or psychologists.

Conclusion. Biopsychology, “heavy” as it may be in anatomy and physiology, has a natural propensity to distance students from their interest in human behavior. The methods discussed in this essay, however, bring students who may have received the message from the world that they are less capable, less knowledgeable or less important into the fold of psychology. These pedagogical strategies “make sense” and communicate to students that they themselves have something to offer, and therefore motivate learning during the semester,


Featured ERIN Resource: Mouse Party

ERIN Featured Resource: Mouse Party

This month’s featured resource is Mouse Party, a whimsical tutorial on the way different drugs of abuse affect neural communication.  This interactive flash-animation is part of a larger unit on the science of addiction in the Learn.Genetics initiative at the University of Utah.  Mouse Party would make a useful self-study assignment as an entrée into psychopharmacology in an introductory-level class.

As a reviewer on ERIN stated, “The animation is very well done, and looks like a Saturday morning cartoon, but is funny and factually correct (at a basic level). It’s a great jumping off point into a more detailed discussion about drugs of abuse. If it’s emotional, it’s memorable!”

·         If you’ve used this activity, please submit a review to ERIN.

·         Want more resources?  There are over 600 curated records in ERIN, the online database of Educational Resources in Neuroscience.  All activities are focused on undergraduate education and beyond. 

·         Have a recommendation for next issue’s featured resource? Submit it!


FUN Newsletter, August 2013, v1, issue 2

FUN Newsletter: Table of Contents

May, 2013: Volume 1, Issue 2


FUN President's Message

The days have started getting shorter and the fall semester is right around the corner. I hope you have all had a wonderfully productive summer –mastering new skills, making exciting discoveries, and mentoring the next generation of neuroscience superstars! I also hope you found some time to relax a bit and recharge for another engaging year on your campus. With the summer science students now gone from my campus and the incoming first year students yet to arrive, it is a good opportunity to take a moment and reflect on my past several months:


In April we put together our first issue of the quarterly FUN Newsletter. I hope you found it interesting, inspiring, and informative. We hope that this slightly more structured format will help us all share ideas. The success of this endeavor hinges on the involvement of our members. Special thanks to Amy Pearce for her current piece on neuroscience outreach and for the link to details on the Brain Awareness Day activities of Arkansas State University – Jonesboro. Thanks to Bob Calin-Jageman for another inspiring piece on teaching. Jared Young provides instructions on posting summer research opportunities and we have announcements about ERIN resources, FUN Workshops, and a call for booth volunteers for the upcoming meeting. I passionately encourage all our members to consider making your own contributions to future issues. We all have valuable experiences, perspectives, and questions to share and this is a great mechanism for doing so!


In May, I visited the sixth graders at my local elementary school. They had just completed a biology unit on the nervous system, so I brought in my SpikerBox to do some demonstrations on action potential conduction with them. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a SpikerBox is an inexpensive, portable electrophysiology rig that can be used to record electrical signaling in models such as earthworms, grasshoppers, and cockroaches. Of course, the biggest thrill for the students was seeing the leg dance to the beat of the music when I plugged the electrodes into my iPhone. There is little in science that I find more satisfying than seeing a young person’s eyes light up with wonder!


In June, I Chaired the Behavioral Neuroscience Fellowship Study Section for NIH. This is always a great experience that helps me stay current in areas of neuroscience that fall outside my own area of expertise. It also helps me to appreciate the efforts of my colleagues at research universities who are embracing their responsibilities as mentors to their graduate student and post-doctoral trainees. After reviewing and discussing these proposals, I’m confident that the field of neuroscience will be in good, well-trained hands for many years to come.


Though it feels like summer just began, fall is right around the corner and with it the November meetings of the Society for Neuroscience and Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience. I encourage you all to join us for the FUN Business Meeting scheduled for 7 am on Monday, Nov. 11th at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. And make sure to add the social/poster session at the San Diego Marriott Marquis that Monday evening at 6:45 to your itinerary – it is sure to be inspiring!!!


I wish you all an excellent remainder of the summer – it’s disappearing fast. In a few short weeks, we will see an influx of new faces on our campuses as first year students arrive for orientation. With this annual indicator of the end of summer, part of me will undoubtedly groan. But another part of me will embrace it with excitement – a new population of young, enthusiastic, ambitious people who I may help to discover the excitement in the field of neuroscience. Best of luck in the coming semester and please don’t hesitate to call on your colleagues in FUN for support, ideas, and inspiration. I look forward to seeing all in sunny San Diego in November.

Ask FUN: Recommendations Request for Brain Day Displays

Ask FUN: Recommendations Request for Brain Day Displays

Submitted by Amy Pearce


I am a faculty sponsor for our student chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and we host an annual Brain Awareness Day.  We have done so for many years on a very modest budget of $100-$300 and have employed just about every activity recommended on the excellent Neuroscience for Kids website developed by Dr. Erik Chudler (see: 

Thanks to a neuroscience outreach award from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, we actually have money to purchase some larger items. We are in the market for crowd-pleasing and educational interactive games, models, displays, and so on that we can re-use for several years. They should be able to be demonstrated by undergraduate or graduate students and not too costly to maintain. I have explored lots of science museums but most of their stations and equipment exceed our $2000 budget. Does anyone have recommendations?

Please send ideas to Amy R. Pearce, Associate Professor of Psychology and Faculty Affiliate of the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, Arkansas; [email protected]


P.S. For information on our brain day and for tips on how to host your own on limited resources, refer to the article published in JUNE, available at:


The IF-AT Quiz: An Active Learning Technique that is quick, easy, fun, and effective.

 Have you noticed how little your students read, but haven’t figured out how to get them to crack a book?  Have you dreamed of ‘flipping your classroom’, but don’t know where to start?  The IF-AT (Instant Feedback Assessment Technique) offers a simple, relatively low-tech approach that can truly transform your teaching experience.  Here’s how it works:

  • Before the semester starts, order a set of IF-AT scratch-off forms (pictured at right) from Epstein Educational Enterprises.  These are very cheap, and your teaching center may already have them. 
  • For each chapter/source you want your students to read:
    • Create a 10-point multiple choice quiz on the reading, focusing primarily on retention/understanding but with at least 1 or 2 questions requiring some synthesis/integration.   Key the quiz to one of the 26 different IF-AT forms you received from Epstein.  A sample IF-AT quiz is attached to this article for Chapter 3 of Kolb & Wishaw for an Intro to Neuroscience class.     
    • Also create a reading guide for each chapter/source.  These are designed to help students identify the areas of emphasis and provides some self-test questions to check their knowledge (I usually give 4 multiple-choice self-test questions, 1-2 of which will be on the quiz).   A sample reading guide is also attached to this article. 
  • The first day of the unit students take the quiz you created.  They take it, however, two times:
    • The first time is on their own, with scores counting towards their overall class grade.
    • The second time is with a team using the special scratch off forms you received from Epstein.  For each question, the team debates the correct answer, comes to a consensus, and scratches off their answer on the form.  The form provides instant feedback on their response (star for correct).  If the team’s answer is wrong (no star) they rethink the question and make another selection.  Each wrong answer, however, decreases the total points for that item [[suggested scoring: 4, 2, 1, or 0 points for finding the star on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th try, respectively]]
  • Teams report their scores, and a running tally is kept for teams to win extra credit at the end of the semester  [[I award +1% to the first place team, +0.5% for 2nd, and 0.25% for all other teams – it’s not much, but I point out that it could be just enough to round them up to a higher grade]].
  • Finally, you begin lecture and activities based on the reading.  The quiz activities typically eat up much of your first class meeting on the unit (schedule 25 minutes or so), but you now have a group of students who have (mostly) read the material and even talked through a set of questions on the material.  By listening in on their team conversations, you can now focus in your lecture/activities to emphasize the points of confusion and dig even deeper into the material.  [[I typically cover 1 chapter a week with an IF-AT each Monday and lecture/activities the remained of the week]]. 

In my experience, the IF-ATs are transformative.  I adopted them 3 years ago, and have now incorporated them into all of my classes.  Students enjoy them and get an emotional rush from scratching off the answer sheets.  Prior reading and engagement with the material increase.  What I planned as a lecture becomes more interactive because students are not hearing the material for the first time and now have questions and comments.  Listening in on the team conversations is a delight and incredibly informative—you get to hear your students debating, arguing, and thinking critically about the material and can quickly realize places where misconceptions prevail.

The IF-AT was first developed by educators Mike and Beth Epstein, and they have collected a trove of empirical data showing that the approach improves student learning.    I first learned about it from a Team Based Learning (TBL) workshop by Dee Fink, in which the IF-ATs are specifically used in a team context.  It is this TBL approach to the IF-AT that I’ve outlined here.  In my opinion, the entire TBL approach is worthwhile, but the IF-AT stands out as the most effective component as well as the very easiest to implement. 

If you are interested in adopting IF-ATs, here are some tips:

  • Make the teams at the beginning of the semester.  Fink recommends teams of 6-7 to ensure there will be a diversity of opinions on each team.  I’ve run with as few as 4/team in my smaller classes but I agree with Fink that in this case bigger teams is actually better.
  • The approach scales well.  I’ve run IF-ATs in classes as big as 40, and Fink reports success in very large lecture style classes. 
  • Foster buy-in and familiarity starting at day 1.  Rather than present the syllabus, I pass it out, give students time to read it, and then offer a practice IF-AT on the syllabus.  This gives students a chance to learn the routine, and they actually end up remembering more about course policies/procedures!
  • Small quiz impact – the quizzes come before lecture, so some students will complain that they are being tested before being taught.  For that purpose, I usually make the quiz grades only 5% of the total grade—enough to be motivating but not enough to be overly punitive. 
  • The reading matters.  IF-ATs will get your students reading, and you need be sure your quizzes, lecture/activities and exams align well with the readings you have assigned.   This may sound obvious, but I had become accustomed to my students not doing the reading, and thus customizing the lecture to my own tastes and then testing based on the lecture.  IF-ATs enjoin student reading (which is great) but you need focus more on choosing excellent readings and then teaching with the readings as a framework.

And here are some resources:

  • Epstein Educational Enterprises website: sells the IF-ATs, has documentation on how to use them, testimonials, and links to peer-reviewed research on its effectiveness.
  • Team Based Learning Collaborative website: resources and workshops on the TBL approach.
  • IF-ATs for Intro to Neuroscience: This is my Intro to Neuroscience course website.  It has a reading guide for each chapter I covered of Kolb & Wishaw.  Feel free to email me for the IF-ATs I’ve created for this text or for IF-ATs for Gluck (Learning and Memory) or for Nolan & Heinzen (statistics).

If you already use IF-ATs or end up adopting them, please email me with your experience.  I’ll compile testimonials/tips/criticisms/problems for a future newsletter issue.

intro to neuro - ifat quiz 03 - nis01.doc25 KB

Post Your Undergraduate Summer Research Opportunities with FUN

Jared Young

Mills College


Research experience is a fundamental piece of an undergraduate neuroscience education, particularly for students who are pursuing a career in the field. At the same time, research labs can benefit from the work an undergraduate can provide. Many institutions offer formal summer research programs for undergraduates, and we maintain a list of these opportunities on the FUN website.


This internship list helps empower students to find opportunities and provides a venue for our membership and others to advertise their programs. This page is consistently the most visited page on the FUN website.


Of course, this list is only as useful as its content. We appreciate any research opportunities that you and your colleagues can provide us with. Just send an email to me ([email protected]). Include the name of the opportunity you would like listed (or just the institution at which it is housed) and a link to the website where more information can be found. In addition to posting these, I (or one of my students) periodically comb through the list, repair/remove old links, and update application deadlines.  Any help you can provide with this (emailing when a link changes or a program is no longer being run, updating us with new application deadlines) is most helpful.


If you do not have a website, but would like to make a document available to students (like a flyer with information on the program), I can also do that. Just send what you would like posted to my email.


This link has served many students and programs well in the past and we hope it continues to do so for many years to come.



Featured ERIN Resource: Video on Sensory Substitution with Paul Bach-y-Rita


ERIN Featured Resource:

 Video on Neuroplasticity and Sensory Substitution with Paul Bach-y-Rita



This month’s featured resource is short video clip describing the groundbreaking work on neuroplasticity and sensory substitution by the late Paul Bach-y-Rita.


Over his long and distinguished career, Bach-y-Rita developed the BrainPort, a device which translates visual information into tactile stimulation, providing a means for the visually impaired to use their intact sensations of touch to understand the visual world.  Bach-y-Rita’s work was an early indication of the profound capacity for neuroplasticity and helped found the burgeoning study of brain-machine interfaces.


This video clip is 10 minutes from a BBC documentary on the mind.  It described Bach-y-Rita’s research and demonstrated the functioning of the Brian Port.  It also provides the personal back story that motivated Bach-y-Rita’s scientific pursuits.


The video is an excellent introduction to units on sensory perception, neuroplasticity, and/or neurotechnology.  Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the BrainPort leads naturally to discussion of receptive fields and somatotopy.  Moreover, students often become quite engaged in brainstorming other forms of sensory substitution that could be developed.


For a seminar class, this clip could be used to start discussion of a primary-literature paper on the Brain Port (e.g. Sampaio et al., 2001 is very accessible) or some of the modern work on neuroprosthetics it has inspired (e.g. Thomson et al., 2013).


  • If you’ve used this activity, please submit a review to ERIN.
  • Want more resources?  There are over 600 curated records in ERIN, the online database of Educational Resources in Neuroscience.  All activities are focused on undergraduate education and beyond.
  • Have a recommendation for next issue’s featured resource?  Submit it to ERIN.




Sampaio, E., Maris, S., & Bach-y-Rita, P. (2001). Brain plasticity: “visual” acuity of blind persons via the tongue. Brain research, 908(2), 204–7.

Thomson, E. E., Carra, R., & Nicolelis, M. a. L. (2013). Perceiving invisible light through a somatosensory cortical prosthesis. Nature Communications, 4, 1482. doi:10.1038/ncomms2497

FUN Education Committee Announces 2014 Workshop

FUN Education Committee Announces 2014 Workshop

Submitted by Jean Hardwick

The FUN Education Committee is preparing a program for the upcoming FUN workshop to be held at Ithaca College from August 1 to August 3, 2014.  As we’ve done in previous years, the main workshop will be preceded by a smaller hands-on Laboratory Workshop (July 31- Aug 1).  As we start to develop a program, we would like to ask our members for some input.

Main workshop

·         Are there issues related to Undergraduate Neuroscience Education that you would like to see addressed at this workshop?

·           Is there a topic that you would want to present to the FUN      community?

We have only a limited number of slots available for oral presentations, but we are planning to have a poster session that would allow attendees to put up a poster related to a unique teaching activity, curricular innovation, or other ideas that would be of interest to other faculty with time for viewing posters included in the schedule.

Pre-workshop laboratory session

·         Do you have an innovative laboratory exercise that you would like to            present?

Please keep in mind that all presenters in the laboratory sessions and oral presentations in the main workshop will be asked to write up their presentation for inclusion in a special edition of JUNE.

Please send your suggestions or proposals for a presentation to:

Jean Hardwick (<mailto:[email protected])

Eric Wiertelak (<mailto:[email protected]>)

Bruce Johnson (<mailto:[email protected]>)




FUN Booth Volunteers Needed

Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience members are needed to staff the FUN exhibitor booth during the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting from November 9th to 13th in San Diego. Tasks include booth setup, selling merchandise, and talking about FUN to those who visit the booth. FUN members who agree to work for at least 4 hours will receive FREE Registration for the SfN Annual Meeting (while supplies last). Contact Kurt Illig ([email protected]) to volunteer or for more information.

FUN Newsletter, June 2014, Volume 2, Issue 1

Volume 2, Issue 1, Summer 2014:


Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014  - directly download the PDF with this link

FUN President’s Column: Economic and Ethical Challenges of Mentoring Undergraduate Students of Neuroscience

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014



FUN President’s Column:

Economic and Ethical Challenges of Mentoring Undergraduate Students of Neuroscience

Jeffery Smith, Ph.D.

Saginaw Valley State University

                My initial intention for submission to the summer edition of our bi-yearly newsletter was to compose a simple, "From the desk of the president..." type of essay, highlighting our excellent programs (such as the student travel award, equipment loan program, brain awareness week poster award, etc) and encouraging all to consider attending the upcoming FUN workshop in Ithaca, August 1-3. However, lately I have been thinking about issues facing our students as we mentor them into neuroscience and how, by encouraging them to pursue their interests and follow their passions, we may be placing them on a path that might not lead to the same successes and opportunities that we, the past generations of scientists, have had.

            Before I begin to outline my concerns and challenges, let me first assure you all that I fully subscribe to the "follow your passion and your vocation will present itself to you" philosophy tethered to the "work hard...good things will come" and "the cream will always rise to the top" mantras. But my concerns about how to help students make informed decisions about their professional development have become more significant in the recent years. So much so that I would imagine that many of our members are struggling with the same concerns and that there might be a need for us to come together with a "vision for undergraduate neuroscientist development" that we could move forward with, as a group.

            My initial concern deals with a seemingly disconnected relationship between what we "think" we need and what our actual "needs" are in science. The most recent budget request from the Office of the President included 3.1 billion (large number, yes, but only a small percentage of the 2.9 trillion total budget request) in support of programs that enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)1.  But not all STEM needs are equal - across the four letters that contribute to the abbreviation, that is. Seventy-one percent of new STEM jobs will be in the computing "T" industry, 16% in engineering "E", 7% in the physical sciences and 4% in the life sciences "S", and the math "M" opportunities make up the remaining 2%. The projected estimated need for the "science" occupations in STEM disciplines through 2018, (i.e. all jobs available in life/physical sciences) make up only 13% of all STEM jobs2. In addition, of all the projected STEM jobs, only 24% of them require a graduate degree2. Again, do not take the information I am presenting as an “anti-STEM programs” perspective. I simply argue that we need to understand that STEM, in terms of vocational opportunities, actually looks more like sTEm as compared to STEM. I believe MORE support is required to promote STEM proficiencies at all levels of formal education, but my current questions/concerns are directed toward the development of the next generation of scientists; that is, the producers of science, not the consumers.

            A recent PNAS article titled, "Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws"3 that was authored by several well-respected scientists – and this was really the article that broke this camel's back -- outlined the doom and gloom of the future of gainful employment for new scientists. The key thesis of this report was that the current funding system in the biomedical sciences is flawed and unsustainable. Too much growth has occurred so that there are too many scientists and too little support for those investigators. They state that the assumption of growth of the science enterprise can be maintained indefinitely is incorrect.  The problem is amplified due to the necessity of having trainees (apprentices) in their established laboratories to perform the principle investigators research. So for every investigator, there are numerous additional young investigators being produced and released into the system, each previous apprentice now either looking for a position so that they may establish their own laboratory (and hire their own apprentices). If no position can be found, they then wash out of the current scientific system and seek employment outside of their chosen field. As the generations have proceeded, fewer and fewer new scientists find their way to their "dream" (i.e. any gainful employment where their degree/experiences align with their position) jobs in science and more are finding employment in non-science "alternative" vocations. Note: the use of the word "alternative" is in quotes because in most cases the "alternative" is not a decision made by the person, but is due to no other options being available to them.

            The authors of the PNAS article make several recommendations to try to balance/control this uncontrolled growth. The first and most logical (at least from the authors’ perspectives) is to increase funding.  These additional funds would greatly expand and grow science...leading to a greater need for apprentices, and (admittedly, by the authors) we are right back where we started: too many graduates, not enough opportunities. The second recommendation is to no longer pay  graduate students using monies received from research grants. Instead, make the students compete for their own training grants and fellowships. Of course, though it was not pointed out by the authors, there would then be far fewer students due to the limited funds for training grants and fellowships. The few that win the support should have more options as to what they would want to do for their education and be less bound to any particular laboratory. So who would perform the established PIs’ research? Post-docs, techs, and so on but NOT the students.  Who would teach? Who would "mentor" the apprentices...the next generation of scientists (Spoiler alert! They provide us with their vision of the future of science, see the next paragraph)? Their third recommendation is to broaden the "career paths" for students, again identifying "alternative" (yes, in quotes again) vocational opportunities outside of their specific training and goals (i.e. send them away from science, to something else, when they are done with them).

            I think in their world, the current leaders of this charge to change the approach of scientific funding and development have a very clear model of the future of science. Their fourth and fifth recommendations are to increase pay, but limit terms, for post-doctoral positions and to increase the use of "staff scientists.” Both of these changes will reduce the need for graduate students and, therefore, eliminate the need for the apprentice (yep, the post-docs and staff scientists would perform the PI's science). The laboratory would then be the domain of those who do science, not those that train the scientists of the future. There would be an increase in the overall costs of doing science, but there would be fewer, smaller laboratories and none of the stress associated with student development issues. Sounds much like an industry model to me, not an academic one. A path that many have predicted science was on, and one that would lead to fewer investigators, greater quantity of data, less discovery...That is, mediocre - yet very expensive - science.

            When my students come to me with problems, I suggest to them to move from complaining about the issue to coming up with solutions to the problem. When I apply the same pressure on myself in this particular situation, I cannot come up with an easy "solution." Well, that is not necessarily true. I tell myself, my current students, and my past students all the same thing: "If you work hard, good things happen" and "The cream rises to the top, eventually." I agree that this is not a solution, but it is a way to balance what I would want to happen for my students with the reality of the situation (for both myself and my students).

            My question for the membership of FUN, my charge if you will allow for such a thing, is to think about what our role in this system should be. What should we be telling/working with/inspiring our students to work toward? How much of the doom and gloom should we share with them? Should discouragement be part of our teaching and research philosophies?   I will be posting this essay on our listserv where we can begin to have an open discussion about these issues. Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, counter-arguments, vision for change, whatever you would like to add to the conversation. It is my hope that through these conversations (and additional conversations at the upcoming FUN workshop in Ithaca, August 1-3) we might begin to forge an approach that helps shape the way we mentor our students.

            The Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience has been on the frontlines for many years when it comes to issues associated with student growth and development in the neurosciences. We have produced, at least, the majority of students that seek graduate training in neuroscience. We are part of the "problem," at least a major component, contributing to the source of well prepared and interested neuroscience graduate students (if you call that a problem). We should play a role in how the future of how our science should look, for our own good and the good of our students. Our unbiased/biased insights should at least provide alternative perspectives to the current alternatives, maybe just to bring an alternative approach that may be in the best interest of the whole rather than the few. I hope these thoughts and ideas inspire our group of great minds to work together and develop new ideas that can help move science forward in a manner that is best for the whole of society.



2) Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Melton, M. (2011). STEM: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

3) Alberts, B., Kirschner, M. W., Tilghman, S., & Varmus, H. (2014). Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(16), 5773-5777.



Bug Brains: Using Invertebrate Nervous Systems for Outreach

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014

Bug Brains: Using Invertebrate Nervous Systems for Outreach

David R. Andrew, PERT Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arizona


When most people think about neuroscience research, insects and other invertebrates are not the first animals that come to mind as research subjects. Indeed, the fact that insects and other invertebrate animals even have nervous systems is often a revelation to non-neuroscientists (and, unfortunately, some young aspiring neuroscientists). Yet, there are innumerable examples where the study of nervous systems in insects and their invertebrate kin have provided invaluable insights into fundamental principles of neuroscience. These animals can also provide a creative, engaging, and cost-effective way to educate the public about neuroscience research through interactive, inquiry-based outreach activities.

            Each year the University of Arizona hosts an Annual Insect Festival, where members of the university’s research community and other enthusiasts bring their passion for insects and other interesting arthropods to the public at large ( This free and open event annually draws thousands of visitors, young and old alike, to the university for a one-day fair organized into thematic booths that highlight different aspects of the importance of insects to our daily lives. Since the festival’s inception, the Department of Neuroscience has hosted a “Bug Brains” booth with several displays and activities (described below) geared at acquainting the public with the significance of insects in neuroscience and biomedical research. The booth is planned and organized by a collaborative team of postdoctoral researchers and graduate and undergraduate student volunteers. This event is a great opportunity for undergraduate neuroscience students to volunteer and share their excitement about science with a diverse and energetic audience (Pearce & Srivatsan, 2011).

The majority of festival attendees are children, and as such our booth is designed to engage the audience with hands-on, interactive activities. Unlike outreach events directed at K-12 school visits, however, there are also a large number of adult attendees, so the impact of this event extends to a wide range of ages and interests. Although this event provides a unique and rather specific opportunity for interactive neuroscience outreach, the activities we employ can easily be adapted for use in different venues.


The following examples represent a sampling of the activities we’ve employed. In most instances these activities can be developed with relatively little cost in a minimally equipped laboratory. The specific insect species used for many activities can vary depending on seasonal and regional availability of wild-caught specimens. Many standard laboratory species, such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster or the hawk moth Manduca sexta, can be obtained from laboratory supply companies.

Brain Zoo: The cornerstone of our exhibit is a collection of dissected insect brains that we endearingly call our “Brain Zoo.” We display these preparations in small, sealed vials and provide large magnifying glasses and dissecting microscopes so participants can get a closer view. We collect and dissect a variety of insects (e.g. cockroaches, grasshoppers, bees, butterflies or moths, beetles, large ants, etc.) to illustrate that they each have similar parts (i.e. optic lobes for vision, olfactory lobes for smelling, an esophageal foramen for passage of the gut) for similar purposes. It is fun for participants to attempt to match the brain with a picture of the appropriate animal. In addition, we have a collection of vertebrate brains that we compare and contrast with the insect brains. One of the goals of this activity is to illustrate that insects, like larger animals, can see, smell, taste, and feel the world by using their nervous systems. This is a very interactive activity that has innumerable possibilities for discussion of insect nervous systems.

Dissections and histological preparations: We are fortunate to have a large collection of histological slides of various insect brains for this activity. We set up a compound microscope so participants can observe a high-magnification view of insect brain cells in situ. People are generally amazed at the intricacies of the nervous system when viewed at magnification. We use this activity as an illustration of how insect neurons are similar to vertebrate neurons and how they differ.

SpikerBox: The SpikerBox, created by Backyard Brains (, is a great way to illustrate that insect nerves conduct electrical impulses (Marzullo and Gage, 2012). This affordable and versatile mini-amplifier allows participants to hear and see action potentials from the leg of a roach or other suitable insect upon mechanical stimulation.

Drosophila melanogaster specimens: The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is arguably the most important and pervasive insect model system for a variety of scientific disciplines, including neuroscience. A simple culture vial of these animals with wandering larvae and active adults is enough to start numerous conversations with young students and adults alike about the utility and importance of this little fly for biomedical research. The idea that these little (some might say pesky) flies share the majority of their genes, particularly those involved in the nervous system, with humans is truly remarkable. There are many ways that different mutants can be used for creative outreach applications. Pulver and Berni (2012) provide an approachable introduction to this system, including some possible nervous system mutants for activities.




Marzullo, T.C. and G.J. Gage. 2012. The SpikerBox: A low-cost, open-source bioamplifier for increasing public participation in neuroscience inquiry. PLoS ONE 7(3):e30837.

Pearce, A.R. and M. Srivatsan. 2011. Volunteerism is key to offering successful neuroscience outreach with limited resources. JUNE 9(2):A62–A65.

Pulver, S.R. and J. Berni. 2012. The fundamentals of flying: Simple and inexpensive strategies for employing Drosophila genetics in neuroscience teaching laboratories. JUNE 11(1):A139–A148.




FUN Educators of the Year Award Statement

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014

FUN Educators of the Year Award Statement

Michael G. Ruscio, Ph.D and Chris Korey, Ph.D.

College of Charleston



Thank you to members of FUN for the unexpected honor of being named FUN Educators of the Year.  It is truly humbling to be recognized in this way by an organization that is full of equally accomplished educators.  We feel extremely fortunate for the encouragement and guidance we have received from our FUN colleagues over the years; not only in regard to our study abroad program, but to our overall career development.  FUN has been a source of inspiration for both of us.  We also owe a debt of gratitude to our collaborators in Germany and the intrepid and enthusiastic students who we have been fortunate enough to get to know through this program.  Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of receiving this award is its recognition of what has become one of the most enjoyable and rewarding endeavors we have undertaken as academics: developing international neuroscience opportunities for undergraduates.   

The inception of our study abroad program came through existing collaborations between the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience and the German Schools of Neuroscience (a consortium of graduate programs in Germany). That initial connection, developed by Mary Harrington and Eric Wiertelak, was centered on the German Schools of Neuroscience poster award that was given at the annual FUN Society for Neuroscience undergraduate poster session. The undergraduate winner of this prize toured German Neuroscience programs with their research advisor during the summer.  Based on the success of this program we approached Lutz Steiner, Medical Neurosciences in Berlin Program Director, with the idea of a “FUN Abroad” summer program that more directly engages US undergraduates with the German research community.  The product of these discussions was a four week summer study abroad program, run through the College of Charleston Center for International Education, that we began in 2011: Neuroscience Seminar in Germany.  We spend two weeks at the Munich Center for Neurosciences – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (MCN-LMU) and two weeks at Charité - Universitätsmedizin in Berlin.  Enrollment is open to any current undergraduate student in North America.  The program showcases the cutting-edge research at these universities and provides a view into the rich history of medical and behavioral neuroscience in Germany.  Through laboratory exercises, site visits, and interactions with German graduate students and post-doctoral research associates, the program expands the students’ understanding of collaborative science and scientific opportunities in research that may exist abroad.

Beyond the practical and logistical implementation of this program our aim was to address broader issues, as they relate to study abroad programs in the sciences.  With increasing globalization, there is a growing focus on international studies and the development of intercultural skills, often incorporated into strategic plans or mission statements of many colleges and universities.  Study abroad in the neurosciences holds the promise of creating connections and collaborations among students and faculty in a field that is becoming increasingly interconnected and global.  However, a major challenge is that rigorous or restrictive curricular demands on neuroscience students can discourage them from pursuing a study abroad experience. There are fewer study abroad opportunities in neuroscience compared to other disciplines, and a full semester abroad is often at the expense of undergraduate research opportunities at home.  The goal of our course is to address such challenges and create a unique and productive study abroad opportunity for neuroscience students. After completing this program a number of students have broadened their perspectives for career plans.  Several course alumni have applied to graduate schools in Europe or for semester-long programs.  Ideally, it is this international perspective we hope to foster through our program’s creation of globally oriented neuroscience students

At some level, we view the FUN Educator of the Year Award as an auspicious harbinger, rather than recognition of a task seen to fruition.  Beyond this study abroad program, we have continued to develop additional opportunities for undergraduates in the neurosciences and related fields.  These have included a freshman seminar course with a spring break travel component and increasing awareness of semester long opportunities that incorporate a research component.  We look forward to working with each new cohort of undergraduates and continuing to cultivate their mix of enthusiasm, skill and wanderlust that we have seen in our students thus far.



FUN with Grant Writing: A Semester-Long Organismal Neurobiology Project

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014

FUN with Grant Writing:

A Semester-Long Organismal Neurobiology Project


Robin E. White, Ph.D.

Westfield State University




In Spring 2014, I taught an upper-level neuroscience course titled “Organismal Neurobiology” at Westfield State University.  The first half of the course focused on human neuroanatomy, while the second half covered animal models of neurological disease.  During this class, the students were required to write a grant in the form of a National Institute of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA), a common grant for both graduate students and post-doctoral scholars.  This semester-long project was a great learning experience for the students, and I wanted to share it with the FUN community.

The Assignment

This multifaceted project gave students the opportunity to research a topic, conduct hands-on research in the laboratory, and write a grant proposal describing follow-up studies.  As a result of this assignment, students were able to design, implement, and analyze hands-on research in the laboratory and write a follow-up grant proposal (summative assessment).  By constructing the grant proposal, students were able to demonstrate his/her understanding of the entire research process.  Furthermore, the 7-page limit of the grant required students to practice accurate and concise scientific writing. 

 Table 1.  Project components and percentage of grade.

Component 	Percentage 
Biosketch	5
Specific Aims	15
Significance/Background	15
Preliminary Data	30
Research Approach	25
Budget	10

The written portion of the grant comprised 20% of the final course grade.  The rubric summary (elements that contribute to an NRSA) is described in Table 1. Throughout the semester, students were required to turn in non-graded drafts of each of the components, allowing me to make comments and suggestions before the students were graded.   If a student failed to turn in a draft, 5 points were deducted from the final grant grade.


Students were free to pick any neurobiology topic of interest.  Examples included:  Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, and Autism.  Students then had the choice of collecting data in 3 different ways:  1) cell culture experiments using neuronal cell lines, 2) gene quantification using in situ hybridization images from the Allen Brain Atlas (gene mapping) or, 3) data mining of publicly available microarray data from the Gene Expression Omnibus (Figure 1). All image analysis of cell culture experiments and gene mapping were completed using freely available NIH ImageJ software.  Below are examples of each type of project:

Figure 1.  Proportions of students working on project types.  
            Cell Culture:  Assessing the effects of caffeine on astrocyte cell survival by administering multiple doses of caffeine to C6 cells and using propidium iodide to identify dead cells. 

Gene Mapping:  Determining the expression of disease-associated genes, such as PINK1 in Parkinson’s Disease, in the developing and adult mouse brain.

Data Mining:  Measuring expression of phagocytosis-associated genes in studies on autism.


After collecting preliminary data, students wrote the Research Approach to propose future experiments.  Students were encouraged to design experiments using research techniques regardless of cost or equipment availability.  For example, one group of students conducted a cell death assay in the cell culture laboratory and proposed to further explore the topic using a transgenic mouse model.      

Figure 2.  Median responses to the question “To what extent did the grant improve your skills in the following areas?”.  0 = No Improvement, 1 = Slight Improvement, 2 = Moderate Improvement, 3 = Significant Improvement.
Student Feedback

Seventy-nine percent of the students responded to an online survey about the class and grant. When asked to what extent the grant project improved their skills, students reported a moderate improvement in Research Design, Research Techniques, and Ability to Read and Interpret Scientific Literature, and a slight improvement in Writing (Figure 2). 

In closing, this was an excellent project that I plan to implement the next time I teach the class, and I look forward to seeing the ideas that arise!


Acknowledgements:  I would like to thank my BIOL0333 students for their hard work, and Dr. Jennifer Hanselman and Dr. Kurt Lucin for submission feedback.

Modeling Neural Phenomena through Stop Motion Clay Animation: A Class Activity

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014

Modeling Neural Phenomena through Stop Motion Clay Animation:

A Class Activity


Paula M. Johnson and David S. Leland

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire



At the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, introductory neuroscience is a course that satisfies general education and lab course requirements. Usually co-taught by biology and psychology professors, there are a variety of lab activities, from dissection to visiting an EEG lab. One activity implemented by Dr. Leland and his teaching assistants in spring of 2013 was a “Neuro Claymation” project. Students created short videos using modeling clay and stop animation to depict neural phenomena (e.g., exocytosis). This activity is creative, hands-on, and requires teamwork.

Half-sections of 12 students each formed 4-member groups: 1 photographer, 1 positioner, 2 clay shapers. Each group selected a neuroscience concept or process and created a storyboard (minimum 6 images) for review and approval. Students used one lab session (110 min) to do modeling and photography. Typically, students used 80 to 90 minutes of the first session to capture images. They created shapes using non-hardening oil-based modeling clay and cutting tools. Geometrically shaped cutout tools are especially useful for depicting molecules such as ligands and receptors. Images were collected using Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 cameras and free PC software (MonkeyJam, During a second lab session (110 min), images were imported into iMovie for editing, text overlays, narration, and other sounds or music. Finalized videos were submitted online.


The resulting videos represented a variety of phenomena including the action potential, drug action at receptors, split-brain experiment findings, and prenatal brain development. As part of an end-of-semester survey, students rated the project on how good/bad they believed it was at enhancing their learning and/or getting them engaged with the material (Likert scale: 1 = very bad, 5 = very good). Of 61 respondents, 77% rated the project as good or very good (M = 4.0, SD = 0.8). Thirty-eight students provided written comments, the vast majority of which were positive. Most described the project as “fun” and many specifically appreciated how it provided a very different means of engaging the material (e.g., “tangible example,” “good change of learning medium,” “unique way to apply the concepts,” “excellent way to help us solidify certain aspects of neuroscience”). Three respondents wrote that the activity was not worthwhile; most critical commentary focused on logistical issues such as time constraints and the complexity of the relevant technology.

Students appreciated the creative outlet and change of routine afforded by the Neuro Claymation project. A number of students explicitly recognized (in written and/or verbal comments) the value of slowing down and thinking through each step of one complex phenomenon at the level required to depict it using stop animation. Feedback on videos was provided in written form to each group privately. While pointing out errors more publicly can be a sensitive matter, many students said that they would like to see the other groups’ videos, so it may be worth planning from the outset to have a screening and review of the videos so that everyone can enjoy and learn from their peers’ efforts.

Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience

This newsletter article is posted here for indexing purposes only.  The fully-formatted article is here: Fun Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 1, June 2014

Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience

By, G. Andrew Mickley, Ph.D., Executive Director, Nu Rho Psi


Brief history and mission of Nu Rho Psi:

Nu Rho Psi is the National Honor Society in Neuroscience, founded in 2006 by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience. We are now an independent, tax-exempt [501(c)(3)], non-profit, grass-roots, organization comprised of neuroscientists like you.


The purpose of Nu Rho Psi is to: (1) encourage professional interest and excellence in scholarship, particularly in neuroscience; (2) award recognition to students who have achieved such excellence in scholarship; (3) advance the discipline of neuroscience; (4) encourage intellectual and social interaction between students, faculty, and professionals in neuroscience and related fields; (5) promote career development in neuroscience and related fields; (6) increase public awareness of neuroscience and its benefits for the individual and society; and (7) encourage service to the community. 


Current status of Nu Rho Psi:

The honor society has grown steadily since the first members were inducted in 2007. We now have over 2000 members and 43 chapters at colleges and universities across the U.S.



His Holiness the 14th The Dalai Lama, was inducted as an honorary member of Nu Rho Psi on 2 March 2014 at Macalester College. The Dalai Lama has been a long-time advocate of the use neuroscience in the study of mind. In this picture he displays his Nu Rho Psi membership certificate presented by Dr. Eric Wiertelak, President of Nu Rho Psi, and his students.

Nu Rho Psi is governed by a National Council elected by our members. The National Office is located at Baldwin Wallace University and day-to-day operations are managed by a small part-time staff.

Benefits to Nu Rho Psi members:

Students who become members of Nu Rho Psi are selected based on their superior scholarly accomplishments as well as their excellent work in research. Members receive membership certificates and lapel pins as an indication of the honor they have earned. Nu Rho Psi offers competitive travel awards for members to attend and present their research at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Nu Rho Psi also offers competitive small grants to facilitate our members’ senior theses or summer research projects. Grants and other awards are available to Nu Rho Psi Chapters that foster educational and community outreach opportunities. Nu Rho Psi membership is for life and it is often a springboard for the networking and collaboration of like-minded colleagues throughout the U.S. We also mentor our members through publications (e.g. The Nu Rho Psi Guide to Graduate School in Neuroscience) and other outreach activities of the Society.

How to start a Nu Rho Psi chapter:

Nu Rho Psi is a federation of local chapters, each with their own Constitution and By-laws consistent with those documents for the national organization. Membership in Nu Rho Psi is granted only through our chartered schools and any accredited college or university in the U.S. may apply for a Nu Rho Psi charter. The application process is aimed at determining the likelihood that the school has the curriculum, resources and desire to foster development of the neuroscience education of their members. Questions about Nu Rho Psi and the charter application process may be directed to the Executive Director, G. Andrew Mickley: [email protected].

FUN Newsletter, June 2017, Volume 4, Issue 1

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FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Special advocacy focus in the fall newsletter as we prepare for SFN in Washington D.C. 

Download this issue directly with this link or read via ScribD on your tablet in the canvas below.

Fun Newsletter v02 e02

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Engaging Neuroscience Undergraduates in Advocacy

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Engaging Neuroscience Undergraduates in Advocacy

Cecilia M. Fox, PhD

President, Lehigh Valley SfN Chapter

Moravian College

I have a confession to share.  Before joining the Government and Public Affairs (GPA) Committee for the Society for Neuroscience over a year ago, I did not give much thought as to how I could serve as an advocate for scientific funding.  I mistakenly viewed this as someone else’s responsibility.  This “someone else”, of course, was large doctorate-granting institutions that rely more on NIH/NSF financial support than those of us at small, private liberal art colleges.


I remember asking many questions prior to joining the GPA.  What will be the time commitment?  What will my role and responsibilities be on this committee?  And my favorite…. why me?   Well, as the lone representative from a predominantly undergraduate liberal arts institution serving on the GPA, I have learned a great deal about how important it is for our undergraduate community to be engaged and critical of our government funding process.  In the midst of some very distinguished colleagues who represent large research institutions, I provide a unique perspective. 


I have participated in the SfN Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C. on two occasions.  What an enlightening experience!   To meet with our elected representatives and their staff for the purpose of sharing the importance of our work as well as the need to support research endeavors at all stages (including the undergraduate level), was an important opportunity.  When faced with only a few minutes to speak with a representative, I discussed the significance of undergraduate research.  I shared how our colleges feed the pipeline for future physicians, scientists, educators, etc.   I also discussed the negative impact that diminishing resources will have on this future generation to pursue such admirable and essential professions. 


This past July, Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who leads the Senate panel that oversees the NIH, introduced legislation ensuring that the NIH’s budget would not drop below the current $29.9 billion. The bill also proposed that Congress increase the NIH’s budget by up to 10% for the next two years, and 5% each year for the next five years. By 2021, the agency’s budget would rise to $46.2 billion (   The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the NSF, released draft legislation calling for a 40 percent increase for the NSF budget by 2019. During last spring’s SfN Hill Day, neuroscientists were asking for support of at least $32 billion for NIH and $7.5 billion for NSF in FY2015.  Though funding seems to be moving in a positive direction, we are not where we need to be. 

As much as I am delighted to share my voice in this conversation, this voice needs to be louder.  In our Lehigh Valley SfN (LVSfN) Chapter, brain awareness outreach and service learning are strong components of many of our undergraduate experiences.  Becoming responsible citizens and leaders for the common good are part of the ethos of many of our liberal arts LVSfN colleges.  So, it seems fitting to develop our neuroscience undergraduates into advocates for such an important and relevant cause. 


In the LVSfN, we started with small steps.  Last fall, Moravian College’s neuroscience club sponsored an “Advocacy Day” on campus.  Students walked around with iPads and had laptops available in our Student Union linked to an electronic website so students, faculty and staff could sign electronic petitions that were sent to the representatives in the state of Pennsylvania (  To express their appreciation, the neuroscience undergraduates handed out gummi brains for every signature acquired!

Since this event was so well received, the LVSfN sponsored an “Advocacy Day” for all participating colleges in the LVSfN the following spring.  Hundreds of signatures were collected that day and our representatives took notice.  This fall, Representative Charles Dent came to the Moravian College campus and met with several of our undergraduates.  He visited our labs and developed a greater understanding of the important research that undergraduates pursue.   It was a very positive experience for everyone involved.   We are hoping to continue these conversations with more representatives in the future. 

Every spring, we partner with local organizations to hold one of our largest Brain Awareness events.  This takes place outdoors in the month of April.  We will be extending invitations for more representatives to meet with our undergraduates and those in the community who are strong advocates for scientific funding at this event.  We are also planning to invite representatives to our next LVSfN Undergraduate Research Conference to be held at Lehigh University next year.  Finally, I have even been in conversation with a few colleagues on developing a course focusing on scientific advocacy and social responsibility.  

So, as you can see, there are several ways to engage undergraduates in a dialogue centered on scientific advocacy. It is critical that these young scholars become involved in this conversation since they will receive the benefits of such action.  For more information and suggestions about how your students may become involved, please visit



FUN and CUR Advocacy Announcement - Fall 2014 Newsletter

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Dear FUN Colleagues,


As you know, the upcoming Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Meeting is being held in Washington, DC.  The FUN Governmental Affairs and Public Policy Committee would like to encourage our membership who will be attending the DC meeting to take advantage of the proximity to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of undergraduate science education and research by visiting your Congressional Representatives while you’re in DC.  The Council on Undergraduate Research can share their advocacy tips with those of who are currently members of CUR (  We’ve attached information to this email that will be of use to you to determine whether your institution has an “enhanced institutional membership” that provides your faculty with membership privileges at CUR.  If your institution does not have an enhanced membership, but you would like to consider joining CUR to access the CUR advocacy materials, you may visit them at their website.  If you are a member of the SfN, you may also visit the SfN website on advocacy at  Our colleagues at CUR have also indicated that they would be willing to host a teleconference or webinar on the advocacy initiative for FUN members who are also members of CUR and who are interested in doing advocacy work during the SfN meeting.  We will provide more details on that teleconference when they become available. 


The Committee recognizes that FUN members who attend the SfN conference are very busy during the meeting and that carving out time for visits to our Congressional Representatives may not be easy.  Your investment in time and energy, by advocating on behalf of the science and science education community, can have significant impact on the direction the Nation takes in supporting the next generation of scientists and educators.  Improvement in funding levels for the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and other federal agencies supporting STEM will happen only if you voice your opinion in support of efforts on Capitol Hill to strengthen science and science education.  As a first step, we encourage you to review your schedule and to make an appointment with your representative while you’re in DC.  You may find the contact information at  The process for making an appointment is simple and takes very little time.  If you decide to do advocacy work during the SfN meeting, would you kindly contact [email protected]  so we may create an invitation list to participate in the CUR-FUN teleconference or webinar?


Many thanks for considering in engaging in this important advocacy effort,


Julio Ramirez, Ph.D. (Chair)

Amanda Clinton, Ph.D.

Kimberley Phillips, Ph.D.

FUN Governmental Affairs and Public Policy Committee


Gel Scramble: A digital molecular neuroscience lab module

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Gel Scramble: A digital molecular neuroscience lab module. 
William Grisham, UCLA


This module requires no specialized equipment and can be delivered at any institution that has computers with internet access.

In this module, students not only learn content about molecular neuroscience but also utilize web-based tools to make predicted outcomes based on experimental protocols.  Students are then challenged to develop their critical thinking skills when asked to match their predicted outcomes to an array of empirical results.  A still bigger challenge to students' critical thinking skills is posed when they are asked to explain unexpected outcomes, which exist in the empirical data but which also have reasonable explanations.  Some estimates hold that at least half of all experiments of any kind produce unexpected results, and unexpected results can be responsible for enlightening discoveries.  Thus, as educators, we should also train students to deal with unexpected results rather than just focusing on experiments that "work."  

Materials required to teach this module at their home institution, including images, PDFs of handouts and laboratory instructions, grading keys and rubrics, Powerpoint slides, etc, can be obtained at      


How to Help Students Become Outstanding Undergraduate Student Researchers


Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

How to Help Students Become Outstanding Undergraduate Student Researchers


Janice E. Thornton and Michael D. Loose


Oberlin College Department of Neuroscience


For many faculty members the scientific research that they do in their labs also has a strong teaching component.  That is, as part of their own research they also teach the undergraduate student researchers who work with them how to do scientific research.  Undergraduate students often come into a research lab not knowing quite what to expect.  Scientific research labs have a culture all their own and there are often many unwritten aspects to the culture.  Students want to do a good job but are not sure exactly how to best achieve that goal.  We have found it useful to go over some guidelines for how to be a great research student with the students early in the process.  We hand these guidelines out to every new student researcher and discuss them at one of the first research lab meetings of the semester.


We offer two somewhat different versions. Feel free to pick and choose and adapt to your own style and expectations.


How to be an outstanding student researcher.  By J. Thornton

Read the background literature.  Understand the research area you are working in.  Ask the advisor for relevant literature. Take notes on it.  Find some articles on your own.


Be conscientious, reliable.  Attend all scheduled meetings and do all the lab jobs assigned to you, in a timely fashion.  It’s OK to work slowly when learning a new technique.  Listen to instructions and take careful notes; we all have faulty memories. Double and triple check your work.  Follow protocols exactly.


Work hard and do more than your share.  Volunteer to do any tasks that need to be done.  Go above and beyond what is expected.  Be willing to do the ‘scut work’, e.g. wash dishes even if they are not yours. Keep the lab clean. Help develop written protocols for the lab.  If everyone does more than their share, everything will run smoothly.  If something runs out notify someone and/or make out an order form to replace it.


Keep a complete and accurate lab notebook.  Someone in the future should be able to easily read your lab notebook and determine what you did and be able to replicate it.


Always keep your mind engaged.  Make sure that things make sense.  If they don’t, then ask questions. Be a brain not a drone.  Always think about potential problems so you can avoid them. Assume your advisor will make some mistakes (we are all human).  Be aware and knowledgeable so you can catch them (and be gracious when you do).  Think about how an experiment or procedure could be improved.  What would be the next step?  Could things be done more efficiently? Learn as much as you can.


Be independent. Use the resources available to you, including other students, books, journal articles, etc.  Try to problem solve on your own…but then double check with your advisor to make sure you came up with the correct solution. 


Don’t be too independent.  Ask questions!  Don’t assume you have to know everything.  Check in often with your advisor so he/she knows what you are doing, so you can get feedback, etc.


Generate ideas of your own.  Learn about the research area and then generate your own ideas.  What do you think would be a good next step and why?


Help others and learn from others in the lab.  You will learn more, build stronger relationships, and you might need their help some day.  Ask to shadow other researchers in the lab to learn all you can.


Be enthusiastic.  Enjoy what you are doing.  Express it.  Be appreciative. Express it.




How to be an outstanding student researcher.  By M. Loose

First: Know what your goals are for doing research.  Think carefully about why you are looking for a research opportunity.  

Second: Know what to do


Six easy steps to being a strong contributor to a lab


How to think deeply about a subfield of science while demonstrating independent thought and self-motivation.


Before you arrive in the lab:

1) Start by saying what you already plan to read before you ask for advice on additional, appropriate reading materials. 

            - In general, think of possible answers to your questions before you ask them and offer

             your thoughts when you are asked. 

2) Ask to be assigned to a specific project/experiment. 

            - Explain why you want this.


When you are in the lab:

3) Arrive early, always volunteer, stay late.

            - Research is not a 9-5 job.

            - Research is for motivated people.

            - Get trained and then do stuff, don’t just watch.

4) Do “good” science.

            - Take extraordinary care and be extremely precise.

            - Follow protocols exactly… make no changes… none.

            - Record what you do; actions, observations, questions, etc.

            - Understand what you do.  Ask many “why questions” about techniques and protocols.


At night or after your lab work is done:

5) Understand the hypotheses being tested and the big picture they fit into.

            - Read articles in the field.  Guideline:  Read one article a night. 

            - Reread articles from the lab.  With experience they will mean more to you.

            - Talk to co-workers about the project.

6) Think of possible improvements.

            - Set time aside for this.  Literally, schedule this twice a week.

            - Come up with suggestions for improved techniques, improved experimental designs and

             brand new experiments.


Learning Outcomes from an Independent Laboratory Research Module

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2


Learning Outcomes from an Independent Laboratory Research Module


Sara Lagalwar, PhD

Skidmore College


In the fall of 2013, I was tasked with introducing a weekly lab component for my 200-level Cell and Molecular Neuroscience course at Skidmore College.  My very loose plan for the lab course was to use it to teach students the techniques used most often in my research laboratory- specifically, mammalian cell culture, Western blotting, immunocytochemistry and fluorescence microscopy.  A colleague referred me to an article in the Journal of Undergraduate Education by Michele L. Lemons (2012) at Assumption College (1).  Michele had clearly outlined a cell culture neuroscience lab featuring an independent laboratory module titled "Mystery Cell" project in which students used techniques taught early in the term to carry out a research plan in which they deciphered whether their unknown cell line had a neuronal or glial lineage.  This idea fit with the goals for my course, and I adapted it to meet our specific curricular and institutional needs. Additionally, I assessed student perceptions of specific laboratory and non-laboratory research competencies pre- and post- independent lab module to measure the effectiveness of the independent portion of the lab. The purpose of this article is to share the outcomes of student's perceived competencies in multiple research techniques following their participation in the independent research module.


Goals of the course:

The Cell and Molecular Neuroscience lab course was designed to introduce Skidmore neuroscience students to the research experience and to build off of the foundation established in their introductory neuroscience lab by allowing them independence in the planning and set up of their experiments.  Specific curricular goals were to provide students with structured learning of methodology and techniques in cell and molecular neuroscience; experience in the design of a research plan; opportunity to gather, interpret and present data; and participation in both sides of the peer review process. 


Structure of the lab course:

The semester was divided into three major modules: Training, Independent Research and Data Presentation.  During the first module, students were trained in cell and molecular methodology.  Learning of each methodological skill was assessed through observation and competency check-lists.  During this time, students were given an unknown-to-them cell line (Neuro2a, astrocytic, Schwann, or Daoy cerebellar line) that they sub-cultured twice weekly and harvested as needed to complete the required methodology. 


The second module consisted of the design and implementation of a research plan to determine the lineage of their "mystery cell line".  Students hypothesized which line they had and designed three experiments that would test their hypothesis.  To this end, students presented their experimental design plan to the class for feedback and during the remainder of the module, implemented the experiments they proposed, gathered data, and presented that data to their classmates who gave them on-going feedback.  Each week, students were asked to formalize their results and future week's project plans in writing.  The formality of this process required students to plan each aspect of their experiment prior to conducting it.


The third module was the presentation phase in which students analyzed their data and drew conclusions.  Their work was presented as a written report and oral presentation.  Furthermore, each student peer-reviewed an oral presentation and a rough draft of a classmate's lab report.


Assessment of learning outcomes[AC1] :

Anonymous assessments of students were conducted through self-report surveys that were administered prior to the Training phase (pre-course survey), immediately following the Training phase and prior to beginning of the Independent Research phase (mid-course survey) and immediately following the Data Presentation phase (post-course survey).  All three surveys used a Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5 indicating strong disagreement to strong agreement of a prompt that read "I understand (and am comfortable with)...".  Survey items consisted of 8 laboratory skills and 7 non-laboratory skills (Fig. 1-3).  The post-course survey featured an additional questionnaire with the prompt "The independent research component impacted my understanding of..." (Fig. 3).


Self-report of students' [AC2] competencies with multiple laboratory principles and methodology improved following their participation in the independent laboratory module (Fig. 1, left of the dashed line).  Self-report of students' competency with multiple non-laboratory skills and methodology displayed upward trends following their participation in the independent laboratory module (Fig. 1, right of the dashed line), indicating that although students received training in these skills prior to enrollment in this course, further exposure through the independent lab module was effective.


Furthermore, a long-term goal of the Cell and Molecular Neuroscience course, which will become second in sequence of neuroscience-specific core requirements, is to standardize the foundation of neuroscience majors prior to their enrollment in upper-level electives.  To that end, the standard error of the means for each laboratory and non-laboratory competency was plotted (Fig. 2, left and right of the dashed line, respectively).  A reduction is shown in the standard error of most student survey results following completion of the independent lab module, indicating standardization of common skills and competencies among majors prior to enrollment in upper-level electives. Additionally, students were asked to evaluate the impact of the independent module on laboratory and non-laboratory competencies.  Students rated the impact of the independent module highly across all competencies (Fig. 3).


Although the surveys are a useful tool in gauging students' perceived learning, there are obvious limitations to their use. In particular, students were aware of the general purpose of the assessment through the IRB approval forms and a brief discussion in class.  Their knowledge of the study may have influenced their selections.  As an additional comparison, overall semester grades were plotted from two semesters of the course- the Fall 2012 semester in which I taught the course without a lab, and the Fall 2013 semester in which I taught the course with the lab (Fig. 4).  The percent of "A's" increased in the semester that featured a lab component (Fig. 4).  Moreover, there was an overall increase in GPA (Fall 2012 = 89.0 +/- 5.2; Fall 2013 = 92 +/- 3.7), albeit with some overlap.  It should also be noted that the number of students enrolled in the course without a lab was three times greater than the number of students enrolled in the course with a lab, potentially indicative of self-selection of students who wanted to learn cell and molecular lab techniques.



The independent research module was a success with students in Cell and Molecular Neuroscience and there is strong indication that the module increased their learning of laboratory and non-laboratory research techniques.  I am currently teaching the lab for a second time and maintaining the modular format, although the specific research projects will be tweaked from "Mystery Cell" to a project in line with my research.  Ultimately, other neuroscience faculty who teach Cell and Molecular Neuroscience at Skidmore could adapt the lab component to suit their specific research interests, yet maintain the independent research component. 


I'd like to thank Michele Lemons for publishing her course curriculum and I'm grateful to FUN and JUNE for providing us with these portals of curricular expertise.


All students in Cell and Molecular Neuroscience provided IRB consent prior to the implementation of the surveys.




1.         M. L. Lemons, Characterizing Mystery Cell Lines: Student-driven Research Projects in an Undergraduate Neuroscience Laboratory Course. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 10, A96-A104 (2012).



Figure 1







Figure 2

Figure 3




Figure 4



 [AC1]Provide brief description of the assessment tools (i.e., Likert scale with a range from x to x indicating total agreement to no agreement) and mention - as is indicated in tables - points of administration. Also note if these were anonymous.

 [AC2]If you have test scores or lab assignment scores graded by you or a lab assistant, that would help provide some concurrent evidence that self-reports are meaningful. If not, maybe observations? If not that then at least mention of the significant limitations of self report. 

President's Message: SFN in DC

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2


Hello FUN Friends!


In just a few short weeks we will be converging on our nation's capital to once again celebrate the work we do with 30,000+ other neuroscientists at the Society for Neuroscience's Annual Meeting. In the hullabaloo that is SfN, there is a cone of sanctuary within the mass of humanity...the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience events. The descriptions for these events are listed on our website ( and I hope to see you and your students throughout the meeting and at our FUN activities. Also, when wandering the Poster/exhibitor floor, why not stop by the FUN booth (#'s booths 3422, 3424, and 3426) and see what merchandise we have for sale and chat with other members about the work that we do!


In preparation for our adventures at SfN, here are a few links that you and your students might find useful. This past summer, FUN partnered with SfN and the CNDP to prepare a webinar for those attending the meeting. The Making the Most of the Annual Meeting (  is for students of all ages, so you might what to share the link with yours! There is also the "Getting the Most out of SfN: The Annual Meeting and Beyond" on Saturday, November 15th from 1-2pm in WCC 207A, if you want to see the "live action" version of our presentation. Also, another helpful tool for the young neuroscientists that might be attending the meeting for the first time was produced by Beth Fischer and Michael Zigmond from the University of Pittsburgh. They have prepared a really nice guidebook for students:

 ( that covers many aspects of both the attendee and presenter's role at professional meetings.


Additionally, since this year's meeting is in Washington DC, it provides us with a unique opportunity to reach out to our government officials and share with them how important it is that they support research and science education at all levels. The FUN Public Policy Committee has developed some resources to help plan for and engage with our elected officials. Julio Ramirez, Amanda Clinton, and Kimberley Phillips have prepared a resource to help you in this process ( There are articles in this very newsletter addressing issues about neuroscience advocacy, so make sure to review those as well. Also, if you receive funding (or would like to!) from the National Science Foundation or National Institutes of Health make sure to stop by their booths and meet with the program directors. Let them know how important it is that they support (or have supported your) research efforts at all levels and that the resources that they provide are an integral part of what we do with undergraduates in neuroscience....they cannot hear this enough!


Finally, as my time as president of this amazing group of scholars nears its end, I would like to take a moment to thank you all for your efforts to continue to support and grow FUN. We are truly a grassroots organization! Everything you see, hear, do, and experience through FUN is due to the hard work of the impassioned membership. This very newsletter would not be possible if it was not for the efforts of Amanda Clinton, Amy Jo Stavnezer, and Katherine Steinmetz. Nearly 200 of us had an amazing time at the FUN annual workshop (materials and information about the event can be found here: ) thanks to the efforts of Jean Hardwick, Bruce Johnson, Eric Wiertelak and many others!  We will have nearly 175 posters presented by our students at our social at this year's meeting that was organized by our past president, Noah Sandstrom.  23 of those students will receive FUN travel awards through the effort of our president-elect, Lisa Gabel's, leading the review process of 67 applications. The booth will be a hub of activity again due to the efforts of Kurt Illig and his support team! None of these, or any of the other events, resources, activities that FUN provides, would be possible without YOUR help. So thank you all for your continued support of our organization! I am excited to see how Lisa Gabel (our incoming president!) continues to nurture and grow FUN with the other new officers that will begin their terms at  the end of this year's meeting. I am deeply honored and grateful to have been the president of this amazing organization. I thank you all for allowing me to be part of this dynamic and inspirational group and I look forward to celebrating our efforts when we meet in DC!


(insert obligatory "Be sure to follow us on Facebook"

The Box: an interactive tool for students to experimentally determine anatomical and functional connectivity of a network

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

The Box: an interactive tool for students to experimentally determine anatomical and functional connectivity of a network


Patrick Sonner

Wright State University

Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Physiology


            I recently attended a workshop provided by the College of Science and Mathematics at Wright State University. The goal was to inspire different ways of teaching and preparing instructors to design engaging lessons for students. An approach presented and employed for preparing such a lesson was that of backward design. I began by determining the desired learning objectives for students to obtain from the lesson, followed by developing assessments that will be utilized to determine whether students have achieved an understanding of the learning objectives. Lastly, I designed the activities that will be employed to convey the information comprising the learning objectives. During the process of developing the lesson, peer feedback and discussions were ongoing, aiding in the refinement of the lesson. The lesson developed focuses on the Basal Ganglia, and for the activity students are given an interactive box that has been wired to indicate connectivity between Basal Ganglia nuclei, via a scheme of colored lights, such that students will be able to discern which nuclei are connected and if the connection is excitatory or inhibitory. With this assignment, students are able to experimentally determine the anatomical and functional connectivity for the Basal Ganglia circuitry.



Three Reasons Why You Should Meet with Your Elected Officials

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Three Reasons Why You Should Meet with Your Elected Officials

Katie Wilkinson, PhD – San José State University

croppedLofgrenThis year as a Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow I have gotten to see how accessible our legislators actually are and the important role that scientists can serve in public policy. In September, a San José State student, Anusha Allawala, and I visited Representative Zoe Lofgren in her district office. Here are three reasons why you should meet with your elected officials too.


Picture:  Katie Wilkinson, Representative Zoe Lofgren, and Anusha Allawala

1) You can give your elected officials a personal story to illustrate the effect of policies in Washington.

The decrease in science funding has had tremendous effects across the board and you can help your elected officials understand what it means in their district. I asked Anusha to join the meeting because she is currently supported by the US Department of Education's McNair Scholars Program, which provides mentorship and funding to low income first generation college students and/or students from underrepresented groups interested in PhD programs.  The budget for this program, and many similar programs, has been cut drastically. Anusha was able to tell the Congresswoman how important this program has been in helping prepare her for graduate school. Perhaps Anusha's story (or yours) will end up in a speech someday.

2) You can try to convince your Representative to support your issue or encourage their continued support.

Even though Congresswoman Lofgren has signed Dear Colleague letters in support of increased NIH and NSF funding this year, it is still important to make sure that she is thanked for her support and reminded that science funding is valued by constituents and institutions in her district. If your elected official is not in support of your issue, an in person meeting has the potential to change their mind.

3) You can offer yourself as a resource to make sure that accurate science is used in making public policy.

In preparation for the meeting I learned that Representative Lofgren introduced the Zs to As Act in 1998 that would have pushed high school start times later to align with what we know about the adolescent circadian rhythm. This is a great example of public policy based on science and at our meeting Representative Lofgren told us she had consulted with sleep specialists at Stanford while she was drafting the bill. Scientists are in the perfect position to offer their expertise or network of knowledgeable colleagues to help develop scientifically sound public policy. Most professional societies have an advocacy office that can help you put your elected officials in contact with relevant experts.

Hopefully now you are convinced to set up a meeting with your members of Congress. The SfN Advocacy team can help with meeting logistics and talking points. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at [email protected] and visit my blog for more advocacy information: 


Undergraduate Research in the Liberal Arts: Interdisciplinary Collaborations Provide a Multitude of Benefits

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Undergraduate Research in the Liberal Arts:

Interdisciplinary Collaborations Provide a Multitude of Benefits


Amber M. Chenoweth, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Hiram College, Hiram, OH


            As a junior faculty member at a small liberal arts institution, and with a liberal arts education myself, I am well aware of the value of undergraduate research opportunities to provide our students the experience expected to be competitive for graduate school and careers upon graduation, though equally aware of barriers to proper support and resources. These barriers are more evident as U.S. colleges and universities must cut budgets to account for decreases in state and federal funding, while outside funding resources are challenging to obtain due to significant decreased budgets of federal granting agencies, such as the NSF and NIH.[1]  Further, as current FUN president, Dr. Jeff Smith, pointed out in the Summer 2014 FUN newsletter, the market is only getting more competitive for our students.[2] We are all feeling the effects of this situation, and we must become more creative in developing ways to provide meaningful and beneficial research experiences for our undergraduate neuroscience students.

            This creative approach is a familiar mode for liberal arts institutions. We have a long history of being innovative, of making a lot from very little. Some argue that this is the core of a liberal arts education – thinking critically and creatively, and in multi- and interdisciplinary ways. As an example, I share with you an experience I had within my first two years at my institution.

I received a modest start-up package when I accepted my position, but I knew I needed to be smart with my purchases to stretch those dollars to support my rat research lab. Numerous companies produce fine laboratory software and equipment, but those would have consumed my entire budget and provide only a couple key pieces of equipment. My experience as a liberal arts undergraduate taught me that a trip to local hardware and electronics stores and a weekend combining Plexiglas, nuts, bolts, and wires would free me from having to rely on the expensive equipment. Likewise, why spend thousands on software when the Computer Science Department is next door?

            The timing was perfect. My colleague in computer science was developing a course on mobile device applications, as this was at the leading edge of smart phones and tablets taking over the electronic marketplace, and he planned to work with a few students that summer to pilot the course. We discussed the tablets they planned to use, and the size and capabilities matched nicely with the interactive touchscreen display my lab needed. After a few bewildered looks at the local electronics store when describing that rats would be using the devices and I wanted the best screen protectors they had, we were ready to begin.

            I discussed the goals of the project with my students – What do we want the rats to do? What information do we need on a start screen? What stimuli should we use? How did we want to store data? – and when all the people in the psychology/neuroscience group were on the same page, we met with the computer science group. The first meeting was a crash course for his students on how to interact with a client, a crucial skill for any budding computer programmer, with specific criteria identified by the end. The computer science students went off to work, and, as Tom Petty said it best, the waiting really was the hardest part. Yes, I could have purchased the expensive software and started the project three months earlier, but I wanted to see what my colleague’s students could produce. Our patience was rewarded twofold – tailor-made software and a rewarding hands-on experience for all of the students. Moreover, having our own in-house tech support was invaluable – and yes, utilized several times at the start.

            The students learned lessons beyond the underlying disciplines of computer science, psychology and neuroscience. My students learned how to articulate and operationalize their project goals and methodology down to the smallest details, a skill useful in settings beyond the research lab. My colleague’s students learned a type of programming to enhance their resumes, and began developing their skills of working with clients. One of the computer science students later decided to complete a minor in Psychology.

            This experience demonstrated the inherent interdisciplinary nature of the field of neuroscience, and confirmed my decision to work in the liberal arts with undergraduate students. My job is to develop and enhance my students’ critical thinking abilities, with neuroscience and psychology as vehicles. The opportunity to work on a collaborative research project and develop the skills needed in future careers and/or graduate school can make the most lasting impact in that regard. Further, I realized that I am lucky to work in the type of institution that I do, where interdisciplinary courses are not only encouraged, but also a core requirement for our students. They may grumble at first about having to take a minimum of two interdisciplinary courses, one of which must be team-taught, but closer to or after graduation many students report that those are among their most meaningful courses. This emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration makes it possible for the experience I described to occur. Our students may choose to focus on a single major, but once they leave our little college on the hill and begin their career paths they must be prepared to interact with individuals with diverse backgrounds and skills. Providing our students opportunities to engage in these kinds of collaborations while we have them now develops critical thinkers that may enter several STEM fields in the future. And if I managed to collaborate with a colleague, innovate a little, and save some money in the process… all the better.

[1] Basken, P. (2014, March 5). Federal spending on science, already down, would remain tight. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from


[2] Smith, J. (2014). From the president: Future neuroscientists? Fun Newsletter, 2(1). Retrieved from

Using Focus Groups in Program Assessment and Development

Find the nicely formatted version of this article here: FUN Newsletter, November 2014, Volume 2, Issue 2

Using Focus Groups in Program Assessment and Development

Samantha S. Gizerian, PhD

Program assessment and assessment-based program change rely on the fundamental assumption that the faculty who develop and teach the courses in the program are the best people to assess the effectiveness of the program and make any necessary changes.  Program faculty typically have both the expert-level knowledge and the means to make change in a program’s curriculum, however it is not clear that they are the only group with relevant knowledge.

As experts in their field, and in some cases as pedagogy experts, faculty can suffer from unconscious biases resulting in an expert “blind spot,” or inability to recognize difficulties experienced by novice learners because of the large amount of information that the expert has scaffolded1.   That difference in perspective has applicability to course and program design.  Therefore, our program has deliberately included student feedback about the program as a whole into our annual assessment activities.

Students’ feedback is essential in measuring instructor and program effectiveness. Traditionally, programs utilize course evaluation and exit interview surveys to gauge student opinion. However, students suffer from survey fatigue and feel as though their opinions don’t matter2,3, leading to low participation in survey-based evaluations.  Anecdotally, our previous exit survey had a lifetime participation rate below 50%, rendering it impossible to garner useful data.  We sought to overcome these difficulties by inviting students to participate in a focus group that allowed them a chance to be heard and make more of a statement about their experiences than is possible on a Likert scale.

Focus group interviewing was developed in the mid-20th century as a way to gauge audience response to radio programming4.  The moderator guides the conversation so that both the individual responses of the interviewees and group discussion can be utilized to gain information about the perceptions of the participants5.  Focus group interviewing results in consistent but more detailed responses when compared to surveys as well as a broader range of inputs because participants draw from each other’s answers6.  Our program partnered with WSU’s Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning to take advantage of their expertise in developing the questions and facilitating the focus group.

In each of the three years that we have held a focus group with our graduating seniors we have had high rates of participation.  Recurring themes of concern have emerged: more exposure to primary literature and laboratory techniques, instruction in critical thinking, more applicability to real world situations, and improved program logistics. Students have also supplied a number of feasible suggestions addressing these concerns.  Our results have already led to the redesign of two courses and the development of three additional courses, as well as changes in the order that classes are offered.  Moreover, student feedback has prompted program faculty to address long standing “gaps” in our curriculum, during which students were only taking large, prerequisite courses and feeling disconnected from their major (see Table 1). Future focus groups will evaluate the changes made thus far and will continue to be a central part of our program assessment.


Table 1: Summary of Neuroscience program changes in response to student feedback 2011-2014

2010-2011 Course

Credits/ semester


2014-2015 Course

Credits/ semester


Neurosci 138


F 1st

Freshman Seminar

Neurosci 138


F 1st

Neuroscience Seminar




MBioS/Neurosci 2011


F/S 2nd

Communication of Scientific Discovery

Neurosci 301


F/S 2nd

Exploring the Brain

Neurosci 301


F/S 2nd

Foundations of Neuroscience




Neurosci 3052


F 3rd

Neurons, Genes, and Behavior




Neurosci 3331


S 3rd

Techniques and Experimental Design in Neuroscience Research

Neurosci 404


S 3rd


Neurosci 404


S 3rd


Neurosci 403


F 4th

Cellular Neurobiology

Neurosci 4303


F 4th

Principles of Neurophysiology

Neurosci 430


S 4th

Principles of Neurophysiology

Neurosci 4033


S 4th

Cellular Neurobiology

Neurosci 490


S 4th

Senior Project (independent study)

Neurosci 4904


S 4th

Senior Capstone

(typical class)

1These courses have been developed to directly respond to student identification of content gaps in the curriculum and are awaiting final approval by WSU.  2This course was put in place in response to student requests for more elective choices in the department.  3 The order of Neurosci 430 and 403 was altered in order to avoid needing to review biophysics in Neurosci 403 to increase the amount of cellular/ molecular content.  4The Senior Project course added neuroscience-in-society content and now fulfills WSU’s capstone requirement.  F= Fall, S= Spring; 1st – 4th indicate year at WSU.



1.       Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA: Pearson.

2.       Huemer, M. Student Evaluations: A Critical Review. Retrieved from

3.       Porter, S.R., Whitcomb, M.E., and Weitzer, W.H. (2004). Multiple Surveys of Students and Survey Fatigue. New Directions for Institutional Research, 2004 (21), 63-73.

4.       Stewart, D. W., and Shamdasani, P. N. (1990). Focus groups: Theory and practice. Applied Social Research Methods Series, 20. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

5.       Marczak, M and Sewell, M. Using Focus Groups for Evaluation. Retrieved from

6.       Ward, V.M., Bertrand, J.T., and Brown, L.F. (1991). The Comparability of Focus Group and Survey Results: Three Case Studies. Evaluation Review, 15(2), 266-283.



FUN Newsletter, September 2017, Volume 4, Issue 2

The FUN Newsletter for Fall of 2017 is out.  Get your copy here:


0917 FUN Newsletter.pdf1.11 MB

FUN Newsletter, September 2018

September 2018 FUN Newsletter.  See pdf attachment at end of this page.



FUN Newsletter Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) Inside this issue Upcoming events ........................ 2?3 Announcements .......................... 3 FUN Workshop Editorial ............. 4?6 Newsle?er Submissions .............. 7 Travel Courses ............................ 8 September 2018 NOVEMBER 3-7 SAN DIEGO, CA We’ll see you at SfN! Dates to Remember: Saturday November 3 FUN / JUNE Executive Committee Meeting 9:30 AM - 2:00 PM Bankers Hill Restaurant Sunday November 4 FUN Social and Poster Session 6:45 - 8:45 PM San Diego Marriott Ballrooms 5-7 Call for Abstracts! Consider submitting an abstract to the FUN Poster Session at this year’s annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. Abstracts are due by October 1st and can be submitted online through the FUN faculty website ( Don’t miss these opportunities! Abstract Submission: 2018 FUN Poster Session Deadline: October 1, 2018 FUN Officer Elec?ons Deadline: October 10, 2018 FUN Equipment Loan Program Deadline: December, 2018 Neuroscience in England, Summer 2019 Deadline: January 23, 2019 Neuroscience Seminar in Germany Deadline: February 20, 2019 More informa?on about these events, and others, can be found at h?p:// Upcoming Event ? Next Generation Optogenetics: Tools and Applications An SfN Virtual Conference I wanted to bring your attention to the Virtual Conference SfN is holding on September 20 titled “Next Generation Optogenetics: Tools and Applications.” Organized by Alexandra Nelson (UCSF) and Veronica Alvarez (NIAAA), the agenda is packed with 19 outstanding speakers, including Karl Deisseroth, Rob Malenka, Ed Boyden, and Viviana Gradinaru. Topics include the development of new and innovative opsins, the use of optogenetics to understand circuit dysfunctions underlying human disease, and applications of optogenetics in different species. Virtual Conference registration is $50 for SfN members ($150 for nonmembers), and SfN encourages those interested to organize viewing parties and invite others to watch it live, for a single fee. The virtual conference will also be available on-demand after September 20 for those registered to access content they may have missed or want to view again. For those who haven’t participated in one of these online conferences before, SfN brings the same careful attention to organization of these events that it does to events at the SfN Annual Meeting. I hope you’ll consider participating in this exciting virtual conference, and suggesting it to your students. By the way, SfN has already released a set of eight training modules focused on optogenetics in preparation for this virtual conference. I highly recommend you take a look at them! Here’s the url: Collections/Optogenetics-TrainingSeries. Of special note, Module 5 explores the use of optogenetics in the classroom and was prepared by Heather Rhodes, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Director of the Neuroscience Program at Denison University. Thanks so much, Heather In case you or your students are not members of the SfN, I also want to point out that folks who are not members of SfN can access up to 5 Neuronline resources – including these training modules – each month for free. This should be an especially useful benefit for students in your courses, who may not be inclined to join SfN for the purpose of your neuroscience courses but would still like to access important material on Neuronline. — Julio Ramirez Davidson College 2 Virtual Conference: Next Generation Optogenetics — Tools and Applications September 20th SfN Optogenetics Training Series Includes Module on Use in the Classroom SFN’s recently released training series on the use of optogenetics includes a module on integrating optogenetics into teaching, specifically targeting undergraduate teaching labs. Optogenetics works by using light to activate or inactivate neurons in animals that contain genetically encoded light-sensitive ion channels. By using small, translucent organisms like drosophila larvae and c. elegans, students can alter animal behavior with light stimuli. The training module on Neuronline includes articles about simple, low-cost, inquiry-based lab exercises using drosophila and c. elegans. Student lab worksheets and a demonstration video are also included. Materials are all freely available to SFN members (and there is limited free access for non-members). A recent JUNE paper by Pokala and Glater also featured teaching labs for c. elegans optogenetics, offering a wealth of additional ideas for integrating this technique into classroom teaching. Using optogenetics to alter behavior offers a powerful and exciting teaching opportunity. Give it a try! You can also share your experiences and tips in the community forum associated with the training module. 3 Coming up soon … FUN of?icer elections! FUN members will soon be voting for the following positions: ?? President-Elect ?? Treasurer-Elect ?? Councilor (3 positions) The election will be open until Wednesday October 10th. Please contact Ron Bayline if you have any questions. FUN Equipment Loans Be on the look out! A call for proposals for the FUN equipment loan program will be going out early fall. Submission deadline will be in December, with awards announced by mid-February. For more information, contact Dr. Divya Sitaraman ([email protected]) or Dr. Lorenz S. Neuwirth ([email protected]) Best Practices for Developing, Assessing, and Sustaining Inclusive Curricula: Proceedings of the 2017 Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Workshop By: Robert J. Calin?Jageman1, Irina E. Calin?Jageman1, Veronica Martinez Acosta2, Jean Harwick3, Bruce R. Johnson4, & Eric Wiertelak5 1Neuroscience Program, Dominican University, 2Department of Biology, University of the Incar? nate Word, 3Ithaca College, 4Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, 5 De? partment of Psychology, Macalester College Every 3 years for the past 23 years the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience has organized a summer workshop and conference. These events have brought FUN members together to learn new lab techniques, collaborate in the development of neuroscience curricula, share best practices and pedagogical innovations, and renew their passion for teaching through the camaraderie of the FUN community (Figure 1). A special issue of JUNE ( presents some of the highlights of the 8th FUN workshop, which was held in July 2017 at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Additional resources are posted to an internet archive of conference materials (https://; see below). At the end of the previous workshop (2014 at Ithaca College), founding FUN member Julio Ramirez gave a rousing closing address, exhorting participants to remember that FUN is our home, our place to find inspiration, mentorship, and abiding friendship within a community of scholars and teachers. It is fitting, then, that the theme for the 2017 conference was inclusion—on working to make sure the sense of welcome and belonging that helped each of us find a place in the world of neuroscience is extended as warmly, equitably, and broadly as possible to our colleagues and students. This was an inspiring and timely topic. It was especially fitting that this theme was explored in partnership with Project Kaleidoscope, the division of the AAC&U dedicated to transforming STEM education for the betterment of all students. Project Kaleidoscope has been a partner in the development of the FUN workshops since their inception. In this issue, the theme of inclusion is represented by editorials and articles on inclusive teaching techniques (Penner), fostering diversity and inclusion at the administrative level (Martinez-Acosta and Favero), and reimagining faculty development with a foundational focus on cultural responsiveness (Mack). 4 The following editorial draws attention to a special issue of the Journal for Undergraduate Neuroscience Education summarizing the 2017 FUN workshop at Dominican University. This editorial and the rest of this special issue can be found at Figure 1. What is it like a?ending a summer FUN workshop? This is a word cloud produced from responses of 2017 par?cipants to the prompt: “Give three words that describe your overall experiences at FUN 2017” FUN members have often been at the forefront of efforts to broaden participation and success in the neurosciences (e.g. Ramirez and Tonidandel, 2009). The commentaries in this issue encourage us to continue and expand these efforts at every level. We hope their example in this issue will lead to more JUNE submissions related to this vital topic. Possible contributions include investigating equity of pedagogical outcomes, sharing best practices in student mentorship and professional development, and reporting on innovative programs that help promote inclusion. Curricular issues were also at the forefront of the workshop with an investigation of the Neuroscience major and minor in its different forms (stand-alone or housed primarily in Psychology or Biology). Discussion leaders from various institutions supported some exciting and meaningful conversations. It is exciting to share this work in this issue, with an updated set of curricular blueprints (Wiertelak and colleagues). Another important strand of every FUN workshop is hands-on training in innovative lab techniques. In this issue, you’ll find a treasure-trove of exciting lab activities to try out, some of which were also presented at the FUN Pre-Workshop Laboratory Exercise session just before the main Workshop. These were: introduction to NeuroBytes, a remarkable new network-construction kit (Burdo), an innovative but accessible learning lab with C. elegans optogenetics (Rose), behavioral and physiological optogenetics exercises with fruit flies (Vilinsky and colleagues) a low-cost approach to recording EMG signals directly from a laptop soundcard (Crisp), an out-of-the-box and very engaging comparative anatomy lab (Grisham and colleagues), a tutorial on using the Allen Brain Atlas with undergraduates (Gilbert), a beginners guide to kinesthetic illusions (Schiller and colleagues), a set of simulations in NEURON (Latimer and colleagues), and a neural network simulator that can interface with a cheap USB robot (CalinJageman). Rounding out this issue is a set of articles reporting on some of the professional development sessions from the workshop. This includes a practical guide to writing specific aims (Kozolowski and Rose), a perspective on using addiction science as a lens for undergraduate neuroscience education (Napier), tips for undergraduates considering graduate studies (McLoon and Redish), a guide to educational funding at NIH and NSF (Carpenter), a review of the empirical literature on how to help motivate your students to actually read what you’ve assigned (Cressman), a guide to electrophysiology resources (Wyttenbach and colleagues), and an editorial on fostering collaboration between SfN’s Neuroscience Training Committee and FUN (Dunbar and Symonds). A new aspect of the 2017 FUN workshop was the inclusion of 2 sessions of teaching demos—these were brief, rapid-fire presentations of useful pedagogical tools and tricks. The sessions were a blast, and participants were furiously taking notes on all the excellent ideas that were put forward. Most of these nuggets were too brief to be expanded into full-length articles for this issue, but you can browse these in the online archive of conference materials. You’ll find resources on using first-person narrative case studies to teach neuroscience conferences (Leah Roesch and Kristen Frenzel, Emory), a practical guide to using a flipped classroom (Alo Basu, College of the Holy Cross), tips and materials for implementing within-class peer review for term projects (Matt Carter, Williams College), a guide to using understanding checkpoints (Jennifer Schaefer, College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University), a complete “FUN members have o?en been at the forefront of efforts to broaden par?cipa?on and success in the neurosciences.” 5 lab using archival MRI data to measure hippocampal volumes in psychiatric patients (Bill Grisham, UCLA), materials for incorporating team-based projects into lab courses (Jennifer Taylor, Michigan State), and a tutorial to using ZipGrade and Socrative (Margaret Gill, North Central College). There was even more at the conference that did not make it into this issue. We continue to encourage conference presenters to submit their work for future issues of JUNE. In the meantime, you can browse the archives ( for additional outstanding materials, including presentations on off-campus programs for neuroscience (Michael Ruscio and Chris Korey, College of Charleston), establishing a chapter of Nu Rho Psi (Mike Kerchner, Washington College), assessment issues (Gary Muir, St. Olaf College), the FUN Program and Department Consultations Service (Eric Wiertelak, Macalester College), fostering diversity and inclusion (Karen Parfitt at Pomona college and Barbara Lom at Davidson College) troubles with animal rights activists (Philips), advancing neuroscience through understanding policy (Clinton), and securing tenure at a primarily undergraduate institution (Ramirez, Davidson College). In addition, many of the posters presented at the conference have been deposited in the archives. We hope you’ll find the JUNE Workshop issue and Workshop archive useful. We also hope it inspires you to think about what you will contribute to the 2020 meeting at Davidson college (hope to see you there). Remember that presenters and authors love to receive emails letting them know you found their materials useful; the conversations we have within FUN often lead to amazing things. References Ramirez JJ, Tonidandel S. 2009. SOMAS-URM : The evolution of a mentoring and summer research program. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 8:A69–A72. 6 2017 FUN Conference Online Archive of Materials: Organizing Committee: Veronica Martinez Acosta, University of the Incarnate Word Irina Calin-Jageman, Host, Dominican University Robert Calin-Jageman, Host, Dominican University Jean Hardwick, Ithaca College Bruce Johnson, Cornell University Eric Wiertelak, Chair, Macalester College Sponsors: ADInstruments Backyard Brains Dominican University International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility NeuroTinker Society for Neuroscience Host: Dominican University, River Forest, IL (with special thanks to president Donna Carroll, senior event coordinator Dolores Carrizosa and director of dining services Claressa Padilla). 7 Have a resource you’d like to share? Consider contributing to the next FUN newsletter! We welcome submissions on any topic suitable for the FUN membership, including: Editorial: an opinion piece on an issue or topic relevant to the advancement of FUN I’d wish I’d known then: advice you wish you’d been given related to teaching neuroscience, career development, managing research, mentoring students, or other topics relevant to FUN membership Resource pointers / reviews: summary and review of teaching resources you find useful (books, articles, videos, websites, etc.) Ask FUN: a question on which you seek feedback from the FUN community (e.g., grading dilemma, managing work-life balance, etc.) Other: submitted articles directly relevant to FUN membership may be solicited or accepted for publication. Please submit your article via email to [email protected] Submission Deadline: January 15, 2019 That would be a GREAT piece for the next FUN newsletter! Summer will be here before you know it! 8 Join us in England to learn about stress and resilience! NEUR 499: Special Topics in Neuroscience : Neural and Behavioral Resilience Dr. Lora Becker, University of Evansville and Dr. Michael Kerchner, Washington College What does it mean to possess resilience? In this course we will explore what factors contribute to the resilience that a person may exhibit in response to social, personal and physiological stressors as well as what factors may impair their resilience. We will explore these questions at numerous levels – the social, cultural, cognitive and spiritual factors as well as the fundamental genetic, physiological and neural factors. Our mode of inquiry will include peer reviewed primary research articles, highly regarded books on resilience, field-trips to regional research laboratories and our own empirical research project. Some readings will be assigned prior to arrival at Harlaxton. For more information, go to: The application deadline is January 23, 2019. The FUN Abroad German Neuroscience course is back for the summer of 2019. Neuroscience Seminar in Germany is a summer study abroad program for undergraduate students interested in neuroscience. It is a collaboration between the College of Charleston, the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, Ludwig Maximilians Universität (LMU) in Munich and Charité Medical University in Berlin. Since 2012, the course has brought together neuroscience students from across North America to engage with cutting edge neuroscience research while immersing themselves in the deep history of the discipline found in Germany. The course can also be stepping off point for future neuroscience research experiences abroad. Former students have returned to Germany to do summer research through the RISE program, several students have earned Fulbrights and spent a year in Germany, and several have also applied to German neuroscience graduate programs. The program dates are May 22nd to June 15th 2019. Specific course information can be found at the course website - Please contact Chris Korey ([email protected]) if you would like further information. The application deadline is February 20, 2019.

FUN Newsletter Fall 2018.pdf658.79 KB

FUN Newsletter, January 2016, Volume 3, Issue 1

The FUN newsletter is back with the first issue of 2016

Download this issue directly with this link or read via ScribD on your tablet in the canvas below.

Fun Newsletter January 2016


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FUN Newsletter, January 2016, Volume 3, Issue 1 - Articles

The nicely formatted version of this newsletter is here:  Fun Newsletter January 2016

This page contains the text of the newsletter for indexing purposes.



by Dorothy Kozlowski, Depaul University

1.  How to select students?  Be very selective in choosing students.  Ask for a resume and a career statement (which asks them to include how research fits in) and do an interview prior to accepting them into the lab. If they get this far, you know they’re serious about it.  Many students ask to be in the lab but don’t bother moving forward when I ask for a resume and statement.  You know these aren’t the serious ones.  Designate a “probationary period” during which you can decide if this student is a good fit (this works well for the student too because it gives them an out if they don’t really like working in the lab after all). 

2.  How do I create projects that undergraduates can succeed in?  This depends on techniques used in the lab.  However, in general, compartmentalize your research questions into subcomponents and have students pick a subcomponent that they’re interested in.  For example in my lab, we may be interested if “Drug X is therapeutic following TBI”.  To answer this question I may have 3-4 different behavioral tests, and 3-4 different immuno stains to run and examine.  I typically will assign one student per outcome measure.  They then are responsible for everything including statistical analysis, writing a methods and results section, creating graphs etc.  This gives them ownership and a better understanding of the research process from start to finish. 

3.  How do I make the most of summer students?  Summer research students are difficult because you only have them for a very short time.  You have to decide what your goal is with these students. They can’t have the same type of experience as students who are with you for an entire academic year.  Typically summer students are there to get a taste of what research is like.  So assign them to learn one technique and gather some data with a more senior member of the lab or yourself.  Don’t expect them to contribute as significantly, especially if your experiments are long-term or use complicated techniques.  However, they can be helpful in gathering small chunks of data or running a small pilot study.

4.  Other general tips:  

Try to get undergrads engaged in the literature to give them a more rich research experience. This can be done with journal clubs with you in charge or another student in charge.    

Assign them to a more senior student in the lab for shadowing/training.  This gives the senior student experience mentoring too.




by Tracie Paine, Oberlin college

I often get contacted by graduate students and post-docs that are interested in pursuing a career at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI), but they are not sure exactly what that career will look like.  For example, I am asked questions such as “How will I know if I am cut out for a career at a PUI?”, “What are the teaching loads like?” or “How do you get any research done?” At the SfN information session titled “Do I want a job and how would I prepare for a job, at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI)?” we discussed some of the answers to these questions, focusing on the teaching and research expectations at PUIs.  This article shares some of the highlights of that discussion.

TEAChing considerations

A passion for neuroscience and a desire to share that passion with students is fundamental for everybody considering a neuroscience job at a PUI.  Teaching is the heart of all faculty positions at PUIs and pervades all aspects of working at a PUI from teaching in the classroom to academic advising.  That said, the formal teaching requirements differ quite substantially across institutions.  For example, some institutions have teaching loads on the heavier side (i.e., a 4:4 course load; 4 courses per semester), while other institutions have teaching loads on the lighter side (i.e., a 2:2 course load).  Moreover, what is considered a “course” can differ between institutions with some programs counting both laboratory classes and research towards ones’ teaching load while these types of teaching experiences are not counted towards the teaching load at other institutions.  It should be noted that teaching loads are frequently inversely related to the time one has to dedicate to research.  Thus, heavier teaching loads typically are associated with smaller research programs.



Like teaching expectations, research expectations can also vary drastically across PUIs.  In all cases, research is viewed as an extension of teaching.  Enthusiastic, curious, ambitious and talented undergraduate students conduct research.  However, undergraduate students have little, if any, first-hand experience with research and thus need to be taught all aspects of research from the rationale for the experiments, to the skills need to complete the experiments, to the interpretation of data.  Moreover, despite their enthusiasm for research, undergraduate students do not have the time to devote to research that graduate students and post-docs do.  Thus, some care must be taken to devise a research program and individual experiments that are amenable to the schedules and skills (which can be quite sophisticated!) of undergraduate students.  The financial and/or equipment resources available to faculty at PUIs are not, generally, as great as they are at research institutions; this may add some additional constraints to the types of techniques that can be used.  That said, smaller amounts of funding for research can frequently be obtained via internal funding mechanisms and larger grants are also available through specific PUI-directed mechanisms via federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation.  Importantly, despite some of the constraints, it is possible to maintain a sustainable and productive research program at a PUI.


A career at a PUI is fulfilling and rewarding for individuals committed to both teaching and research.  This article describes some of the factors to be considered, but the best way to determine if working at a PUI is the correct career path for you is to go visit one.  On your visit, talk to different faculty members about their job experience, attend some classes and witness student-faculty research collaborations in action.



Karen Parfitt, Pomona College


"Treatment of learning and memory deficits with a fragment of secreted APPα in a mouse model of Alzheimer's"


Award: A 2-year loan of an Any-maze Tracking System from San Diego Instruments


Erin Clabough, Hampden-Sydney College


"Detection of Motor Abnormalities in a Chronic, Mild Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Model in Swiss Webster Mice"


Award: A 2-year loan of a Roto-Rod Motor Skill Measurement System from San Diego Instruments


Elizabeth Becker, Saint Joseph’s University


"Influence of Early Life Exposure to Prozac on Neurodevelopment and the Reparative Role of Oxytocin Treatment in the California Mouse"


Award: A 2-year loan of a Place Preference System from San Diego Instruments


Lauren A. Makuch, Ursinus College


Establishing a Behavioral Neuroscience Research Methods Course in Undergraduate Curriculum


Award: A 2-year loan of a SR-LAB Startle Response System from San Diego Instruments


Annaliese Beery, Smith College


"Stress and Sociality: Effects of environment on heart rate and heart rate variability in social voles"


Award: A 2-year loan of a DSI Implantable Telemetry System from Data Sciences International


Abigail Kerr, Illinois Wesleyan University


"Mechanisms of compensatory limb use following stroke: The role of the neurovascular niche in functional outcome"


Award: A 2-year loan of a Nikon Eclipse E400 Microscope System from Nikon Instruments


Divya Sitarama, University of San Diego


"Dopaminergic circuits underlying sleep and behavioral arousal in Drosophila"


Award: A 1-year loan of an EthoVision XT Software with additional modules and CCD camera from Noldus Instruments

FUN Faculty Awards

The Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience annually recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate neuroscience.  These awards are based on peer nominations and are announced at the FUN Social and Poster Session at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.

FUN Career and Lifetime Achievement Awards

The Career and Lifetime Achievement awards are FUN's highest honor. The Career and Lifetime Achievement Awards will be given from time to time, to recognize individuals who have made outstanding efforts on behalf of undergraduate neuroscience education and research. Outstanding efforts may include singular achievements that have provided wide benefit to the undergraduate neuroscience community, or sustained efforts across years.

Lifetime Achievement: Steven Zottoli, Co-Director of Education at Marine Biological Laboratory and Howard B. and Nan W. Schow ’50 Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Williams College

Career Achievement: Lee Coates, Professor of Biology, Neuroscience and Global Health Studies at Allegheny College


 FUN Educator of the Year Award: Mary Morrison, Assistant Professor and Chair of Biology at Lycoming College

The Educator Award is given annually to a regular member or fellow of FUN in recognition of notable efforts related to promoting effective teaching of neuroscience at the undergraduate level. 

FUN Service Award: Jennifer R. Yates, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of Neuroscience Program at Ohio Wesleyan University

The Service Award will be given from time to time, to recognize individuals who have made outstanding efforts towards the continuing development of FUN as an organization.

FUN Mentor Award: Anthony Kline, Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Associate Director of Rehabilitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh

The Mentor Award will be given from time to time, to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions as mentors for young neuroscientists.

Congratulations to these deserving members

of the FUN community!


Have these awardees got you thinking about a colleague who is worthy? Start thinking now about nominating a member in 2016. You’ll need to write a short letter of nomination explaining your reasons for nominating to the FUN president elect. You’ve got plenty of time, the deadline for 2016 nominations is September .



by Katherine Steinmetz, Wofford college

Have decided that a career at a PUI is right for you? Then read the following article on the highlights from the SFN information session on the topic. The conversation at this information session centered around setting yourself up to be an attractive applicant and the job application and interview process. Please note that this article just scrapes the surface of the intricacies of a job search. Whole books can (and have!) been written on the topic. A list of resources is included at the end of the article.

Setting yourself up for Success!

In order to get a job at a PUI, it is important to have teaching experience as well as a line of research that is feasible at a PUI.

Teaching Experience. As early as possible, it is helpful to get experience mentoring and teaching undergraduates and to show that you value undergraduate education. In some graduate programs it is difficult to get independent teaching experience at your own institution, but it may be possible to teach as an adjunct at another local intuition. These positions often aren’t advertised, but you can contact department chairs directly and see if they are looking for adjuncts. You can also start by giving guest lectures in colleagues’ classes. This is a great way to get your feet wet and to solicit feedback from other instructors. You also want your CV to make it abundantly clear that you care about teaching. You can do this by writing an article for the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE), writing an article for this very newsletter, or presenting a teaching poster at SfN.

Research. Many people at the information session had a question about how to make sure their research area is feasible at a PUI. This is a good thing to think about before you start applying for jobs at PUIs, as most schools care deeply about how you can involve undergraduates in your research. For some research methods that use very pricy methods, this may require doing a post doc in which you learn a new method that is feasible at a PUI. However, you might be surprised about what you can do at a PUI with a little creativity. I recommend contacting people in your research area who are at PUIs and asking them how they do it. For example, if you have worked primarily with fMRI data, it may be helpful to add another method to your tool belt, but you may also be able to continue this research in the classroom and the lab through collaborations or by analyzing open source data (see Hurd & Vincent, 2006; Mickley Steinmetz & Atapattu, 2010). If your methods are very pricy, it is worth addressing these concerns directly in your research statement, perhaps in a section that focuses on how undergraduates will be involved in your research.


The Application and Interview Process

This has been written about in great detail, and there are lots of great resources for each part of the application and interview process (see below). I will give an overview of the entire process. Start preparing early. Job ads usually come out late summer and early fall. I recommend using the spring semester and summer to prepare for you job search.


1. This is an ideal time to work on your application materials. Of course, you will tailor your materials to each school to which you apply (especially the cover letter), but it helps to have a template, especially for the teaching and research statements. Show these to as many people as possible and revise extensively.

2. Work on your job talk. You will almost certainly give a job talk if you get an interview. Now is a good time to write the talk and give it to a number of different audiences. Remember that it is unlikely that there will be someone in the audience who is in your exact area, so you want to make it a clear talk that scientists and undergraduates who are not in your area can understand. At the same time you don’t want to water it down or over simplifying things. This is tricky, but it is the exact challenge that we face in the classroom, so it is very important! Also keep in mind that some schools ask you to "teach your research," so you may want to think about how you would do that as well. For example, is there any way that you could make your talk more interactive, have clear learning objectives, etc.?

3. Start to think about your teaching demonstration. There is some variety in what PUIs ask of their interviewees. If they don't ask you to teach your research, you will likely be asked to give a teaching demonstration on another topic. Often you can pick the topic and you will give it to an audience of random undergraduates and faculty who are available at that time, including the search committee. Other times you may be assigned a topic, or you may step in to give a guest lecture in a class. The variety of different types of teaching demos makes it difficult to prepare too much before you get the interview, but it is helpful to start thinking about what you would do. This might be a good time to survey your students: what was their favorite lecture of the semester and why?


. Ask your recommenders to write your letters. Make sure that you have letter writers who can speak to your teaching and mentorship of undergraduates as well as your research skills and general character. Have most (if not all) of your letter writers seen you teach? If not, invite them to observe your class or send them a video of you teaching. This will allow them to make concrete comments on your teaching instead of having to say, "I've never seen her teach, but I'm sure she'd be great."


Late Summer/Early Fall

This is when the job ads start to come out. I recommend organizing them into a spreadsheet that includes deadlines, how applications are submitted, etc. It may be helpful to share this spreadsheet with your recommenders.  Now you can carefully read the job ad and research the school, before tailoring your application materials to each school.


Mid to Late Fall

Most phone interviews will happen within this window. Many schools will also conduct on campus interviews with the aim to finalize the search process by the end of the fall semester. Now you can do mock interviews and prepare your specific teaching demonstration as the requirements become more concrete. You may also want to plan to attend the Society for Neuroscience meeting, as some schools may conduct formal or informal interviews there. It's also a great time to pick the brains of/commiserate with your FUN colleagues at the booth or poster session and browse the teaching posters to get creative ideas for labs that you can bring up in your interview! Now is also the time to put into practice whatever stress reliever works for you because no matter if you get a ton of interviews or none at all, it is a stressful time!


Spring Semester

While many job searches have wrapped up, some schools will conduct on campus interviews in the early to mid spring semester. 


Good luck and happy job hunting! ?

resources on getting a job at a PUI:

Council on Undergraduate Neuroscience's: "How To Get A Tenure-Track Position at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution"


American Society of Cell Biology: How to get at Teaching Job at a Primarily Undergraduate Institution by A. Malcolm Campbell, Biology Department, Davidson College ?


Getting the Faculty Position in Higher Ed That You Want - Presentation by Alton Campbell, Associate Dean College of Grad Studies University of Idaho file:///Users/steinmetzkr/Downloads/getting_the_faculty_position.pdf


fMRI Resources Cited Above:

Hurd, M. W., & Vincent, D. J. (2006). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): a brief exercise for an undergraduate laboratory course. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 5(1), A22.


Steinmetz, K. R. M., & Atapattu, R. K. (2010). Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Undergraduates for Careers in Cognitive Neuroscience. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 9(1), A36.    


  2015 FUN Travel Award Winners – Chicago  

   Since 1992 the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience has provided travel awards to help our top undergraduate neuroscientists present their original research at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting.  The winners are enrolled at a variety of academic institutions - from small liberal arts colleges to large research intensive universities.  What ties them together is a dedication to the pursuit of high quality research in the neurosciences.  FUN has kept in contact with our winners and an amazing 68 percent of them have gone on to enter PhD or MD/PhD programs.  These students are truly our next generation of neuroscientists.   Our awards are sponsored by FUN member dues and generous contributions from our sponsors.


Deanna Acs, St Marys College of MD (Dr. Anne Marie Brady); Award Sponsor:  Kinder Scientific

Nathaniel Bohm-Levine, Oberlin College (Dr. Jan Thornton); Award Sponsor: Nu Rho Psi

Weelic Chong, Oberlin College (Dr. Gunnar Kwakye); Award Sponsor: Nu Rho Psi

Rastko Ciric, Pomona College (Dr. Ajay Satpute); Award Sponsor: Data Sciences International (DSI)

Matthew Davenport, Cincinnati Children's Hospital (Dr. Tori Schaefer); Award Sponsor: Leica Microsystems

Abigail Dove, Swarthmore College (Dr. Christopher Vecsey); Award Sponsor: Wellesley College

Nathaniel Elia, UC Davis (Dr. Christoph Lossin); Award Sponsor: ADInstruments

Jillian Faustino, Bay Path University (Dr. Princy Quadros-Mennella); Award Sponsor: the Grass Foundation

Austin Ferro, Skidmore College (Dr. Sarita Lagalwar): Award Sponsor: the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN)

Sarah Hamilton, Davidson College (Dr. Julio Ramirez); Award Sponsor: the Hubel memorial fund

Taylor Hendershott, College of Holy Cross (Dr. Alo Basu); Award Sponsor: Noldus

Ernesto Hernandez, U Arizona (Dr. Lynne Oland); Award Sponsor: Nu Rho Psi

Laura Keller, Bowdoin College (Dr. Patsy Dickinson); Award Sponsor: Harvard Biosciences and Sinauer Associates

Therese Kenny, Memorial University (Dr. Charles Malsbury); Award Sponsor: Lafayette

Molly Jeanne Eiko Larson, Concordia College (Dr. Krys Strand); Award Sponsor: Campden Instruments Ltd

Ellen Lesser, Wesleyan College (Dr. Mike Robinson); Award Sponsor: Med Associates

Daniel Lowes, Oberlin College (Dr. Tracie Paine); Award Sponsor: Nu Rho Psi

Kathleen Luckett, Ithaca College (Dr. Jean Hardwick); Award Sponsor: Carnegie Mellon University

Kimberly Meerschaert, Saginaw Valley (Dr. Jeffrey Smith); Award Sponsor: San Diego Instruments (SDI)

Monica Murray, Regis University (Dr. Ashley Fricks-Gleason); Award Sponsor: the Grass Foundation

Jordan Reasor, University of FL (Dr. Sara Burke); Award Sponsor: SDI

Audrey Torrest, UC Davis (Dr. Kyle Fink); Award Sponsor: FUN

Trevor Towner, Cal State San Marcos (Dr. Keith Trujillo); Award Sponsor: Sinaeur Associates

Thomas Voigt, Skidmore College (Dr. Rebecca Howard); Award Sponsor: Nu Rho Psi

Jacob Westerberg, St Olaf (Dr. Jeremy Loebach); Award Sponsor: the Grass Foundation



The following are excerpts from personal reflections from FUN travel awardees on what attending the SfN meeting meant to them.

“Receiving tips about applying to schools and discussing with them my goals increased my confidence about being a future applicant. My overall experience at the conference left me feeling that I was supported by the community. As an aspiring neuroscientist this has fueled my desire to pursue further schooling and contribute to this wonderful field of research.”

Deanna Acs, St. Mary’s College of MD


“One of the first people to approach my poster was a woman who was especially interested in my work looking at luteinizing hormone and spatial memory. It suddenly dawned on me that this woman was Dr. Victoria Luine, a leader in the field of estrogen and cognition; I had pored over several of her papers throughout my project. I was star-struck.”

Nate Bohm-Levine, Oberlin College


“The greatest take-away from the whole event is knowing that there are actually people behind the papers that I wrote, and that these people are alive and they are not robots or people on a page (or a computer screen). Often journals can be very verbose or terse, and it is good to actually meet the person and obtain a better sense of what the research is about.

At the graduate school booths, I was able to ask students about what they liked about their programs and what advice they might have for people interested in applying. Personally, I learned that the best place to be is to be at a place where you will thrive, working with people in a lab and environment where I will be happy and productive, and working with people who care about training the next generation.”

Weelic Chong, Oberlin College

“The SfN conference was also a meaningful reunion with many of my undergraduate mentors and colleagues from the Pomona College Department of Neuroscience, whom I had not seen since I graduated last spring. I enjoyed meeting with the professors who had first inspired me to pursue neuroscience as a career and catching up with them regarding the progress of their research.”

Rastko Ciric, Pomona College

“The seminars available at SfN were terrific. My favorite was the seminar on tissue clearance to allow for thick section or whole brain imaging. I already use PACT clearing of Thy1-EGFP reporter tissue to quantify dendritic spine density and morphology, but I wasn’t aware of the variety of tissue clearance and deep tissue immunostaining techniques available to me. I’ve begun to work up protocols for staining PACT cleared Thy1-EGFP sections to look at the density of various synapse elements are the spine and assess if alterations in these elements contribute to the changes I see in spine density.”

Matthew Davenport, Cincinatti Children’s Hospital


“As a student involved in the microbiological aspects of neuroscience, it was new and exciting to attend and learn about the enormity of sub-disciplines in neuroscience. I was introduced to fields I didn’t know of previously in neuroscience, such as neuroeconomics, while diving further into fields I am familiar with, such as ion channels.”

Nathaniel Elia, UC Davis


“Presenting gave me practice of presenting my own work to colleagues which is a skill that will be useful in my future career and in graduate school. Being able to present my research is an amazing opportunity that not all undergraduates have the chance to experience. This experience certainly increased my chances for acceptance into graduate school…”

Jillian Faustino-Gallagher, Bay Path University


“Veteran SFN attendees recommended that I choose one thing to learn about while attending the conference rather than try to learn about everything Neuroscience has to offer in just a few short days. I graduated this past May and started working in a neuroimaging lab that focuses on Parkinson’s disease (PD) so I took my time at the poster sessions to learn about the latest research on PD and dopamine.


Although I was initially overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people and science available to me in Chicago, the experience was both personally and academically enriching.  Being able to talk with established scientists, as well as other aspiring young neuroscientists gave me more insight with what is happening at several different levels of neuroscience research and provided me with useful feedback and insight into my own projects.  I hope to see you all next year in San Diego!”      

Taylor Hendershott, College of Holy Cross



“I was able to share what my research group and I had discovered to people that were either experts in my particular field of neuroscience or people that were new to that particular topic. Regardless of their backgrounds, people would always ask insightful questions about my research and either directly or indirectly, those people were able to inspire new questions or perhaps suggest better methods to troubleshoot some problems in the methods.”

Ernesto Hernandez, U Arizona


“Even though I have always appreciated that good science involves a lot of benign and unexciting observations, it was hard as a relative newcomer to the field to not feel that somehow the uninteresting data were my own fault.  I was reassured by the people who stopped by my poster and told me that they had observed similar results but had not been able to come up with a “spin” for the data in which a journal would be interested.”

Ellen Lesser, Wesleyan College


“I think my favorite part of the entire conference was working the booth sponsored by FUN. Not only was it interesting to meet some of my fellow recipients, but also it was so inspiring to meet everyone who stopped by the booth. I was able to interact with such a wide range of people—from those who bought one of the FUN t-shirts for their kids every year, I must say the design was pretty fantastic, to those who had never heard of FUN and wanted to learn more about what the organization does. It was so motivating to see how many people FUN impacts and how important of a role it serves in ensuring the aspirations of the next generation of the neuroscience community, myself included.”

Laura Keller, Bowdoin College


“I had the chance to present the work I have done to multiple audiences: once in the main meeting and once at the FUN social. At the main meeting presentation, I chatted with a researcher who also works with System Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) in a mouse model. He asked challenging questions, pushing me to think outside the box and apply what I know and am learning in my research to other areas of the disease pathophysiology and symptomology. At the FUN social I presented to a wider range of individuals with many different backgrounds which gave me the opportunity to practice communicating my work to those with different levels of familiarity and expertise.”

Molly Larson, Concordia College

“…it is easy to forget that there are hundreds if not thousands of other people who are asking questions about the brain that are similar to your own. Instead of remaining oblivious about these other scientists, it is beneficial for everyone to meet people from around the world who are conducting similar research in order to help each other ask the right questions and make logical conclusions about their results.”

Dan Lowes, Oberlin College

“Performing research and sharing the findings with other scientists is what being a scientist is all about. Being able to have discussions about my research with other professionals in the field was a great opportunity. Having professionals see the research I have been doing and tell me that it's good work and impressive just validates that all the hard work I put into doing research is worth it.”

Kim Meerschaert, Saginaw Valley

“This conference also allowed me to apply and realize how important taking and understanding my science classes really are. I felt very accomplished, being a neuroscience major and taking upper division neuroscience classes I was able to follow and understand much more than I thought.


I was very fortunate to have the professor that I have been doing research with to show me around and introduce me to as many people as she could. I also had a surreal moment when presenting my poster on the main floor – I was able to talk to and meet one of the authors of a couple of the research articles that I have cited for my own research. This was a humbling experience that gave me a profound respect for all of the researchers who are dedicated to broadening our understanding of what it means to be human, and realizing that I am also one of them.”   

Monica Murray, Regis University


 “I found that getting to walk around to other posters and talk to other scientists about their work was also thrilling.  I have never been so awed as I was at this conference to see the variety of posters from laboratories all over the world.  It is incredible just how broad neuroscience reaches and the impact these scientists are having on not just our professional community, but our society as well.”

Jordan Reasor, University of Florida




“…I attended various poster sessions and presentations and greatly expanded my understanding of current research findings related to Huntington’s disease (HD), metabolic dysfunction, and other important topics relevant to my current work. It was fascinating to hear about the vast array of targets that different researchers are focusing their efforts on in order to find a cure for this complex disorder.”

Audrey Torrest, UC Davis Med

“My poster presentations also gave me a significant amount of experience in how to properly present at a national conference and how to be prepared for questions that may be outside my scope of research. During my poster sessions, I was honored to have some of the biggest names in my field of research come by and talk with me about my poster. To be able to meet and have an intellectual conversation with some of the researchers that I have read so much about was a great experience. Meeting and discussing research with some of my research idols also opened up doors of potential opportunities for future research and PhD programs.”

Trevor Towner, Cal State San Marcos


“The final aspect that was of great significance to me through the conference was exploring the hugely interdisciplinary field of neuroscience. From posters, to symposia, to vendor booths, various applications or topics within the field were being promoted and telling stories about how the nervous system functions. It was quite possibly the best way by which to explore every topic that you have interest in and narrow down what really drives you. I even found some areas that I had never heard of, but were particularly interesting and will keep in mind as my career advances. This truly has been a highlight of my undergraduate career and is something that I will look back on as instrumental in my development as a scientist. The connections I have made and the areas I was able to explore will influence me for years to come, and I look forward to pursuing neuroscience throughout my life.”

Jake Westerburg, St. Olaf College


Do you know of an exceptional student who desires to present their work at SfN, but probably will not have enough resources to fulfill their dream? Well, then, look no further!  The FUN Undergraduate Student Travel Award is in place just for them.  These awards offer aid for expenses associated with attending the Society for Neuroscience 2016 meeting for undergraduate students who are presenting a poster at the main SfN meeting.   Get moving, though!  Abstracts for SfN are due by Thursday May 5, 2016.  …Be on the lookout for announcements regarding the travel awards (students must submit an SfN abstract to be eligible for award).

CALL FOR SUBMISSION: April 1 deadline

Make your voice heard! Submit to the next issue of the FUN newsletter.


We welcome submissions on any topic suitable for the FUN membership including:

  • Editorial – an opinion piece on an issue or topic relevant to the advancement of FUN’s mission
  • I wish I’d known then – advice you wish you’d been given related to teaching neuroscience, career development, managing research or other topics relevant to FUN membership
  • Resource Pointers/Reviews – summary and review of a teaching resource you find useful (book, article, video, website, etc.)
  • Ask FUN – a question on which you seek feedback from the FUN community (e.g. grading dilemma, managing work-life balance, etc.)
  • Other – submitted articles directly relevant to FUN membership may be solicited or accepted for publication

Please submit your article via email to the current newsletter editor at [email protected]

  • Submissions should be in a common word-processing format (e.g. MSWord, Open Office Writer, rtf format, etc.). Font size should be 12 New Times Roman
  • Please carefully proofread before submitting, as there will be no copy-editing or proofing stage.


The statements and opinions contained in newsletter articles are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of FUN. FUN does not endorse, warranty, ir approve of any products being reviewed or advertised in the newsletter.



Newsletter Staff:

Carlita Favero, Ursinus College

Charles Weaver, Saginaw Valley State University


Mizzou’s 10th Annual Summer Neuroscience Workshop

The University of Missouri-Columbia Colleges of Engineering and Biological Sciences will host a 6-day interdisciplinary workshop focused on active learning in neuroscience using virtual (software) labs from Sunday- Friday, May 22-27, 2016 on the Columbia campus. This workshop is targeted to undergraduate faculty (your can also bring one student with expertise in computers/software during 2015-16) from biological sciences, psychological sciences and engineering and to high school teachers with an interest in teaching and learning more about neuroscience using software-based instructional modules. The workshop was initiated in 2007 as
part of a National Science Foundation grant to MU to develop undergraduate curriculum in the area of computational neuroscience, and continues to be offered free beyond the duration of the grant.

In recent years, Computational Neuroscience has developed tools to abstract and generalize principles of neural function using mathematics. These tools have proven powerful for research in a wide neuroscience spectrum including molecular, cellular, and systems levels. However, computational methods also provide valuable tools for teaching neuroscience. Several comprehensive, yet easy to use software packages to model neurons and networks, which can be used in teaching, are available at low costs. Neural models can be used alone, or together with simple biological experiments to demonstrate basic neurobiological concepts, and give students hands-on experience, to significantly improve the student's learning experience.

The workshop will introduce one hardware and seven software experiments in the form of ‘virtual labs’ which can be directly
incorporated into existing neurobiology or physiology courses, or used for the development of new courses. The hardware experiment covered in the workshop can be custom build locally at low cost (all instructions to build it will be provided). Workshop participants are supplied with ‘ready to use’ electronic versions of all hardware and software experiments, and of all the lectures.

Eligibility & Application process: Faculty at 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities, and high school teachers with interest in teaching neurobiology are eligible to apply. To apply, just complete the on-line application form at the site -

For further information about the workshop, contact Drs. Satish S. Nair (573-882-2964; [email protected]), David J. Schulz (573-882-4067; [email protected]), or David Bergin (573-882-1303; [email protected])








FUN Newsletter, August 2016, Volume 3, Issue 1

Download the September 2016 Issue of the FUN newsletter here.




Below is a dump of the full-text of the newsletter to aid in search indexing.


A Call for Advocacy - Julio Ramirez

The political season has descended upon those of us who live in the United States! As the former Chair of FUN’s Public Policy and Governmental Affairs Committee, I want to take a moment to encourage our membership to use the political energy currently swirling around the United States to advocate for science and education.  Your advocacy in the State Houses and on Capitol Hill makes a meaningful difference in the political discourse directed at the intellectual health and vitality of our nation.  As the AAAS has published, funding for research and development in the U.S. dropped from a substantive 10% of the federal budget in 1968 to an anemic 4% in 2015.  The National Academy of Sciences in 2005 recommended doubling of the federal funding for support of the physical sciences, which was supported by both the White House and Congress; unfortunately, the doubling failed to materialize.


All is not bleak, however, as signs of resuscitation of our nation’s commitment to biomedical science have recently emerged.  Last year, we saw one of the largest increases in NIH funding since the doubling of the NIH budget early in the last decade.  For FY 2017 both the Senate and the House are considering increases for the NIH budget between $1B and $2B.  This recent activity is due in large measure to the advocacy going on by members of the biomedical scientific community. 


As the political season continues to evolve and as the federal budget negotiations continue, I want to encourage us all to educate our representatives in state and federal government about the importance of supporting science education and research.  FUN members have energetically participated in the advocacy process by visiting their congressional representatives during the 2011 and 2014 Society for Neuroscience meetings held in Washington DC, by inviting their congressional representatives to visit their home campuses and laboratories, as well as by expressing their support for federal legislation that strengthens science education and research via emails, letters, and phone calls to their congressional representatives.  We in the neurosciences are on the cusp of making breakthroughs in our efforts to cure diseases that have ravaged victims ranging from infants to the elderly.  Your advocacy work can help ensure that the progress the neuroscience community has made to date will continue and indeed accelerate as we continue our journey of discovery in the 21st century.


Best regards,


Julio J. Ramirez

Former Chair of the Public Policy and Governmental Affairs Committee


We welcome FUN member Charles Weaver as the incoming Chair of the

Public Policy and Governmental Affairs



FUN turns 25!

The History of FUN, adapted from Chris Korey

At the 1991 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting, the idea of an organization dedicated to neuroscience teaching and research was conceived during an informal discussion between Julio Ramirez (Davidson College), Dennison Smith (Oberlin College), Sally Frutiger (Denison University), and Steve George (Amherst College). In October 1992, Ramirez described the organization to the Education Committee of SFN. The SFN agreed to sponsor meetings for the young society at the annual SFN meeting. FUN has held annual meetings in conjunction with the annual SFN meeting ever since.

FUN represents the voice of undergraduate neuroscience within both the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs (ANDP) and the SFN. Through the lobbying efforts of the early membership, and with the assistance of then- ANDP president Jim Blankenship, FUN is invited to participate in ANDP’s executive committee. The ANDP also included undergraduate neuroscience programs in their directory.

In partnership with Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), FUN has brought faculty together from across the country—to discuss, develop, and refine undergraduate neuroscience education through symposia at Davidson College (1995) Oberlin College (1998), Trinity College (2001), Macalester College (2005 & 2008), Pomona College (2011), and Ithaca College (2014). Each year, a growing number of undergraduates choose to include neuroscience coursework as part of their college education. Undergraduate major and minor programs continue to increase in popularity, and research-based curricula are a common expectation for prospective students. FUN provides an array of resources for faculty, and sponsors student travel awards and a poster session so that the best and brightest of undergraduate researchers can both attend and present work at the SFN annual meeting.


Learn more about FUN’s history on the website:



Be a part of the FUN—contribute to the next newsletter!

We welcome submissions on any topic suitable for the FUN membership including:

Editorial – an opinion piece on an issue or topic relevant to the advancement of FUN’s mission

I wish I’d known then – advice you wish you’d been given related to teaching neuroscience, career development, managing research or other topics relevant to FUN membership

Resource Pointers/Reviews – summary and review of a teaching resource you find useful (book, article, video, website, etc.)

Ask FUN – a question on which you seek feedback from the FUN community (e.g. grading dilemma, managing work-life balance, etc.)

Other – submitted articles directly relevant to FUN membership may be solicited or accepted for publication


Please submit your article via email to  [email protected]



Teaching as the Oldest Profession

by Bruce Raymond Johnson,

Cornell University, JUNE (Journal of Neuroscience Education) Editor


Dear FUN Colleagues,


I draw your attention to the most recent JUNE issue, which hit the virtual press in early summer (Volume 14, Issue 2 [].  The JUNE wheel turns and this is my first issue as Editor-in-Chief of our FUN journal. Previous Editor-in-Chief Eric Wiertelak moves to Senior Editor, Raddy Ramos joins the core JUNE editorial team as Associate Editor, and Fern Duncan continues her essential role as JUNE Producer.  I rely heavily on these three for direction, advice, encouragement and support as I begin to understand and execute the duties of my new vocation.  I thank the JUNE editorial and review boards, and our neuroscience teaching colleagues who serve JUNE as reviewers to constructively criticize submitted manuscripts.


The new JUNE issue contains variety of articles. There are 5 opinion pieces: training undergraduate and graduate students for outreach programs in Africa (Karikari et al.), an update on the evolution of Nu Rho Psi, The National Honor Society in Neuroscience (Hesp et al.), an introduction to our new “Case Studies” feature (Wiertelak et al.), a useful guide to seeking faculty positions at PUIs (Ramirez), and an argument for the inclusion of under-represented minorities into mainstream training programs (Vega & Colón-Berlingeri). The main articles present a detailed analysis of undergraduate neuroscience students applying to osteopathic medical schools and their motivations for doing so (Ramos et al.), articles that discuss student laboratory techniques or exercises such as event related potentials using EEG procedures (Nyhus and Curtis), in vivo optogenetics techniques for the student laboratory (Roberts et al.), student manufacture and use of EMG equipment to encourage interdisciplinary skills (Crisp et al.), and an investigation of neurodegeneration with commercially available mammalian neurons (Catlin et al.). Descriptions of 3 innovative courses provide information for implementing the federal “Brain Initiative” to instill core concepts and competencies using neuroscience content (Schaefer), using the “C.R.E.A.T.E.” method which focuses on a subset of scientific papers to teach scientific methodology and content in a “Pleasure and Pain” course (Bodner et al.), and creating student service based projects that address alcohol abuse in a Pharmacology class (Kennedy).  One article describes success in changing the attitudes towards science by middle school students in Ghana after their participation in neuroscience outreach activities taught by undergraduate and graduate students (Yawson et al.)  Our   new “Case Studies” feature presents the first of a series of case studies, “Nora’s Medulla”, as an ongoing theme to teach basic neuroscience principles (Roesch and Frenzel). We also present book reviews of: LeDoux’s Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety (Cecala), Presti’s Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience:  A Brain-Mind Odyssey (Milar), and Watson and Breedlove’s The Mind’s Machine:  Foundations of Brain and Behavior (2nd edition) (Johnson and Weldon).  Finally, a technical report describes the construction of a “running wheel” to monitor earthworm movements, opening up possibilities to bring more invertebrate lab exercises into the undergraduate behavioral neuroscience lab (Wilson and Johnson).


In my editorial for the new JUNE issue I reflect on my own special moments of validation that emphasize how important a contribution we make to our society as educators  (Johnson, 2016).  A web search of the phrase “the oldest profession” leads to a Wikipedia page that highlights the conventional meaning of this phrase (common since World War I) ( However, the site also lists teaching as one claim for the “oldest profession”.  Humans aren’t the only animals that teach. This suggests that the teaching profession is much older than any other. Animal Behaviorists define teaching as occurring when an animal (the pupil, usually an offspring) acquires skills after observing the teacher (usually a mother) perform a behavior. The teacher performs this behavior in the presence of the pupil, and at some physiological cost to itself.  Teaching is an evolved trait when the benefits gained by the teacher after a pupil’s learning are greater than any physiological cost to the teacher (Bradbury and Vehrencamp, 2011).  There are clear examples of non-human teaching that fitthe definition above.  Bradbury and Vehrencamp describe them in termites, birds, mercats and various solitary carnivores.  Thus, we neuroscience educators practice a “profession” that probably evolved before humans. We have refined and greatly extended this ancient tradition on a grand social scale!  


Enjoy the articles in the new JUNE issue as examples of faculty sharing their ideas to promote the best practices in neuroscience teaching.  Consider submitting your own creative ideas and teaching developments to JUNE.  Teach the teachers!



Bradbury JW, Vehrencamp SL (2011) Principles of Animal Communication. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.


Johnson, B. R. (2016) Teaching as THE Oldest Profession. J. Undergrad. Neurosci. Ed. 14(2),




Nu Rho Psi celebrates its 10-year anniversary:


by G. Andrew Mickley



Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience, celebrates its 10th anniversary by reflecting back upon a decade’s worth of growth, successes, and accomplishments of its membership. Fundamentally, Nu Rho Psi seeks to engage the nation’s best and brightest science students early in their educational pursuits and steer them towards future careers in neuroscience, thereby driving higher quality neuroscience education and research at all levels. A recently-published article in the Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) details the history of Nu Rho Psi since its founding by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) and reviews the current programs, benefits, and future initiatives of the Society. Nu Rho Psi has enhanced the opportunities for undergraduate students of neuroscience and created a new culture among this vital cohort of budding scientists, reminiscent of the substantial network of faculty educators and departments of neuroscience established by FUN.  For more information about establishing a chapter of Nu Rho Psi on your campus see the society webpage and/or come to the Nu Rho Psi poster at the Society for Neuroscience meeting: 2:00pm - 3:00pm; 12 November 2016; Poster Board Number: MMM57; Location: San Diego Convention Center: Halls B-H.

Following the suggestion of several members attending the National Meeting last fall, the Nu Rho Psi National Council announced that “Autism Spectrum Disorder” (ASD) would be the theme for our Society’s educational outreach and community service activities during the 2016-2017 academic year.


According to the Center for Disease Control, ASD is a serious public health problem in the United States with about 1 in 68 children being identified with the disorder. Research into the causes and treatment of ASD is very active and is coordinated by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)


Next year, Nu Rho Psi chapters across the country are encouraged to focus their educational, outreach, and fund-raising activities around this theme.


To support these efforts, Nu Rho Psi will provide competitive Chapter Activity Grants (in amounts up to $250) to help chapters purchase materials and supplies. Applications are due 1 October, 2016.

The Nu Rho Psi National Council has assembled educational materials  that may help chapters to get started in their preparations for their ASD-related activities next year.


The Open Science Framework:

A New Tool for Managing Your Lab Workflow

by Robert Calin-Jageman, Dominican University


One of the hardest things about supervising student research is information management: keeping your lab protocols at hand and updated, storing data as it is produced, maintaining analysis output so that you can double-check your results and apply the analysis in the same way on the next data set, and so much more.  Of course, it gets even messier as students enter and leave the lab, computers are put into service and retired, work gets taken home, etc.  It’s easy to end up with a rat’s nest of files.  The magnitude of the problem becomes clear when you need to put your finger on some information from a few years ago, and you end up spending several days working like a forensic scientists comparing file versions and lab notebooks to piece together what the h*ll happened.  Sad!


There are lots of ways to tame the beast of information management.  A new option worth exploring is the Open Science Framework (OSF,  The OSF provides a collaborative workspace for any type of information relevant to your lab: protocols, digital lab notes, data files, analysis scripts, output, figures, you name it.  You can structure the storage space as you like it, but get the peace of mind of automatic versioning and cloud backup.   Collaboration is seamless, both within and across labs, by setting permissions to different folders (e.g. set students to read-only access on a protocols directory, read-write on a data directory).   The best part is that the OSF is free in both senses of the word: it costs nothing to use, and there are almost no restrictions on how your lab uses it. 


Why is such a great tool being offered for free?  The OSF is supported by the Center for Open Science.  It is made available to scientists with a truly beneficent ulterior motive: to help make science more open, transparent, and accessible.  You see, if you are managing your lab information with the OSF it becomes very easy to engage in some of the emerging best practices for conducting research:

· You can easily make data stored on the OSF public.  You can then provide a permanent link and DOI back to your data in any paper published that uses that data.  This lets others make novel uses of the data you’ve collected and makes it easier for your results to be synthesized into a meta-analysis.

· You can easily make protocols and materials stored on the OSF public, encouraging others to use these materials for replications or extensions of your work.

· You can also use the OSF to pre-register planned studies, an approach where you specify your predictions and analysis strategies in a publically verifiable way prior to data collection.  Pre-registration provides a bold and verifiable line between planned and exploratory analysis (both are useful, but it is important that we carefully keep track of which is which).

· You can publish manuscripts not suitable for peer-reviewed publication directly to the OSF (e.g. a student project).  This can help chip away a bit at the file-drawer problem.

The genius of the OSF is that it doesn’t force you to take your vitamins, it just makes it easy and painless to do so.  That is, you don’t have to use the OSF to do any of the virtuous things listed above, but once you start using it you’ll find it takes very little effort to go the extra mile towards Open Science.  WINNING!


The OSF is relatively new-ish.  New features are being added, and the development team is still working with users to identify the features that will make it the most useful for managing lab information.  The core functionality is stable enough, though, to rely on.  The Center for Open Science has also taken steps to ensure that the OSF will function in the long-term.  If you’re interested in exploring further, check out these resources:


The OSF has a set of guides to help new labs get started:

                                             Here are two student-powered projects managed by myself and Irina Calin-Jageman where we used the OSF to share our data and analysis:,  

The Center for Open Science regularly conducts workshops and training sessions, both live and in cyberspace.  Check out their website to learn more:


SfN: stuff you need to know

FUN members are needed to staff the FUN booth during the SfN meeting. While at the booth, you talk about FUN with those who visit, sell some merchandise, and hang out with your FUN colleagues. The booth is open Sunday through Wednesday. Some exhibitor badges (read FREE convention registration) are available to FUN members working at the booth. Contact David Jewett ([email protected]) to volunteer or for more information about the exhibitor badges.


Professional Development Conversations at the FUN booth—scheduled topics:

Transitioning well from post-doc to PUI

Designing an undergraduate Neuroscience major

Getting and using NIH grants to support neuroscience work

Learn more about the neuroscience national honor society: Nu Rho Psi

How to assess your Neuroscience program

Thinking of transitioning to administration?

Do I want, and how would I attain a job at a PUI

Learn more about the Journal for Undergraduate Neuroscience Education

How can the FUN equipment loan program boost your research?


FUN Business Meeting

Sunday Nov 13 ,7-8am, Hilton San Diego Bayfront Aqua Salon BC


Fun Social and Poster Session

Sunday Nov 13, 6:45-8:45pm, location TBA



”It’s a Win-Win: Effectively Engaging Undergraduates in Research”

Monday Nov 14 ,12-2pm, SDCC 30C

Panelists: Dorothy A Kozlowski, Claudio Da Cunha, Shelly D Dickinson, Rueben A Gonzales, Hewlet G McFarlane, Matthew I Palmatier


Teaching Workshop

Teaching Neuroscience with Big Data” (free, preregistration not required)

Monday Nov 14, 9-11am, SDCC 31C




Accepting nominations for new FUN officers

It is the time of year when we begin soliciting nominations for leadership positions in FUN. We are currently accepting nominations for five positions: President-Elect, Treasurer-Elect, and three Councilor positions. Please consider nominating a colleague or yourself for any of these positions. A complete description of each of these positions can be found at


There are so many great benefits to becoming part of the leadership of FUN! You have the opportunity to really get to know and work with fantastic colleagues from different institutions. You also get to provide great opportunities for our members and our undergraduate students by contributing to important grant programs like the FUN Student Travel Awards, the Brain Awareness Week Travel Awards, the Equipment  Loan Program, etc. Finally, it is a great way to gain leadership experience in a supportive environment. Please nominate yourself or a colleague for an open position!


Nominations can be sent to the current President-Elect, Leah Chase at [email protected]. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Leah by email.


Save the Dates: the triannual FUN workshop

at Dominican University—just 10 miles from Chicago!

· Pre-Workshop Lab Training—Thursday, July 27 through Friday, July 28

· Main Workshop—Friday, July 28 through Sunday, July 30

Plan to attend the 7th FUN Undergraduate Neuroscience Education Workshop.  Come together with other FUN members to explore new inquiry-based labs that can be integrated into your curriculum, to discuss the latest in neuroscience pedagogy, to exchange ideas about career development, and to participate in sessions on grantsmanship, program evaluation, assessment, and so much more.  Best of all, you'll be spending several days with FUN members—folks who know the triumphs and tragedies of teaching the Nernst equation, who have navigated their neuroscience programs through the cross-fire of competing departments, and who have been in the front lines of engaging students in meaningful neuroscience research.  The best summer weekend of conversation, commiseration, and inspiration, guaranteed! 

As an added bonus, the 2017 FUN workshop will take place in bucolic River Forest, IL, just 10 miles from downtown Chicago.  Plan to arrive early or to stay late to explore downtown Chicago (a short trip on the green line), the Frank Lloyd Wright District (in neighboring Oak Park), or the shores of Lake Michigan.  Easy travel to O’Hare International Airport, just 9 miles away.

The FUN Conference only happens every 3 years! 

Mark your calendars today!                                                                                                                           

Suggestions or nominations for the program?                                                                                                                                                 

Email Irina Calin-Jageman: [email protected]


Upcoming Events:

Equipment Loan Program—call for proposals ends Oct 1!

FUN is pleased to announce the Call for Proposals for the 2016 Equipment Loan Program.  Through generous donations from ADInstruments, Data Sciences International (DSI), Kinder Scientific, Noldus Information Technology, and San    Diego Instruments we are now accepting applications for proposals requesting a loan of equipment for research and/or teaching for FUN members.  A complete list of equipment available is available on the FUN website (  All dues-paying members of FUN are eligible to apply for this program.  Applications will be submitted electronically.  Review of applications will begin on October 1, 2016 and awards will be announced in early December. If you have any questions about the Equipment Loan Program feel free to contact Jeff Smith ([email protected]) for more information.




Sept 1 newsletter FINAL(1).pdf1.05 MB

FUN Newsletter, January 2017, Volume 4, Issue 1

FUN Newsletter, January 2017, Volume 4, Issue 1


===This is a full-text dump of the newsletter for search indexing==

Happy New Year all! As your, now, Past-President, I just wanted to take a minute and
say thank you to the FUN membership and the FUN Executive committee that helped
to support my time as President of our fabulous organization. The Exec group
provided indispensable counsel and support, and I appreciate them for their time and
efforts. I also want to thank the membership as a whole; we had many members step
forward and take on more active roles this year such as assisting with committee work
and staffing the professional development sessions at the booth. I hope that all
members will continue to think of ways they can engage more actively with our
organization – we have a lot of initiatives and ideas, but not always enough
hands/minds to carry them out.
And what a successful 25
th year it was! As usual, we
had a full house for the Social and Poster session,
with an estimate of more than 650 people in
attendance, over 160 posters and 21 travel award
winners! We had a wonderful opportunity to thank
Sally Frutiger, Stephen George, Julio Ramirez and
Dennison Smith for starting FUN 25 years ago! We
also had record sales at the booth with over $12,000
in sales! Thank you to all that participated in the
Social, supported student poster presentations and
staffed the booth throughout the week.
I look forward to our 26
th year, working with new and returning members of the Exec
committee and with all of you, and I can’t wait to see many of you again soon at the
2017 FUN Education Workshop at Dominican University July 28-30
th. To use the
acronym one more time – FUN people are my people, and I’m so thankful to share in
the organization with you. – Amy Jo

And what a successful 25th year it was! As usual, we had a full house
for the Social and Poster session, with an estimate of more than 650
people in attendance, over 160 posters and 21 travel award winners!

Past-President’s Corner:
FUN Newsletter
Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience January 2017
Inside this Issue
Award Winners pg 2
Try ESCI pg 3
Want a PUI Job? Pg 5
JUNE Editor’s Corner pg 8
Assessment pg 10
Summer REU pg 11
SFN NDP Survey pg 12
Upcoming Events pg 13

Elizabeth Becker,
Saint Joseph’s

Carlita Favero,
Ursinus College

Charles Weaver,
Saginaw Valley
State University

Jade Zee,

Newsletter Staff
2016 FUN Equipment Loan Program:
Elizabeth Krusemark, Millsaps College "Examining
Cognitive and Affective Mechanisms of Information
Processing in Psychopathology: A Proposal for Educational
and Basic Research Growth at Millsaps College" Award:
ADI ML856 PowerLab 26T system for research-quality data
collection and educational demonstration from

Deanne Buffalari, Westminster College "Reinforcement
enhancement properties of nicotine during reinstatement of
cocaine conditioned place preference driven by stressful and
cocaine-paired stimuli" Award: Conditioned Place
Preference Equipment from
San Diego Instruments
Greg Butcher, Thiel College "The Cognitive, Behavioral,
and Neural Consequences of Adolescent Nicotine Exposure
in Adult Long-Evans Rats" Award: An elevated plus maze
San Diego Instruments
Joshua Cordeira, Western Connecticut State University
"Investigating Basal Forebrain Control of Prepulse
Inhibition" Award: SR-Lab Startle Response System from

San Diego Instruments
Jennifer Tudor, Saint Joseph’s University " Impact of sleep
deprivation on mechanisms of translation regulation"
Award: Any-maze Video Tracking System, zero maze,
multi-unit open field maze from
San Diego Instruments
Maureen Rutherford, Indiana University Northwest
"Long-term neuroendocrine and behavioral effects of
prepubertal Prozac® (fluoxetine) exposure in Zebrafish
Danio rerio)" Award: EthoVision XT software from
Noldus Information Technology
Lorenz Neuwirth, SUNY Old Westbury "The effects of
developmental Pb neurotoxicity on brain excitability"
Award: Implantable telemetry system for data acquisition
and analysis from
Data Sciences International
2016 FUN Travel Award Winners:

Zackary Bowers Saginaw Valley State University
Lindsey Chew University of Arizona
Sarah Chiren Lake Forest College
Margot DeBaker Marquette University
Matthew Downer Memorial University of Newfoundland
Chloe Erikson Washington State University
Miguel Alfonso
Queens College, CUNY
Ashley Goreshnik Lafayette College
Kelsey Idyle Central Michigan University
Anvita Komarla University of California, Davis
Lindsey Erin Miller Middlebury College
Anna Miller University of Wisconsin River Falls
Alexis Monical Marquette University
Hannah Radabaugh University of Pittsburgh
Taylor Redmond Drew University
Justin Sabo Baldwin Wallace University
Jack Sternburg University of South Dakota
Dan Sangiamo University of Delaware
Tyler Milewski University of Scranton
Meggan Archey St. Edward's University
Lauren Vetere University of Florida

2016 FUN Faculty Award Winners:
Career Achievement Award Winners:
Wesley P. Jordan and Douglas Weldon
Carol Ann Paul FUN Educator of the Year Award:
Elaine Reynolds
FUN Service Award:
Jeffrey Smith
FUN Mentor Award:
Lora Becker

Bruce Johnson has been
awarded the Society for
Neuroscience Award for
Education in

Congratulations Bruce!
Like any other science, neuroscience constantly requires
making good judgements about the world based on representative
samples. There are many, many software tools available to assist with
this process of statistical inference. But in terms of training
undergraduate neuroscientist, it can be hard the perfect tool. SPSS is a
common choice, but it is expensive, has a steep learning curve, and
produces figures which are both ugly and uninformative. R is growing
in popularity, is free, and works across platforms, but it also has a
steep learning curve and is often over-powered relative to
undergraduate teaching goals. There are lots of “stats light” programs,
but most are proprietary and expensive.
One option worth exploring is
ESCI (Exploratory Software for
Confidence Intervals)—a free set of Excel worksheets developed by
stats guru Geoff Cumming to make statistical inference intuitive and
easy for undergraduates (Cumming, 2011). ESCI runs on PC and Mac,
and students can easily download their own version for free to run on
their own computers. Data is simply be pasted into a worksheet,
instantaneously producing the results and a compelling visualization.
What makes ESCI worth investigating? First, it is very easy to use. I
use it in a class that draws both stats-oriented psych majors and statsphobic bio majors. I’ve found that both groups of students can very
easily learn to use ESCI for lab write-ups, and that it supports very
sophisticated discussion of their statistical inferences. The figure
accompanying this article, for example, shows the interface for
comparing two repeated measures groups (a classic paired
t test) from
data undergraduates in my lab collected (Herdegen, Conte, Kamal,
Calin-Jageman, & Calin-Jageman, 2014).

To what extent do two
independent groups differ?
(classic independent groups
Data two tab with raw data,
Summary two for summary data
To what extent do scores change
across two repeated measures?
(classic paired
Data paired tab with raw data,
Summary paired tab for summary

To what extent do 2-6
independent groups differ?
(classic one-way independent
groups ANOVA)

Ind groups contrasts tab with raw
data or summary data

To what extent do two variables
interact? (classic 2x2 independent
groups ANOVA)

Ind groups 2 x 2 tab with raw
data or summary data

To what extent are scores on one
quantitative variable linearly
related to scores on another?
(classic Pearson’s
r and linear

Scatterplots tab with raw data,
One correlation tab with
summary data
To what extent does a linear
correlation vary across two

Two correlations tab
To what extent are two
dichotomous variables related?
(classic Chi square)

Two proportions tab
To what extent do two groups
differ along a variable with a

Robust two tab with raw data
What sample size would be
appropriate for my study?

Precision two tab for
independent groups design;

Precision paired tab for repeated
measure designs

Plus, ESCI has several tabs for
meta-analysis which are actually
easy enough for undergrads to
use and understand.

Here’s a set of research
questions and the
corresponding tab in ESCI
that will help provide an

ESCI: A free statistical
analysis program perfect
for neuroscience majors

Bob Calin-Jageman, Dominican University
JUNE Editor’s Corner
Data and labels are entered in the cells
on the left, and Viola!—you instantly
obtain a beautiful figure emphasizing the
group differences, descriptive statistics,

t test results, a raw effect size with CI,
and a standardized effect size with its
CI. It can take a few moments to help
students understand each aspect of the
output, but in my experience students
learn ESCI very quickly.
Another reason to give ESCI a try
is that it emphasizes best practices for
statistical inference: 1) every analysis is
accompanied by an informative figure to
help visualize the effect of interest and
2) every analysis provides not only a
value but also an effect size estimate
and a confidence interval (APA, for
example, recommends these as essential
in the reporting of inferential statistics).
So you can give your neuroscience
students a “stats light” piece of software
secure in the knowledge that it’s actually
quite stats advanced.
Oh yeah, did I mention that ESCI is
ESCI has been developed and
improved by Geoff Cumming in multiple
versions over the past 15 years. It works
pretty darn well now. The latest version
was developed to accompany an
undergraduate statistics textbook which I
helped co-author. While of course I’d
love to encourage adoption of the book,
ESCI was, is, and will remain a fully
independent project—your students can
download it, learn it, and use it all on its
Of course, ESCI can’t do it all—it
is certainly not a complete replacement
for SPSS or R. The list of what it can do,
though, is surprisingly extensive (see the
list at the end of this article). I find that
ESCI hits the sweet spot for neuroscience
majors, who certainly need to become
savvy about statistical inference, but
who may not have the space in their
course load for the same level of
statistical training as a psych or
informatics major. ESCI is also so nonthreatening that it can be easy to
encourage other faculty in your program
to adopt it, meaning your majors can
have a seamless experience with
statistical analyses with a minimum of
cost and fuss. etc.
If you try out ESCI or end up using it in a
class, please drop me or Geoff a line
[email protected] and/or
[email protected]) to let us
know, especially if you run into any bugs
or have any feedback, feature requests,

Cumming, G. (2011). Understanding the New
Statistics: Effect Sizes, Confidence
Intervals, and Meta-Analysis
. New York:
Herdegen, S., Conte, C., Kamal, S., CalinJageman, R. J., & Calin-Jageman, I. E.
(2014). Immediate and Persistent
Transcriptional Correlates of Long-Term
Sensitization Training at Different CNS
Loci in Aplysia californica.
9(12), e114481.


We welcome submissions on any topic
suitable for the FUN membership including:
Editorial – an opinion piece on an issue or
topic relevant to the advancement of FUN’s
I wish I’d known then – advice you wish
you’d been given related to teaching
neuroscience, career development,
managing research or other topics relevant
to FUN membership
Resource Pointers/Reviews – summary and
review of a teaching resource you find
useful (book, article, video, website, etc.)
Ask FUN – a question on which you seek
feedback from the FUN community (e.g.
grading dilemma, managing work-life
balance, etc.)
Other – submitted articles directly relevant
to FUN membership may be solicited or
accepted for publication.

Please submit your article via email to
[email protected]

What can you expect from a job at a Primarily
Undergraduate Institution (PUI)?

Luke Daniels and Katherine Mickley Steinmetz
At the Society for Neuroscience Annual
Meeting this past November, FUN faculty
held several informal meet-up sessions.
This article summarizes a few recurring
themes from our conversations at the
Do you want, and how do you
get, a job at a PUI?
We’ll focus here on
the “Do you want” part of this question,
as a previous newsletter article
(How to
get a job at a Primarily Undergraduate
; see resources) discusses the
process of preparing a competitive
application and navigating the interview
process. Many other resources are
available that highlight the PUI work
environment; some are provided below.
As always, feel free to contact FUN
members directly if you have questions.

What can you expect from a job
at a PUI?

During the SFN session, three themes in
particular emerged from our
conversations. These are briefly (and
certainly incompletely) described here.
We note that these themes are not
unique to undergraduate institutions,
and that faculty at other institution
types may have similar experiences and
expectations, whether working with
undergraduates or graduate students.
Institutions vary considerably in their
mission and expectations of faculty
teaching and research. However faculty
at a PUI can expect to encounter the
following, regardless of mission or
relative weight given to faculty duties in
teaching, research, and service.

At a Primarily
Is working at a PUI a good career choice for you? Find out
by using the chart below, developed from the themes
discussed at the SFN session!

Do you want a job at a PUI?
At a Primarily Undergraduate Institution

1. You may be the only expert in your research
area and you almost certainly will teach on topics
outside your core area of expertise.
Maybe your
expertise is cell biology; at some institutions you
might be the only faculty member that knows how to
culture cells. You may be trained in
electrophysiology—it’s possible that you might be the
only person in town (or even within 200 miles if
you’re not in a densely populated urban area!), that
knows how to voltage-clamp. In any case, even at the
largest PUIs you are likely to be one of a very small
few subject matter experts in your field. This means
that if you want to have high level research intense
conversations or bounce ideas off of another expert,
you must do so via collaborations, at conferences,
etc. This environment can be extremely rewarding!
Your class sizes may be very small (10-20 students or
less) at the upper-division level in your specialty
area. However the trade-off might be that you will
also need to teach larger courses (40-100 students)
that stretch you professionally (a cell biologist may
also teach Genetics or Human Anatomy and
physiology). Do you enjoy learning broadly about
academic areas that are not squarely aligned with
your training? If so a PUI will give you plenty of
opportunity to grow in this way.

2. You’ll likely encounter a diverse student
population, especially with regard to academic
preparation and subject-matter interest.
Most PUI
faculty teach introductory or non-majors classes
regularly as part of their teaching load. You may
have a student that is majoring in English taking your
Introductory Biology course to fulfill their only
science course requirement. If you are interested in
teaching at a PUI, you should consider how you can
directly engage these students, and even mention it
as part of your application package and/or interview
responses. Do you use engaging case studies in class?
Do you use examples from pop-culture? Analogies
that students can relate to from every day
experience? Make sure to point this out as you apply
and are invited for interviews. Consider proposing to
teach a course that directly meets the needs of
several types of students—music and science, science
writing, or a non-majors course on science vs.
pseudoscience. Courses that involve a collaboration
with a current faculty member outside of your home
department may be a welcome suggestion as well.
PUIs value innovative courses that reach a broad
section of the student population, and showing an
interest in teaching these types of courses is a
positive indicator for a candidate even if it’s not in
the job description.

3. You’ll likely have a lot of autonomy in
curriculum design and how you teach your classes,
both in the classroom and the teaching lab
. A
challenge for faculty at PUIs is to engage not only the
science majors, but also novice students with little
prior experience or interest in the course topic.
Innovative teaching methods are valued at PUIs. You
may have access to prior curricula and lab exercises,
but if not you’ll need to design your own courses and
labs, possibly by using educational literature (like
JUNE or other education-focused journals),
commercially available curricular resources (from
textbook companies or vendors), resources made
available on the internet by other like-minded
faculty, your professional networks, and/or your own
ingenuity. As you modify existing curricula or design
your own, you should consider how to assess these
changes for effectiveness. There are many ways to
get feedback about whether student attitudes about
science, skills, or mastery of concepts are improved.
You don’t need to necessarily plan a publicationworthy analysis (in fact you need to get Institutional
Review Board approval to collect student data that
you would consider publishing). Even a simple midsemester survey about whether students enjoy a class
project and what they find challenging can give you a
great deal of information on whether your techniques
are successful. At a PUI, this cycle of teaching
innovation, self-assessment, and improvement in
pedagogy is valued—and it may be beneficial to you in
your job search to discuss how you plan to
incorporate these into your classes.

“Your research, like
your teaching, will
center around the
experience of

4. Your research, like your teaching, will center around the experiences
of students.
This isn’t to say that you won’t make progress on a research
agenda. Faculty at primarily undergraduate campuses can (and do!)
produce very high quality work; however it is much slower than you may be
used to. Undergraduates work on research projects during the academic
year around their class (and often sports and work) schedules. They may be
able to only commit to 3-10 hours a week in the lab (with a few extremely
dedicated students working up to 20 hours a week) during the school year.
At some PUIs, students may be able to work full-time during the summer if
you are able to secure a grant to support research activity. In any case, the
obstacles to advancing a research program is the usual challenge of time
and money. At a PUI, you will spend a great deal of time training an
undergraduate to do an experiment before they become independent, and
the turn-over is very high as they progress through their major and
graduate. Funding mechanisms are generally not as large as at researchoriented institutions. For example, PUIs are generally not eligible for R01
NIH awards—thus you won’t be working with multi-million dollar research
budgets. You can expect to be involved in the ordering of supplies for your
research lab, and trouble-shooting microscopes, recording rigs, or data
analysis tools. If and when you begin to prepare a publication, you will be
writing (or very closely supervising) the writing of the manuscript, and
making figures. You may be thinking—what is the upside?! At a PUI the
mission of the institution is teaching students, and this includes teaching
students how to do research. The upside is that at a PUI, the teaching of

how to do research is as important as the research itself, and this can be
just as rewarding as classroom teaching. The authors of this article have
travelled with students to conferences (including with a student on their
first airplane flight!), and mentored students through the process of
carrying out a project and writing up a manuscript for publication. These
experiences can be a pivotal part of a students’ experience in college, and
being able to participate with them is a fantastic part of a job at a PUI.

The key to being happy at a PUI is that you must truly enjoy teaching and
appreciate the challenge of teaching students at a variety of different
levels. You can expect that this focus on teaching will extend to your
research program, where you will teach through research. It can be very
rewarding, but is often different from the research-focused grad school
Steinmetz, K.R.M.
How to
get a job at a Primarily
Undergraduate Institution.

Faculty for Undergraduate
Neuroscience (FUN
Newsletter, January 2016,
Volume 3, Issue 1

Anastasio, A. Working at a
. American Society for
Biochemistry and Molecular
Biology Today, January,

Peaslee, G. Teaching at a
Primarily Undergraduate
. American
Chemical Society, Graduate
and Post-Doctoral Chemist,
August 2016.

Austin, R.N. Preparing for a
PUI Career
. AAAS Science
Magazine Online, Advice,
Issues and Perspectives,
March 2, 2012. DOI:

Resources and
Perspectives on the
environment at a

Candles in the Dark
Bruce R. Johnson, Cornell University, JUNE Editor
JUNE Editor’s Corner
The Fall 2016 JUNE issue
continues our FUN journal tradition of
disseminating the best teaching tools and
ideas of Neuroscience educators. The
JUNE editors invite our FUN colleagues to
view the new JUNE issue

( published just before the SfN
meeting. The following description of
this JUNE issue’s content is adapted from
my editorial for this issue (Johnson,
2016). The issue starts with a
description of the history, mission and
evolving format of our “Amazing Papers”
review section (Harrington et al.). Three
of the “Amazing Paper” submissions (by
Kennedy, Sable and Cecala) are
highlighted as examples of how this
section is broadening its instructional
content. Two additional “Amazing
Papers” contributions showcase primary
research articles with instructionally rich
content: 1) a paper showing that genetic
manipulation and environmental
enrichment can both influence the
performance of learned behavioral tasks
in mice (Flinn), and 2) the demonstration
that a sensory system can adapt quickly
to changing environmental conditions
(Bies). An opinion piece discusses the
recruitment of students to help plan a
new neuroscience course, with positive
educational, personal and practical
outcomes for students and faculty
The first of the 14 full articles
continues a productive thread by Ramos
et al. of analyzing the impact of
undergraduate neuroscience programs on
student experiences and career
decisions. Here the focus is on the
importance of neuroscience as a life
science major. We welcome our first
JUNE article on Neuroscience graduate
education. Harrison et al. describe a
literature-based grad student course to
familiarize new students with modern
research methods. “Expert” advanced
grad students support beginning grad
students in presenting research methods.

Six articles present new laboratory
exercises or evaluate lab techniques. In
two of these, students determine the
modification of taste sensations by plant

1) the reduction of perceived
sweetness by the herb
(Aleman et al.), and 2) the
ability of the Miracle Fruit (
) to make sour foods taste
sweet (Lipatova & Campolattaro). Two
more human exercises examine tactile
sensitivity protocols to distinguish
peripheral and central sensory processing
(Lowe et al.), and report a student
evaluation of EEG methods for cost
effectiveness (Shields et al.). Quiroga
and Price describe a simulation exercise
that allows students to “record” the
firing properties of a virtual, motion
sensitive neuron with realistic
physiological properties. In the last lab
article, Lemons presents a “mystery
mutant” exercise for students to
determine the synaptic site of a
behaviorally disruptive mutation in
. Other main articles describe
the effectiveness of the structural
assessment of knowledge approach (SAK)
for evaluating Neuroscience learning
(Stevenson et al.), a comparison of
instructional rubrics with other methods
of teaching scientific writing (Clabough &
Clabough), the use of social media to
engage students in understanding and
then disseminating neuroscience content
to the general public (Valentine &
Kurczek), a student internship with
neuropsychological techniques at a
neurotraining center (Schicatano &
Bohlander), and a word origin library to
teach complex Neuroscience terminology
(Hillock et al.). The last two main
articles in the issue are based on talks
presented at the teaching symposium,
“Teaching Neuroscience to NonScientists”, organized by Dr. Richard
Olivo of Smith College for the 2015
Annual Meeting of the Society for
Neuroscience in Chicago, IL. These
invited articles report the success of
courses using popular Neuroscience
literature (Been et al.), and
Neuroscience related cultural or news
themes (Roesch & Frenzel) to teach
Neurobiology content.

Johnson, B. R. (2016) Candles in the dark. J. Undergrad. Neurosci. Ed. 11(1), E6-E7.
Mitchell CS, Cates A, Kim RB, Hollinger AK (2015)
Undergraduate biocuration: Developing tomorrow’s researchers while mining today’s data. J Undergrad
Neurosci Educ 14(1): A56-A65.
Sagan C (1996) The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark. New York, NY: Ballantine
Schaefer JE (2016) The BRAIN initiative provides a unifying context for integrating core STEM
competencies into a neurobiology course. J Undergrad Neurosci Educ 14(2): A97-A103.

“Carl Sagan reminds me that
we scientists/educators can
help bring rational light into
a world easily influenced by
the darkness of human

Our new “Case Studies” feature, edited by
Leah Roesch and Kristen Frenzel, continues with 2
new case presentations that use clinical themes to
teach basic neuroscience content. These
educational cases center on a patient born without
a cerebellum (Brielmaier) and a patient with a
retinal degenerative disorder (Ogilvie & Ribbens).
We present 4 book reviews in this JUNE issue:
A Matter of Wonder: What Biology Reveals
About Us, our World, and our Dreams (
Bouton’s Learning and Behavior: A Contemporary
Synthesis, 2
nd edition (Meyers-Manor), Kingdom and
Psychophysics: a Practical Introduction, 2nd
edition (Cecala), and Luo’s Principles of
I draw attention to our JUNE “Editor’s
Choice Awards” for especially noteworthy papers
appearing in last year’s JUNE issues (Vol. 14, 1 &
2). A subcommittee of our JUNE editorial board,
organized by Barbara Lom, choses 2 of the full
articles published in each year’s JUNE issues for
these awards. For “Outstanding Neuroscience
Pedagogy Article”, we chose “
The BRAIN Initiative
Provides a Unifying Context for Integrating Core
STEM Competencies into a Neurobiology Course
This paper describes an undergraduate
neuroscience course teaching content in the
context of the Brain Research Through Advancing
Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative,
while focusing on core STEM competencies
(Schaefer, 2016). Our award for “Outstanding
Neuroscience Laboratory Article”, “
Biocuration: Developing Tomorrow’s Researchers
While Mining Today’s Data
”, describes the training
of undergraduates to curate biological and clinical
data in user-friendly data bases for informatics
analyses (Mitchell et al., 2015). These and other
award winning examples of creative initiatives in
Neuroscience education can be seen at:

In his book, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as
a Candle in the Dark”, Carl Sagan (1996) reminds me
that we scientists/educators can help bring rational
light into a world easily influenced by the darkness
of human ignorance. This darkness is expressed in
many forms, such as superstition, racism, misogyny,
and in the denial that humans can adversely affect
life on this planet. Deep cruelty directed to the
“other” is often stirred up by the fear mongering of
voices emerging from this darkness. We teach our
students to think critically through learning the
scientific process and the tools used to gather new
knowledge, through learning our organized
conventions of presenting ideas, results, and
conclusions through talk and prose, and through
using the concepts and tools of Neuroscience
creatively to generate new knowledge. Sagan’s book
helped me appreciate our important service to
recruit students to carry the “candle light” for
science, as well as for their thoughtful and rational
navigation of our world.

Program assessment seems to be one of the most
hated aspects of running an undergraduate program,
particularly in the sciences. So much so in fact, that
many of my colleagues refer to it as “the A word.”
This has always struck me as odd, since
experimenting, analyzing new data, and trying
another experiment is what we do every day as
scientists. Assessing your curriculum is equivalent to
implementing an experimental control that tells you
whether your experiment is working properly. During
my recent conversations with other FUN faculty about
program assessment at the SfN meeting, this was the
dominant theme of conversation as summed up in the
questions “How do we make assessment less painful?”
and “How do we get our colleagues to participate in
I’m not sure why assessment has such a loathsome
reputation among faculty. I suspect it has a lot to do
with the common perception of assessment as “more
work” and another “pointless” directive from
administration. In reality, assessment of your
program is something that can be done with very
little extra effort and when directed by the program
itself, can provide very meaningful information about
teaching and learning.
Reducing the work of program assessment begins with
aligning program objectives and goals to the courses
themselves, and to individual assignments within the
courses. In my experience, programs that struggle
with assessment often find that they don’t really
know what they want students to know. An
important first step in every assessment cycle is to
ask what the program goals really are, and
subsequently, are those goals (and any associated
student learning outcomes) reflected in the
curriculum of the program? Once the program goals,
objectives, and outcomes are clear, constructing a
curriculum map that shows how each program course
aligns with the program objectives can be a good way
to identify potential sources of evidence for
The variety of potential questions for assessment is
also daunting. It can be difficult to even know where
to start. In our program, we have developed an
assessment plan that addresses a subset of our goals
and outcomes each year as part of a three to five
year cycle. We also have given ourselves the
flexibility to push back on the schedule if a pressing
question arises.
In programs with aligned goals and outcomes, the
data for assessment typically comes from the various

Assessing Your Neuroscience Program
Samantha Gizerian, Washington State University
courses. This data can be found in course
evaluations, whole assignments, student responses to
individual exam questions, rubric-based scores, etc.
If instructors are already archiving these sources,
they simply need to pull out the relevant data and
analyze it with respect to the assessment question.
As an example, in our program one of the learning
goals is that students will have “
An understanding of
major neuroscience concepts and an awareness of
how these are connected from the molecular to the
systems level
” when they graduate. We assess this
directly in our seniors as part of the evaluation of
their capstone project. In the capstone project, each
student must present a research project (lab or
literature-based) that uses neuroscience to address a
real-world problem. One of the scoring criteria for
the project is how well they connect the molecular
and systems levels of their project. The rubric we
use to score their presentations therefore has an
individual category that evaluates this criterion.
When we assess how well our program is doing with
regard to this learning goal, all we have to do is look
at the scores of our seniors in that particular box of
the rubric each year and compare that with other
Getting your colleagues to buy into the process of
assessment is often difficult. Concerns about
workload, administrative ulterior motives, and the
value of the work itself are high barriers to be
overcome. One approach that has been successful for
me over the years has been to focus assessment
questions on the needs of individual faculty members
and their courses. When skeptical colleagues
discover that the process of assessment can benefit
them individually as well as the program, they tend to
become more willing to participate in the process
because they see the value in the work. Moreover,
when the questions for assessment are generated
from within the program, there is less concern about
the motives of administrators in demanding
assessment reports.
Assessment doesn’t need to be the terrible, pointless
chore that so many faculty perceive it to be.
Program assessment, like an experimental control,
can be a useful tool to determine whether or not your
curriculum is working. With a little planning and
communication, you can implement sustainable,
effective assessment that has value for your program
and meets the assessment requirements of your
institution without being a burden.

Research experience is a fundamental piece
of an undergraduate neuroscience
education, particularly for students who are
pursuing a career in the field. At the same
time, research labs can benefit from the
work an undergraduate can provide. Many
institutions offer formal summer research
programs for undergraduates, and we
maintain a list of these opportunities on the
FUN website.

This internship list helps empower students
to find opportunities and provides a venue
for our membership and others to advertise
their programs. This page is consistently the
most visited page on the FUN website.
Of course, this list is only as useful as its
content. We appreciate any research
opportunities that you and your colleagues
can provide us with. Just send an email to
me (
[email protected]). Include the name of
the opportunity you would like listed (or just
the institution at which it is housed) and a

Post Your Undergraduate Summer Research Opportunities With

Jared Young, Mills College
link to the website where more information
can be found. In addition to posting these, I
(or one of my students) periodically comb
through the list, repair/remove old links,
and update application deadlines. Any help
you can provide with this (emailing when a
link changes or a program is no longer being
run, updating us with new application
deadlines) is most helpful.
If you do not have a website, but would like
to make a document available to students
(like a flyer with information on the
program), I can also do that. Just send what
you would like posted to my email.
This link has served many students and
programs well in the past and we hope it
continues to do so for many years to come.

2016 Survey of Neuroscience
Departments and Programs

From the Society for Neuroscience Website:
A survey of SfN’s Institutional Program members and other
neuroscience departments and programs addresses a variety
of programmatic issues concerning graduate students,
postdoctoral fellows, faculty, financial support, and
neuroscience curricular and training issues. More recent data
are compared with the results of earlier surveys, providing
useful longitudinal perspectives.
Prior to 2009, the survey was conducted by the Association
of Neuroscience Departments and Programs (ANDP). Since
the consolidation of ANDP and SfN in June 2009, the survey
was administered by SfN.
In November 2016, SfN is relaunching its regular survey of
Neuroscience Departments and Programs (NDPs).
This study will collect data on program details such as:

? The administrative and financial structure of NDPs
? Training and curricular issues
? Program enrollments and demographics
This study will also look at:

? Information on the number of applicants to NDPs
? Student support in training programs
? Students' careers after completing neuroscience
training program

? Faculty metrics
2016 NDP Survey Participants: While the NDP Survey
collects aggregate information for postdoctoral
trainees and faculty, you have the opportunity to
upload a file of individual level data for postdocs and
faculty affiliated with your department or program
through the survey link that you were provided with.
This will allow a deeper look into post-doctoral
trainees and faculty in terms of ethnicity, gender,
advanced degrees, academic rank, tenure status, and
other metrics.

If you would like to provide this level of detail for
your program, please go to the link below for more
Data to be Collected
Structure of Neuroscience Programs
Training and Curricular Issues
Program Applicants
Program Enrollment, Demographics, and Metrics
Post-Doctoral Training
Students’ Careers After Completing Neuroscience PhD
Graduate Student Support in Neuroscience Programs

“SfN conducts a
regular survey to
monitor the status of
neuroscience training
programs in the U.S.
and abroad, as well as
to identify emerging


We would like to collect stories/outcomes from our
equipment loan winners. These will be used to
strengthen and/or establish new relationships with

Please contact Leah Chase with your story via email:
[email protected]

Plan to attend the 7th FUN Undergraduate Neuroscience
Education Workshop. Come together with other FUN
members to explore new inquiry-based labs that can be
integrated into your curriculum, to discuss the latest in
neuroscience peda-gogy, to exchange ideas about
career development, and to participate in sessions on
grantsmanship, program evalua-tion, assessment, and
so much more. Best of all, you'll be spending several
days with FUN members—folks who know the triumphs
and tragedies of teaching the Nernst equation, who have
navigated their neuroscience programs through the
cross-fire of competing departments, and who have
been in the front lines of engaging students in
meaningful neuro-science research. The best summer
weekend of conversation, commiseration, and
inspiration, guaranteed!
As an added bonus, the 2017 FUN workshop will take
place in bucolic River Forest, IL, just 10 miles from
downtown Chi-cago. Plan to arrive early or to stay late to
explore downtown Chicago (a short trip on the green
line), the Frank Lloyd Wright District (in neighboring Oak
Park), or the shores of Lake Michigan. Easy travel to
O’Hare International Airport, just 9 miles away.
The FUN Conference only happens every 3 years!
Mark your calendars today!
Suggestions or nominations for the program?

Email Irina Calin-Jageman: [email protected]
Upcoming Events
Tri-annual FUN Workshop
“Activities, Laboratories, and Best Practices for
Developing , Assessing, and Sustaining Inclusive Curricula”

Dominican University
Pre-Workshop Lab Training July 27-28
Main Workshop July 28-30

? 02/20/2017 - 02/21/2017
Free S-STEM Capacity Building
Proposal Writing Workshop at
Rice University

? 05/20/2017 - 06/25/2017
Neuroscience in Salamanca Spain
Study Abroad - Summer Program

? 06/12/2017 - 08/04/2017
SysNeuro: A Summer study
abroad program

? 07/28/2017 - 07/30/2017

January_17_FINAL.pdf1.28 MB

FUN Newsletter - Call for Submissions

Call for Contributions

You’re Doing FUN Things – Please Share!

The Faculty for Undergraduate (FUN) welcomes the submission of articles for its weekly online newsletter.  The following types of contribution will be considered:

Submission guidelines.

Submission Instructions


The statements and opinions contained in newsletter articles are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of FUN.  FUN does not endorse, warranty, or approve of any products being reviewed or advertised in the newsletter. 

FUN Newsletter - Editorial Policy

The Faculty for Undergraduate (FUN) welcomes the submission of articles for its weekly online newsletter.  The following types of contribution will be considered:

Submission guidelines.

Submission Instructions


The statements and opinions contained in newsletter articles are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of FUN.  FUN does not endorse, warranty, or approve of any products being reviewed or advertised in the newsletter.

FUN Newsletter - Editorial Staff

An email [email protected] will reach all the editors: