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.




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