SAN DIEGO —The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) announced the winners of the science education and outreach awards at Neuroscience 2013, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
“Sharing the wonders of scientific discovery and the implications of the latest neuroscience research is vital to advancing the field of neuroscience,” said Larry Swanson, PhD, president of SfN. “This work engages and excites the public every day to learn more about how their brains work and function, and it builds the foundation of long-term support for neuroscience. It is an honor to recognize individuals who demonstrate such a strong commitment to neuroscience education and outreach.”
Science Educator Award: Martha J. Farah and Bobby Heagerty
SfN created the Science Educator Award in 2003 to recognize outstanding neuroscientists who have made significant contributions in promoting public education and awareness about the field. The award includes a $5,000 prize.
Martha Farah, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is a leader in neuroscience education targeting scientists and non-scientists alike. In addition to being well-known for her research on the effects of poverty on brain development, in 2009 Farah founded the Penn Center for Neuroscience & Society (CNS). This center is committed to educating nonscientists about neuroscience and assisting neuroscientists in efforts to effectively communicate their work to the public. As part of her work with CNS, Farah created a “boot camp” designed to give lawyers, educators, businesspeople, and others a basic foundation in cognitive and affective neuroscience. She also created several online learning platforms for neuroscience students and the public to explore topics in neuroethics, and a summer fellowship program for students with an interest in neuroethics.
Bobby Heagerty, MA, director of Neuroscience Community Affairs & Education at Oregon Health Science University Brain Institute, is a long-time advocate for the promotion and advancement of neuroscience education and outreach. Among her numerous outreach accomplishments, she developed one of the most far-reaching and successful Brain Awareness campaigns in Oregon and created an educational program that aims to bring neuroscience into middle school classrooms across the state. Heagerty is active in the American Brain Coalition and provides regular counsel to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on issues related to brain research. Blumenauer is co-chair, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), of the bi-partisan Congressional Neuroscience Caucus.
Next Generation Award: Kasia M. Bieszczad, Shoai Hattori, Matthew Schroder, and Jessica Wilson
Established in 2007, the Next Generation Award recognizes SfN chapter members who have made outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience. The award honors outstanding individuals or teams at the predoctoral/postdoctoral level with a $300 honorarium and a $750 travel award to attend SfN’s annual meeting. Additionally, the recipients’ chapter receives $2,000 to continue outreach efforts in the coming year.
In 2009, Postdoctoral Next Generation Award winner Kasia M. Bieszczad, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, helped to establish the school’s undergraduate chapter of the Nu Rho Psi national honor society in neuroscience. As an advisor to the chapter, Bieszczad helped organize the chapter’s inaugural Brain Awareness Conference, which provided undergraduate students with an opportunity to discuss their research with the public and perform hands-on demonstrations with brains, models, and more.
In less than three years, Predoctoral Next Generation Award winners Shoai Hattori, Matthew Schroder, and Jessica Wilson — all fourth year PhD candidates in neuroscience at Northwestern University — built a large, multifaceted neuroscience outreach program in the Chicago area. Under their leadership, the program, now known as the Northwestern University Brain Awareness Outreach (NUBAO) organization, has grown to include more than 70 active volunteers recruited across two campuses and numerous graduate programs. NUBAO has orchestrated roughly 15 outreach activities in the greater Chicago area over the past 2.5 years, including a before-school program that taught neuroscience to 6th graders in underserved communities and a neuroscience teaching workshop for science teachers.
The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 42,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.