Undergraduate Program of the Year
Central Michigan University
The Neuroscience Program at Central Michigan University began in 1987 and was formalized as the first undergraduate major in neuroscience in the state of Michigan in 1999. The Neuroscience Program is one of the fastest growing majors at CMU and has received more successfully funded research grants and summer scholarships than any other department or program over the past 15 years.
Perhaps the most successful and innovative feature that the Neuroscience Program at Central Michigan University has adopted is their three-tiered “team-based” (Together Everyone Achieves More) approach that encompasses all levels of the program, i.e., the students’ research team, lab team, and program team. The “research team” is an expansion of the peer-mentoring system, where first-year undergraduates work on a “research team” led by a senior undergraduate leader, who serves not only as a senior mentor for the research, but as a first-line resource for guiding the three to four students under their direction. Peers in each team work, study, and present updates on their research as a team to ensure students develop a deep understanding of the issues that underlie their research projects and that they have the ability to articulate their findings. A major key to pulling this together is in the commitment of the undergraduate faculty who work together as the “program team” to provide opportunities for students to take part in lab teams, seminar courses, and community-based outreach efforts. The Neuroscience Program at CMU is a prime example of why the Neuroscience Program-of-the-Year award was created – because it has created an instructional model that adopts the best practices in neuroscience training as well as features the three-tiered team-based approach, a system that is all their own, innovative, successful, and replicable.
Graduate Program of the Year
University of Pennsylvania
The Neuroscience Graduate Group, or the NGG, was founded in 1984 and is part of Biomedical Graduate Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Through the NGG students are empowered to initiate, organize, and participate in educational, professional development, and outreach activities. In addition, through the administration of NGG, a faculty subcommittee maintains and enhances admissions, advising, curricula, finances of NGG, and includes the input of all students to ensure the success of the program and that students have access to an ample variety of resources and opportunities.
One of the main successes of NGG is the Graduate-Led Initiatives and Activities, or GLIA, a student-run organizational group, where the main goal is to “facilitate and encourage a multifaceted neuroscience doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania by promoting participation, advancement, and recognition of neuroscience graduate students.” GLIA is the main oversight committee for over 15 different student-run activities and has become a model for other student-led initiatives in other graduate groups at UPenn. The framework that GLIA provides offers any NGG student the opportunity to initiate new activities as well as to maintain and sustain current activities, such as recurring professional development seminars, workshops on scientific writing and analysis techniques, and bringing non-UPenn faculty to present their work and meet with NGG students. One of the strongest attributes of GLIA and the NGG student body is the dedication to neuroscience education and outreach. Some examples of this outreach include Kids Judge, an annual neuroscience fair for local elementary and middle school children where NGG graduate students and undergraduates demonstrate various neuroscience topics, and working with area Upward Bound programs from the U.S. Department of Education where inner-city high school students are taught by NGG students. The NGG not only provides students with intensive training necessary for a successful biomedical career, but also empowers students to expand their professional development and communicate the value of neuroscience beyond the ivory tower.