Society for Neuroscience Presents the Science Education and Outreach Awards
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present John Pollock, PhD; Nancy Michael, PhD; Taissa Lytchenko; and Brian Lim, with this year’s Science Education and Outreach Awards, comprising the Science Educator and the Next Generation Awards. The awards will be presented during SfN’s Awards Announcement Week 2020.
“The Society is honored to recognize this year’s winners, whose efforts to inspire students of all ages, as well as adults and the general public, reflect a passion and enthusiasm for STEM outreach and health literacy,” SfN President Barry Everitt, PhD said. “In addition to conducting their own research in neuroscience, they have found creative ways to reach out to the larger community, and especially underserved populations, to instill an appreciation for brain science and health.”
Science Educator Award: John Pollock
Pollock, a professor of biological science at Duquesne University, has a long and illustrious history of promoting STEM education and health literacy primarily supported with funds from Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) at the National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) of the NIH, among other federal and foundation grants. As director of the Partnership in Education, Pollock has created an impressive array of educational resources and activities for museums, schools, and public use, including apps, video and board games, museum exhibits, web resources, and dome shows (projected in a planetarium). This comprehensive, decades-long program is complemented with rigorous evaluation and assessment, which has resulted in seven peer-reviewed papers on STEM/health literacy. Pollock has also created a children’s television show called Scientastic!, which has been broadcast on public television stations nationwide and won two Emmy® Awards. Other outreach projects led by Pollock have celebrated Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and involved a multi-year and city-wide partnership with several museums. Separately, Pollock leads a basic science research effort on the neurobiology of pain.
The Science Educator Award is supported by The Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing understanding about the brain in health and disease through research grants and public outreach.
Next Generation Awards: Nancy Michael, Taissa Lytchenko, and Brian Lim
The Next Generation Award honors SfN chapter members who have made outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience. The award is given to an individual at the junior faculty level and an individual or group at the pre/postdoctoral level. The recipients each receive a $300 honorarium and their respective chapters receive a $2,000 chapter grant.
Junior Faculty: Nancy Michael
Michael, the director of undergraduate studies, neuroscience, and behavior at the University of Notre Dame, has developed neuroscience-based materials to meet the needs of undergraduate students, school districts, and community organizations. In the developmental neuroscience course she designed and teaches, students are matched with a community partner serving a vulnerable local population. Throughout the semester, students synthesize course material in the context of their community partner and complete the course by creating a Capstone project that fulfills a need in the community. In addition to her use of community-based learning with Notre Dame undergraduates, Michael has engaged significantly with local schools in topics related to brain health. She has also served as an “ACE Interface master trainer,” teaching juvenile detention officers and staff about how adverse childhood experiences and stress affect the developing brain.
Pre/Postdoctoral: Brian Lim and Taissa Lytchenko
Lim, a doctoral student in neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, also co-leads BrainSTEM, an outreach organization that seeks to make neuroscience accessible to all. The group engages on a weekly basis year-round with students and teachers at into three underserved middle and high schools in the Houston area; their unique model of experiential learning helps underrepresented minority students develop critical thinking skills and enthusiasm for science and guides them to pursue STEM majors and careers. Lim has developed or significantly shaped 30 hands-on neuroscience lessons, freely available on BrainSTEM’s website, on topics such as sensory perception, electrophysiology, genetics, and neuroanatomy. Lim is also spearheading the development of a BrainSTEM handbook to share the group’s expertise with classroom teachers and outreach-minded scientists alike. In addition to directing curriculum development and pedagogy, he has contributed to the backend operations and logistics of BrainSTEM and serves as a mentor to undergraduates who volunteer for the program. As he graduates and goes on in his neuroscience career, Lim hopes other programs will copy the BrainSTEM model and adapt it to their own local context, in order to make the neuroscience community more diverse and inclusive.
Lytchenko, while pursuing her doctorate in cognitive and brain science at the University of Nevada, Reno, has also provided leadership, mentorship, and creative energy for Brain Awareness outreach events. Under Lytchenko’s active engagement, the program is busy year-round, providing programs for summer camps for K-12 students, running workshops for teachers and STEM fairs for elementary and middle schools, and visiting juvenile detention centers as well as adult jails. She took leadership of a graduate student neuroscience club and expanded it to have a full membership base, which serves as a pool for volunteers for the events. In addition to conventional outreach presentations, Lytchenko has been deeply involved in the fledgling “Frontiers for Young Minds” science reviewer project, taking research articles rewritten for grade school-age children and overseeing the “peer” review with the students. Lytchenko has built a strong record of sharing her knowledge of and passion for science, especially with underprivileged children and adults.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.