Neuroscience Outreach

1. Involvement of undergraduate students to neuroscience research

Undergraduate research in Chung Lab

One of the major “outreach” focuses of Chung lab is to involve undergraduate students (especially female and minority students) in independent research and encourage them to have an active career in science. Chung lab actively recruits minority students through the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SORP) and the Ronald E. McNair program at the University. A total of 23 undergraduate students of all levels from the University of Illinois (including 10 female students, 7 international students, 1 minority student) have been trained or are currently being trained in Chung lab for MCB290 or BIOC290 (Independent research) and MCB492 or BIOC492 (senior thesis). Ten students had graduated in 2012 and 2013 with high to highest distinction and/or received prestigious awards from the University including “Protor and Gamble Award”, MIP “C. Ladd Prosser Outstanding Achievement Award”, MIP “Howard S. Ducoff Prize for the Best Senior Thesis Awards”, BIOC “William T. and Lynn Jackson Senior Thesis Award”. Most of them are currently in medical, pharmacology, or graduate schools, or working as researchers.

Illinois Summer Neuroscience Institute (ISNI)

Through the University’s Neuroscience Program, Chung lab has also participated in active discussions with aspiring undergraduate students at ISNI on careers in neuroscience, neuroscience graduate programs, and minority and gender issues. Chung lab will continue to participate in this event once a year.

Phenotypic plasticity Research Experience for Community college Students (PRECS) (http://precs.igb.illinois.edu)

Phenotypic Plasticity Research Experience for Community College Students is an opportunity for 10 community college students to conduct research for 10 weeks during the summer. PRECS is a collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, located in Urbana, IL, and Parkland College, located Champaign, IL.

2. Exposure of P-12 students to neuroscience and research

It is never too early to teach children about neuroscience. Another major “outreach” focuses of Chung lab is to teach neuroscience through fun and interactive ways to the children. Chung lab participates in the following outreach.

“Brain Awareness Day” 

Every year, Chung lab prepares a popular lab booth titled “Build a Neuron” in this wonderful event which is held at the Orpheum Museum and organized by the University’s Neuroscience Program. In our booth, the local K-12 students learn about a neuron from the interactive poster and computer. They also make model neurons with styroform balls (soma), pipe cleaners with 2 different colors and lengths (axons and dendrites), and dry penne pasta (for myelination).

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“Neuroweek”

Prof. Chung organized this one-week long event in March 2013 at a local preschool and kindergarten via a wonderful collaboration with the school’s teachers. Prof. Chung gave short lectures on “Central Nervous System and Neurons” to 5 preschool classes (containing 4-5 yr old students) and in the science class for a kindergarten class (containing 6-7 yr old students) in simplified language. These lectures were followed by the active engagement of the students  in craft activities related to the brain, senses, neuronal morphology, and action potentials. This event received much enthusiasm from the students, teachers, and parents. In near future, Chung lab plans to launch this event in the following years to the local public schools in under-served / economically disadvantaged neighborhood and/or which have at-risk preschools.

“Mentor for Kids” organization (http://www.collegementors.org/)

About thirty K-12 students in under-served / economically disadvantaged neighborhood have visited Chung lab and learned about the nervous system and engaged in microscopy.