Neuroscience Outreach

1. Integration of lecture materials with active discussion of research article

Prof. Chung delivers MCB461 / Neur461 (Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology)(http://www.life.illinois.edu/mcb/461/) as a core neuroscience course for upper undergraduate and graduate students.  This course is designed to promote the students’ understanding of lecture materials by promoting active discussion of hypothesis-driven scientific research that became their basis, or investigated the pathogenesis of neurologic disorders. The first 2 lectures of each week covered an in-depth fundamental knowledge on cellular and molecular neurobiology. In the last lecture of each week, a landmark scientific literature was discussed with the students.

2. Involvement of undergraduate students to neuroscience research

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 participates in the following outreach.

Undergraduate research in Chung Lab

A total of 11 undergraduate students of all levels from the University of Illinois (including 3 women, 3 international students) have been trained or are currently being trained in Chung lab for MCB290 (Independent research) and MCB492 (senior thesis). Four students had graduated in 2012 and 2013 with distinction or highest distinction and  received prestigious awards from the University including “Protor and Gamble Award”, “C. Ladd Prosser Outstanding Achievement Award” and “Howard S. Ducoff Prize for the Best Senior Thesis Awards”. Most of them are currently in medical, pharmacology, or graduate schools, or working as researchers in academia and company. Chung lab plans to recruit minority students through the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SORP) and the Ronald E. McNair program at the University.

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.

3. 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.

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

About thirty K-12 students in under-served / economically disadvantaged neighborhood have visited Chung lab. Prof. Chung and lab members have organized interactive power point presentations about the nervous system and help the students engage microscopy of living neurons.  Chung lab will continue to participate in this event once a year.

“Brain Awareness Day” 

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

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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 with microscope images and cartoons of ion channels in the neurons firing action potentials. 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. With a strong support from I-STEM program of the University (http://www.istem.illinois.edu), 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.