How would scientists go about encouraging interest in their field and educating the public about science? Members of the Louisville chapter of the Society for Neuroscience found more than 30 ways to accomplish that goal, developing interactive exhibits at the Kentucky Science Center, speaking about scientific topics at public events and organizing seminars to encourage K-12 students’ interest in science and more.
For their work, the Louisville group was named the 2017 chapter of the year by the National Society for Neuroscience earlier this month at the organization’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.
The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians in more than 90 countries who study the brain and nervous system. The Louisville SfN chapter includes nearly 300 members, about 280 of whom are faculty, staff and students at the University of Louisville. Members also represent Bellarmine University, Morehead State University and Northern Kentucky University.
The SfN presents its Chapter-of-the-Year Award in recognition of a chapter’s accomplishments in outreach to the public, providing neuroscience resources for K-12 education and advocacy for issues related to research and science.
The Louisville chapter organized or participated in more than 30 events between June 2016 and July 2017 related to this mission. Members hosted 25 minority high school students interested in health professions for a tour at UofL, held a seminar to encourage middle school girls’ interest in STEM-related careers, developed “Brain Days: An Interactive Neuroscience Experience” at the Kentucky Science Center, and helped organize the local March for Science in Louisville. The club estimates that through these and other events, 171 volunteers helped educate more than 5,000 people about the field of neuroscience.
In addition to the chapter award, the group’s outgoing president, Kristofer K. Rau, PhD, earned the organization’s Next Generation Award for junior faculty for his efforts to share neuroscience with the public through communication, education and outreach activities. Rau, a senior research associate in the UofL Department of Anesthesiology, spearheaded community outreach efforts for SfN’s Louisville chapter designed to increase science education and literacy focused on nervous system function and careers in neuroscience research. Rau helped to establish adult education programs, initiated neuroscience awards at regional science fairs, and prepared materials and mobilized volunteers for a walk to end multiple sclerosis.
The Louisville SfN chapter will receive $3,000 for the two awards.