Published: Aug. 20, 2014

MSU students receive national Next Generation Award

Three Michigan State University graduate neuroscience students in the College of Natural Science have been awarded the Society of Neuroscience's 2014 Next Generation Award.

Eileen Rodriguez-Tapia, Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez and Chelsea Tiernan have developed a “Bridge to Neuroscience Workshop” in Puerto Rico for high school students that is designed to increase awareness of the field as a discipline and career option. Currently, Hispanics are considered an underrepresented population in this area of study.

The intensive one-day workshop includes hands-on experimentation, along with supplemental instruction and accompanying handouts that introduce neuroscience to younger participants and ultimately can serve as a recruitment tool for the university-level “Bridge Program in Neuroscience” in Puerto Rico.

Collectively, all three students played essential roles in the development of materials and exercises and also contributed to the presentation and overall assessment of the workshop. Yet, each also played important individual roles as well. Tiernan developed the workshop platform and obtained funding for the program. Rodríguez-Tapia was instrumental in recruiting students and their teachers, while Colón-Rodríguez oversaw the completion of the workbook which included the translation of materials into Spanish.

The original "Bridge to Neuroscience" program was developed by William Atchison, an MSU neuroscience professor, in 2008 to prepare undergraduate Hispanic students within universities for admission into neuroscience graduate programs. The high school workshop is now an integral part of this initiative.

"The workshop developed by these graduate students serves as an excellent example of the importance of educational outreach," said Tom Fischer, the Michigan Chapter representative of the Society of Neuroscience. "The students identified a need to reach a younger population at an important formative time in their academic progression and bring more awareness of neuroscience to them as a valid and attainable career choice. We are very proud of them."

The MSU students will be recognized at the society's annual meeting in November.