Students and teachers from all over New Mexico, including San Juan College the pueblos of Zia and Jemez, will attend the second annual Building Diversity in Neuroscience workshop at UNM April 13-15 on The University of New Mexico campus.
Mubarak Hussain Syed, assistant professor of Biology at UNM and head of the Syed Neural Diversity Lab, hosts the workshop for local high school students as part of his Pueblo Brain Science project in the PA. The event will be held in the PAÍS building.
The three-day workshop will be led by Syed and his colleague and co-organizer Matthew Clark, assistant professor of Biology at Bucknell University. Workshop instructors are coming from New York University, University of Michigan, University of California, Santa Barbara, and New Mexico. Participants are teachers, students and UNM undergrads who will explore opportunities in neuroscience data science, and other STEM fields.
“This year will be live sessions of experiments related to neuroscience. Mostly the sessions will be dealing with fruit flies and using 3D printed tools, PiVR, and ethoscopes to monitor their behavior. Also, we will demo how fruit fly behavior can be modulated and regulated by shining light on their neurons. There will be lab tours,” Syed noted. “After morning discussions, afternoon demos include fly pushing, larval wrangling, confocal microscopy scans, dissection, optogenetics, connectomics and assaying fruit fly behaviors. This year we have world class neuroscientists Budha Chowdury, Vanesa Puñal, and Durafshan Sakeena Syed. We are excited to have Professor Veronica Evans from San Juan Community College as our keynote speaker this year. Thanks to all these excellent scientists and teachers for travelling to the UNM, training and inspiring our students.”
“This workshop uses fruit flies, open neuroscience, and DIY 3-D printed tools to raise awareness about neuroscience, neuro-technology, data, and behavior analysis and contains hands-on activities to assay and analyze fruit fly behaviors. This year there will be additional modules such as Fly Fight Club, grooming and locomotion,” Syed explained, adding, “Over the years, we aim to equip local schools to implement the modules in their classroom and engage students in discovery-based learning.”
This year’s workshop is partially funded through ECURE, NSF, and, Syed noted, “I was recently giving a seminar at the University of Montana and a student in the audience donated some dollars, which I appreciate a lot!”
A prestigious NSF CAREER award allows Syed to pursue his passions of understanding brain development and function, mentoring students, and science outreach. Syed, a neuroscientist, is interested in the development and function of neurons, glia (other cell types in the human brain), and neural circuits. His UNM lab studies developmental programs regulating neural diversity and function.
The Pueblo Brain Science project aims to improve science education and promote diversity in neuroscience by training and mentoring a diverse population of school kids, undergraduate researchers, and high school teachers, Syed explained, and strives to train and equip high school teachers to implement active learning modules and lessons aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
Sayed also plans to help teachers perform original research in the classroom and build mentoring and teaching networks to diversify STEM, in particular neuroscience.
“I want to have a long-term impact on science and education in the local Pueblo communities and excite and train undergrads in the neuroscience field,” he remarked. Syed hopes the workshop will get students motivated to explore neuroscience research, as well as train teachers about using fruit flies in their classrooms.
The program already has a track record of successfully recruiting students into the neuroscience field, Syed said. One high school student from last year’s workshop volunteered in Syed’s lab to conduct summer research. Three undergrads got into research, one is in a URISE fellowship, and another undergrad is working in Syed’s lab as a research assistant. One student has graduated and is now teaching. Last year, one of the K-12 STEM teachers Jennifer Nilvo and her students from School of Dreams Academy in Los Lunas attended the workshop and Syed is now advising them on starting a small fly lab in their school.