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Education Fuels Hope
Summer Students and Scholars Shined Brightly in 2022
Each summer the Burke Neurological Institute (BNI) welcomes promising undergraduate and high school students with bright futures in the field of neuroscience to its campus. Educating, training, and nurturing the next generation of talented scientists is a high priority for the Institute. Drs. Dianna E. Willis and Vibhu Sahni, co-directors of the BNI Education Program, are engaging these young neuroscientists and hoping to instill in them a love of scientific enquiry by establishing immersive on campus and remote educational programs for high school and college students.
Dr. Raj Ratan, CEO and Burke Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine, reinforced BNI’s commitment to the future, saying “It is an obligation and our great privilege to touch the lives of these young students, sharing our passionate drive to develop treatments that will repair the brain and spinal cord.”
The BNI Education Program offers world class education opportunities for students at various stages of their scientific education through several programs, including: the Introduction to Neuroscience Course, NeuroAcademy, the Summer Science Scholars Program, and student research volunteers. BNI proudly awards scholarships to ensure access for all students regardless of economic and social barriers.
New for 2022, the NeuroAcademy summer enrichment course introduced 15 eager high school students to the fundamentals of biological based neuroscience at the molecular and cellular levels in three intensive modules: Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cell Biology of the Nervous System, and Computation Biology in Basic and Clinical Research. Over 5-weeks modern laboratory techniques were explored through hands-on experimentation, while developing the critical thinking skills needed to perform rigorous, hypothesis-based research.
Summer Science Scholars
Started at BNI in 2014, the Summer Science Scholars Program attracts students from the best universities in the United States. In 2022, nine exceptionally qualified undergraduate students from an applicant pool of nearly 100 students were selected to take part in the stipend-supported Summer Science Scholars Program. For 10-weeks, the Class of 2022 was mentored in laboratory-based research projects related to the repair and restoration of the nervous system focused on chronic neurological issues caused by strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Scholars attended weekly student-focused seminars given by BNI faculty to provoke discussions about specific topics in neurobiology and neurorepair as well as career development in biomedical research. Undergraduates also attended BNI’s weekly seminar series, where invited world leaders in neuroscience presented their research.
In addition to our Summer Scholars, BNI also welcomed highly motivated high school and undergraduate students to volunteer in our laboratories over the summer. BNI has a long history of welcoming students as volunteers, providing these students an opportunity to receive one-on-one mentorship while working in a state-of-the-art BNI research lab.
Scientific Poster Session
On Friday, August 12th, our summer research students, consisting of our Summer Science Scholars as well as student research volunteers, presented their findings from their mentor-led research projects at the BNI’s annual Scientific Poster Session. Faculty, board members, alumni, family members, friends, and community members of the Institute were invited to listen to brief research talks from a select group of our summer students, followed by an interactive poster session. Posters were judged by an expert panel of BNI Postdoctoral Fellows and Instructors, with a prize being awarded to the best overall poster presentation. Developing the skills necessary to convey research results to a broad audience is a critical component of the summer program.
Faculty mentors of the Institute wish to thank and congratulate all summer session participants of NeuroAcademy, Summer Science Scholars and the summer research volunteers for their hard work, achievements and contributions made during the summer months. We hope that their enthusiasm for science and research continues to be nurtured as they advance their educational studies this fall.
On September 20th, BNI gave a warm welcome to the newest class of high school students enrolled in the Introduction to Neuroscience Fall 2022 evening course.
Young Scholars Are Achieving Success
As mentored students advance in their studies, we continue to see the success of how the BNI Education Program is opening doors for future opportunities in the field of neuroscience and biomedicine in preparation for college-, doctoral-, and medical-level curriculums at institutions beyond BNI. We are proud of the success of each of our young scholars and are also very grateful for the efforts and contributions that Drs. Dianna E. Willis and Vibhu Sahni have given to develop and steer our Educational Programs.
Help Us Increase Access to Neuroscience Education
BNI proudly awards scholarships to ensure access for all students regardless of economic and social barriers. We are especially interested in working with students who are traditionally sidelined due to race, ethnicity, and disability. Additional scholarship and programmatic support are needed to expand these successful programs.
Summer Science Scholars - Class of 2022
A rising junior at Cornell University
Poster Title: Kinematic Assessments of Upper Limb Movements
Mentors: Tomoko Kitago, M.D., Shivakeshavan (Shiva) Ratnadurai-Giridharan, Ph.D.
A rising senior at Brown University
Poster Title: Minimum Conditioning Electrical Stimulation to Enhance Peripheral Nerve Functional Recovery
Mentors: Edmund R. Hollis II, Ph.D., Juan Sebastián Jara, Ph.D.
A rising senior at University of Massachusetts Lowell
Poster Title: KGDHC as a Hub of Plasticity in Neurodegeneration and Regeneration
Mentors: Gary E. Gibson, Ph.D.
A rising senior at Amherst College
Poster Title: NeuroCuresNY: A Clinical Trials Platform to Find Treatments for Chronic Neurological Disability
Mentors: Tomoko Kitago, M.D.
A rising junior at the College of Wooster
Poster Title: An Optogenetic Approach to Modulate a Bypass Motor Circuit Following Incomplete SCI
Mentors: Yutaka Yoshida, Ph.D., Fumiyasu Imai, Ph.D., Alzahraa Amer, Ph.D., John Kalambogias, Ph.D.
A rising sophomore at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor
Poster Title: Anatomical and Functional Changes in Inhibitory Spinal Motor Circuits in a Preclinical Model of Traumatic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury in Mice
Mentors: Yutaka Yoshida, Ph.D., Alzahraa Amer, Ph.D.
A rising junior Colby College
Poster Title: Using RNAscope to Validate RNA Axonal Localizing Elements
Mentors: Dianna E. Willis, Ph.D., Wilfredo Mellado, Ph.D.
A rising junior at the College of the Holy Cross
Poster Title: Disruption of Wnt/PCP Signaling in Astrocytes Limits Functional Recovery After SCI
Mentors: Edmund R. Hollis II, Ph.D., Ana Vivinetto, Ph.D.
A rising senior at Amherst College
Poster Title: Impact of Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy on Motor Map Size in Unilateral Cerebral Palsy
Mentors: Kathleen M. Friel, Ph.D., Shivakeshavan Ratnadurai-Giridharan, Ph.D., Devina Kumar, Ph.D., M.Sc., P.T.
Summer Research Volunteers – Summer 2022
A rising senior at The Masters School
Poster Title: Examining the Effect of Ferroptosis Inhibitors on Sarmoptosis
Mentors: Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D., Ph.D., Ian Chambers, Ph.D.
A rising senior at Ardsley High School
Poster Title: Validation of a new Animal Model of GDAP-1-Related Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy
Mentors: Dianna E. Willis, Ph.D.
A rising junior at Yorktown High School
Poster Title: Visualizing Postsynaptic Structures in Red Nucleus Neurons using PSD95-mCherry Fusion Protein
Mentors: Yutaka Yoshida, Ph.D., Fumiyasu Imai, Ph.D.
A rising senior at Westlake High School
Poster Title: EphA4 Signaling Acts as an Inhibitor of Axon Regeneration Following Injury
Mentors: Edmund R. Hollis II, Ph.D., Nadjat Serradji, Ph.D.