Mubarak Hussain Syed, assistant professor of biology at the University of New Mexico and director of the Syed Neural Diversity Lab, welcomes Building diversity in neurosciencea workshop this week for local high school students as part of his Pueblo Brain Science project.
“Pueblo Brain Science is part of the science education and outreach component of my NSF CAREER award. My goal is to visit Pueblo schools and hire and train teachers to implement low-cost neuroscience activities in the classroom. If I get funds from the state or any other generous donor, we can equip every school with the tools and the students can be involved in research in the classrooms,” he explained.
The prestigious NSF CAREER award allows Syed to pursue his passions for understanding brain development and function, student mentoring, and science outreach. Syed, a neuroscientist, is interested in the development and function of neurons, glia (other types of cells in the human brain) and neural circuits. His UNM Laboratory studies developmental programs regulating neural diversity and function. His project, Mechanisms regulating neuronal identity, connectivity and function–From stem cells to circuitswill receive $1.8 million over five years.
The three-day workshop from Thursday to Saturday will be led by Syed and his colleague Matthew Clark, Assistant Professor of Biology at Bucknell University, to enable students to explore neuroscience opportunities in the labs and classrooms of UNM’s Physics and Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Science (PAÍS) building. The workshop will include UNM undergraduates and local high school students and teachers, and a live Zoom demonstration is planned for schools in the Zia and Jemez pueblos.
“These will be live sessions of experiments related to neuroscience. Most of the sessions will deal with fruit flies and use 3D printing PiVR and ethoscopes to monitor their behavior. Furthermore, we will demonstrate how the behavior of fruit flies can be modulated and regulated by illuminating their neurons. We will also record the neural activity of worms and cockroaches. There will also be lab tours on Thursday,” Syed noted. After morning talks, afternoon demonstrations include “fly pushing, larval wrangling, confocal microscopy analyses, dissections…optogenetics, analysis of fruit fly behaviors. .. backyard brains and recording neural activity of worms”.
The Pueblo Brain Science Outreach Project is supported by the NSF and the Grass Foundation. This project aims to improve science education and promote diversity in neuroscience by training and mentoring a diverse population of school children, undergraduate researchers and high school teachers, Syed explained, and strives to train and equip secondary school teachers to implement active learning modules and lessons. in accordance with next-generation scientific standards. A NeuroCURE class is also planned to train 10 undergraduate students.
Syed hopes the workshop will spark student interest in neuroscience research and train teachers to use the fruit fly as a model in their classroom. The goal of the demonstration of 3D printable behavioral tracking equipment is to later integrate it into high school classrooms.
It also plans to help teachers conduct original research in the classroom and create mentoring and teaching networks to diversify STEM, especially neuroscience, he added.
“I want to have a long-term impact on science and education in local Pueblo communities and excite and train undergraduate students in the field of neuroscience. We’ll talk about the brain and behavior, drugs and addiction, since it’s brain weekand diversify neuroscience by engaging and training a diverse force of students at different levels,” he remarked.
Image by Natalia Chmielenko, student at Syed Lab