CIRCUIT summer program: A computational neuroscience outreach experience for high-achieving undergraduates via sponsored research

2018 IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference (ISEC)


Programs that focus on student outreach are often disjoint from sponsored research efforts, despite the mutually beneficial opportunities that are possible with a combined approach. We designed and piloted a program to simultaneously meet the needs of underserved students and a large-scale sponsored research goal. Our program trained undergraduates to produce neuron maps for a major connectomics effort (i.e., single synapse brain maps), while providing these students with the resources and mentors to conduct novel research. Students were recruited from Johns Hopkins University to participate in a ten-week summer program. These students were trained in computational research, scientific communication skills and methods to map electron microscopy volumes. The students also had regular exposure to mentors and opportunities for guided, small group, independent discovery. A Learning-for-Use model was leveraged to provide the students with the tools, skills, and knowledge to pursue their research questions, while an Affinity Research Group model was adapted to provide students with mentorship in conducting cutting-edge research. A focus was placed on recruiting students who had limited opportunities and access to similar experiences. Program metrics demonstrated a substantial increase in knowledge (e.g., neuroscience, graph theory, machine learning, and scientific communication), while students also showed an overall increase in awareness and responsiveness to computational research after the program. Ultimately, the program positively impacted students' career choices and research readiness, and successfully achieved sponsor goals in a compact timeframe. This framework for combining outreach with sponsored research can be broadly leveraged for other programs across domains.


@inproceedingsEncarnacion_2018 doi: 10.1109/isecon.2018.8340503 url: year: 2018 month: mar publisher: IEEE author: Encarnacion Marysol and Bishop Caitlyn and Downs Joseph and Drenkow Nathan and Matelsky Jordan K and Rivlin Patricia K and Wester Brock and Gray-Roncal William title: CIRCUIT summer program: A computational neuroscience outreach experience for high-achieving undergraduates via sponsored research booktitle: 2018 IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference (ISEC)

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