“Communicating science is not just the noble thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said adolescent brain expert Jay Giedd, M.D., at Saturday’s annual Brain Awareness Week reception at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting. Dr. Giedd, below, the recipient of SfN’s Science Educator Award in 2012, was alluding to the fact that in order for the public to want to invest in brain research, they have to be able to understand its benefits.
The importance of public outreach is a resounding theme within the Brain Awareness Week community, and the audience at the reception was surely in agreement with Giedd’s statement. He further advocated communicating early and often, by going into classrooms and engaging with young students, explaining that kids ask the best (and sometimes difficult) questions. A child once asked him: If Einstein’s brain was moved into another man’s head, which person is Einstein? (Feel free to answer that one in the comments section below.)
Certainly some shining examples of future neuroscientists were two teenagers presenting posters at the reception. Adam Elliott, a junior from Matawan Regional High School in New Jersey, is this year’s National Brain Bee winner (he was announced as the winner in March, when he was a sophomore). SfN is sponsoring an eight-week summer internship at the lab of Elliott’s choice, and he is investigating a lab at Harvard where he could study plasticity or memory-making mechanisms. After graduation, he hopes to continue his studies at Harvard, possibly in the primate lab.
Hasna Rizwan, a 14-year-old homeschooled student in the tenth grade, planned her first Brain Awareness Week event last year (when she was 13!) at the Ashburn Library in Virginia. The Brain Awareness Day featured two scientist presentations and hands-on activities, and drew more than 150 people. She is working with members of the library to expand next year’s program and has already enlisted the help of several organizations.
There were many other wonderful examples of Brain Awareness Week programs on display at the reception, and ample time for people to mingle and share ideas.
Brain Awareness Week 2015 will take place March 16-22. Visit our website to learn more about the campaign and how to participate!
–Ann L. Whitman