This is the third in a series of Brain Awareness Week partner interviews, in which partners share their BAW experiences and tips for planning successful events. Michael A. Burman, Ph.D., is a an associate professor at the University of New England in Maine, the K-12 outreach coordinator at its Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, and also a member of the Dana Alliance.
Through the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences (CEN) at the University of New England, you regularly work with students in grades K-12 to encourage interest in STEM disciplines. How do you expand this effort during Brain Awareness Week (BAW)?
This is a great question. We really like doing outreach work. We think it’s important for both local K-12 students’ STEM education and for the long-term viability of our programs. Public support is critical for science and reaching out to the public helps raise awareness of the great things going on at the University of New England (UNE). However, Brain Awareness Week typically falls over our spring break, which makes staffing events somewhat challenging. Thus, we’ve adopted a two-fold approach. First, we engage in year-round outreach. Our 45-50 volunteers make an average of two visits a week to local schools throughout our academic year. These visits can range from a single classroom to seeing an entire 1,400 student school over the course of a day or two. This is really our “bread and butter.” We reached over 4,000 students last year in this way.