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Outreach between the Washington University brain science community and the Saint Louis Science Center


Since its inception in 2008, CCSN Outreach has trained 5 cohorts of graduate students to communicate their brain science research to the public. The centerpiece of this effort is the Amazing Brain Carnival (ABC). In 2012, 11 graduate students from three programs (Neuroscience, Psychology and Biomedical Engineering) each created public demonstrations. The students were challenged to create hands-on activities that illustrated the concepts of neuroscience while allowing the students to discuss their cutting edge research. These included demonstrations on vision, attention, personality, electrical signaling, synaptic plasticity, brain controlled interfaces and hearing loss. Over ~10 hours in workshops and project building, each student created and mastered their 4-minute presentation for the public. ABC 2012 showcased at the St. Louis Science Center on two occasions to an estimate 1300 visitors.

The graduate students cite the experience as helping them think about their research goals, placing their research in the larger contexts of brain science and public interest, and providing them valuable communication skills. Some ABC students continue their involvement in neuroscience outreach. From the over 35 graduates from the program in the past 5 years, some elect to return each year to present to the public at NeuroDay and SciFest at the St. Louis Science Center and help train high school students for the National Brain Bee competition hosted by the St. Louis Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.

This IGERT-sponsored program has grown to be a self-sustaining outreach. With funds from the SFN and local foundations, ABC has its largest cohort of students ever, an infrastructure that efficiently trains students and provides them with the opportunities to communicate their science to the public, and delivers a high quality product that is extremely popular at the local Science Center. ABC has been featured on local radio, online news, and in a peer-reviewed publication.

Address Goals

Our outreach program provides critical training for our graduate students to become facile at communication to the public, providing critical skills for their success in communicating their work as independent scientists. The outreach also provides an important service to the children and adults of the St. Louis community, bringing a human connection to cutting-edge brain science.