REU students spend approximately five hours each week engaged in structured didactic experiences, which include the REU Seminar, Brooklyn College Psychology Department Colloquium, and the REU Journal Club. These lectures and activities are intended to increase students' exposure to and understanding of neuroscience research, create opportunities for students to share research ideas with faculty and peers, and enable students to communicate more effectively about their work.
This weekly 120-minute seminar series developed for REU participants provides:
- an overview of basic principles of neuroscience and special topics in cognitive, behavioral and clinical neuroscience;
- in-depth presentation and discussion of ongoing research projects and methods utilized in the laboratories of core REU faculty; and
- a venue to discuss professional issues and career development.
The overview touches upon the organization of the central nervous system, cellular biology and physiology, sensory and motor systems, brain development/neural plasticity, brain structure-function, chemical control of the brain, and motivation and reward circuitry. As the semester progresses, the focus turns toward in-depth coverage of domain-specific special topics relevant to research conducted in laboratories of core REU faculty and their expertise. Topics and research methods reviewed may include: non-invasive psychophysiological approaches (e.g., electrodermal activity, event-related potential) toward identifying markers for aggressive, antisocial, psychopathic and criminal behavior (Gao Lab; Clinical Neuroscience); neural and cognitive underpinnings of memory and metamemory using functional neuroimaging and eye tracking (Chua Lab; Cognitive Neuroscience); and examination of the biology and psychology of appetite, neuropharmacology of learned flavor preferences, and flavor conditioning by the amino acid glutamate (Sclafani Lab; Behavioral Neuroscience).
The last component of the seminar series highlights professional issues, such as CV preparation, the graduate school application and admissions process, preparation for the GREs, soliciting letters of recommendation, applying for fellowships, interviewing, attending conferences, research writing, American Psychological Association formatting, presentation skills, building relationships with faculty and exploring career paths.
In addition, each week three or four REU participants update faculty and peers about their research activities, new skills learned, progress made toward implementing their study, and any problems or questions that have arisen. Seminar members provide constructive feedback.
Brooklyn College Psychology Department Colloquium
This weekly 60-minute lecture series features distinguished guest speakers from academic institutions throughout the country and addresses myriad current topics in psychology and neuroscience. REU students attend these talks (as well as any neuroscience-related talks in the Department of Biology) along with Brooklyn College faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students. These lectures are followed by an informal reception.
REU Journal Club
REU participants meet weekly for a one-hour journal club led by a Brooklyn College doctoral student. All articles are assigned in advance. REU students voice their views about the studies presented, particularly their thoughts on the appropriateness of the design and data collection procedures, statistical methods employed, interpretation of findings, applied value and generalizability of findings, limitations and possible future directions.
In addition, over the course of the semester each student presents one to two articles. Student peers evaluate the article, debate any controversial issues, and reflect upon the relative merits or limitations of the research. Also, the final 10 to 15 minutes of each week;s journal club is spent discussing the colloquium from the previous week.