Over the 24 year tenure of this grant, Brandeis has built a multi-disciplinary program encompassing faculty in
Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Mathematics and Psychology. We educate students in the full range of
Neuroscience topics from the molecular biology of neuronal non-coding RNAs to the cognitive effects of aging.
Each member of our faculty collaborates with multiple others, and most projects involve several levels of
analysis. Our students are part of an intellectually and spatially integrated neuroscience community. The
resulting cohesion is reflected in every aspect of the program: coursework, rotations, thesis supervision, the
shared availability of advanced instrumentation and the collegiality of interactions.
The breadth of opportunity and interaction at Brandeis and close attention we pay to student progress allows
each student to develop according to her/his individual needs, and results in a low attrition rate. While we are a
relatively small program, over the last five years our program has graduated 18 students (3 of whom were
members of underrepresented minority groups). Our students graduate with excellent credentials and go on to
obtain positions in academia, health-care, government and industry that directly contribute to the NIH mandate
to benefit human health.
Our students enter Neuroscience from a remarkably wide variety of different backgrounds (Psychology,
Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics). A strong
aspect of our program has always been its emphasis on quantitative thinking. Every area of Neuroscience is
increasingly driven by large data sets and all Neuroscientists must be able to at least understand the principles
of their analysis. In this renewal we rethink our approach to quantitative literacy and propose a curricular
reform that will train our students in the fundamentals of quantitation rather than in specific high level methods.
By giving them computational tools and by teaching them to code, all of our students will have a solid
foundation for rigorous research at any level.
The program of course work, rotations, multiple small-group colloquia, proposition exams, and participation in
teaching necessarily consumes the bulk of a student's time during the first two years. They cannot (and we
would not want them to) have their laboratory research as their sole focus prior to their third year at Brandeis.
Therefore, they are not supported on research grants in these first critical years. This training grant provides
crucial funding to support students while they develop a broad set of intellectual skills. There are 22 mentors in
our program and we are requesting funds for 8 trainees.