Professor leading undergrad neuroscience research
by Staff Writer
English majors don’t just talk about books – they read them. Music majors don’t just talk about instruments – they play them. In Davidson College Dickson Professor of Psychology Julio Ramirez’s classroom, neuroscience students don’t just talk about the brain – they design experiments and perform unique research on it.
The Society for Neuroscience honored Ramirez at its November meeting as the first-ever undergraduate educator to receive the society’s Award for Education.
Ramirez and a few colleagues founded Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience in 1991 when they saw undergraduate neuroscience growing and professors needing a home.
“What used to be just a province of graduate institutions became more and more integrated into undergraduate curricula nationally,” Ramirez said.
Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience recognized Ramirez as a Distinguished Mentor this year, and President Barack Obama presented Ramirez with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in January.
As founding president of Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience and a leader in facilitating research in neuroscience at the undergraduate level, Ramirez said this recognition from the Society for Neuroscience represents progress toward further inclusion of undergraduate neuroscience education.
“It was a really neat recognition, a wonderful recognition of the fact that undergraduate neuroscience educators are making a significant contribution to the health and well-being of the field of neuroscience,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez and his students’ research focuses on the entorhinal cortex and its contributions to learning and memory. Senior Malcolm Moses-Hampton presented his research on the reorganization of the brain after an injury and how that affects memory at Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience’s November meeting.
Ramirez calls his integration of teaching and research “tearching,” a concept he’s been working to promote to colleges and universities around the country.
“I felt it was the best way of educating our students in the neurosciences – getting them involved in original research as early as possible,” Ramirez said. “At Davidson we’ve been involved in that educational approach for well over two decades now, and we’ve been promoting that educational approach nationally.”