Mentoring undergraduate students in neuroscience research: a model system at baldwin-wallace college.


As neuroscience research and discovery undergoes phenomenal growth worldwide, undergraduate students are seeking complete laboratory experiences that go beyond the classic classroom curriculum and provide mentoring in all aspects of science. Stock, in-class, laboratory experiences with known outcomes are less desirable than discovery-based projects in which students become full partners with faculty in the design, conduct and documentation of experiments that find their way into the peer-reviewed literature. The challenges of providing such experiences in the context of a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) can be daunting. Faculty teaching loads are high, and student time is spread over a variety of courses and co-curricular activities. In this context, undergraduates are often reluctant, or ill equipped, to take individual initiative to generate and perform empirical studies. They are more likely to become involved in a sustained, faculty-initiated research program. This paper describes such a program at Baldwin-Wallace College. Students frequently start their laboratory activities in the freshman or sophomore year and enter into a system of faculty and peer mentoring that leads them to experience all aspects of the research enterprise. Students begin with learning basic laboratory tasks and may eventually achieve the status of "Senior Laboratory Associate" (SLA). SLAs become involved in laboratory management, training of less-experienced students, manuscript preparation, and grant proposal writing. The system described here provides a structured, but encouraging, community in which talented undergraduates can develop and mature as they are mentored in the context of a modern neuroscience laboratory. Retention is very good - as most students continue their work in the laboratory for 2-3 years. Student self-reports regarding their growth and satisfaction with the experiences in the laboratory have been excellent and our neuroscience students' acceptance rate in graduate, medical and veterinary schools has been well above the College average. The system also fosters faculty productivity and satisfaction in the context of the typical challenges of conducting research at a PUI.

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@article{Mickley2003MentoringUS, title={Mentoring undergraduate students in neuroscience research: a model system at baldwin-wallace college.}, author={G. Andrew Mickley and Cynthia L Kenmuir and Dawn R Remmers-Roeber}, journal={Journal of undergraduate neuroscience education : JUNE : a publication of FUN, Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience}, year={2003}, volume={1 2}, pages={A28-35} }