by Angela Coderre-Ball
May 15th, 2012
In the fall of 2004, the Centre for Neuroscience Studies launched its interdisciplinary graduate program, offering degrees at the Master and Doctoral levels. The graduate program is unique on campus because the centre itself is an internationally recognized team of over 70 basic, clinical and social scientists from the Faculties of Arts and Science, Education and Health Sciences. This means that neuroscience graduate students are themselves located in different departments across campus. Early in that first term in 2004, five neuroscience graduate students (Angela Coderre-Ball, Courtney Green, Rebecca Hakvoort, Meira Louis, and Alisha Hemraj) joined together to create a venue to interact with each other, their departments and the Kingston community. The result of their partnership was the development of a volunteer program called the Neuroscience Outreach Program.
From its inception, the Neuroscience Outreach Program (NOP) has worked to develop long-term, consistent, community-based programs centered on issues related to childhood development, aging, physical rehabilitation and mental health. It is the program's goal to increase awareness in each of these areas through education, friendship and fun. To date, NOP has been running a monthly 'Travel Club' at St. Mary's of the Lake Hospital since 2005, hosted many public lectures on topics of childhood development and disorders, aging and physical rehabilitation, offered science-based education courses to local seniors, hosted and produced a neuroscience talk radio show, welcomed local high school students to Queen's for an 'Addiction Research Day', and run a weekly program for long-term clients of Providence Care’s Mental Health Services.
From the program's earliest days, graduate students have taken a lead role in developing, launching, managing, and fundraising for its many programs.
The Centre for Neuroscience Studies has been a devoted champion of NOP, by continually supporting graduate (and now undergraduate) students in their many outreach endeavors. The Centre for Neuroscience Studies has itself been involved in neuroscience outreach with its long running annual Brain Awareness Day and Brain Bee competition. In 2003, the centre began hosting the largest neuroscience outreach activity on campus, a Brain Awareness Day for local elementary school children. This annual event, headed by Kelly Moore and Lucy Russo-Smith, sees approximately 200 grade six students for an entire day devoted to learning about the nervous system. The elementary students spend the day touring different neuroscience laboratories that have opened their doors and offer engaging activities for the children. Perhaps equally as impressive, the day also draws approximately 100 volunteers from within the neuroscience graduate and undergraduate program, research and support staff as well as neuroscience faculty themselves.
To more efficiently manage the growing number of outreach activities the Neuroscience Outreach Program and the Centre for Neuroscience Studies merged their volunteer bases and management structure in 2010. Graduate and undergraduate neuroscience students are still very much at the centre of all neuroscience outreach activities providing the critical leadership, innovative ideas and manpower. Currently, the executive managing team for NOP meets monthly and consists of about 30 neuroscience students and staff. The Neuroscience Outreach Program (as it is still called) is as committed as ever to providing long-term, consistent and community based programs in order to raise awareness about issues relating to childhood development, aging, physical rehabilitation and mental health.
The Neuroscience Outreach Program has been able to fund its many activities and programs through fundraising, private donations and grants from several different institutions. NOP has received grants from the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen's University, the Society for Neuroscience, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Ontario Research Fund.
For more details on NOP go to the Neuroscience Outreach program pages on the Neuroscience website