The SMART-MIND project (Summer Mentoring and Research Training: Methods in Neuroscience of Drug-abuse), to be conducted at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), is directed at enriching the science education and research training of 8 undergraduate students and 2 high school teacher-student teams (TST) with a specific focus on the neuroscience of drug-addiction. The program will provide a high quality experience that combines education, novel research in state-of-the-art facilities, training in bioethics, one-on-one and group mentoring, and training in several relevant professional skills. Participants will be immersed in research projects directed by a group of eight neuroscientists in the departments of biological sciences, psychology and chemistry, who have established and funded collaborations among themselves. The various projects center around biological, behavioral, biochemical and molecular factors that contribute to addiction and the biochemical pathways leading to neurodegeneration, and its effect on other important aspects of the addiction process, such as behavioral plasticity, learning and memory. The program cohort of participants will consist of eight undergraduate students, and two high school teachers-student teams (TST). High school teachers and their students will be recruited from the El Paso Independent School District (EPSID). Four of the undergraduates will be UTEP students majoring in biological sciences, psychology, chemistry or science education. The other four undergraduates will be recruited primarily from El Paso Community College (EPCC) and institutions outside El Paso that are minority-serving or feature demographics with large numbers of underrepresented students. Given the nature of UTEP's location and demographics combined with a carefully planned involvement of participants from other institutions, the intended impact will extend much beyond El Paso. Specifically, this program aims at 1. Enticing and enabling more undergraduate students from UTEP, El Paso Community College (EPCC) and other minority serving institutions to pursue advanced degrees in neuroscience and related fields. 2. Increase the number of high school teachers in the El Paso region with research skills in and knowledge of neuroscience. 3. Increase the number of underrepresented minority high school students pursuing degrees and careers in science.
The shortage of minority representation among scientists that conduct research and education in the broad area of neuroscience is contributing to the lack of role models needed to educate the public and train young students about the biochemical mechanisms regulating the deleterious effects of drug abuse. With addiction to alcohol and drugs being so prevalent among Native Americans and Hispanics, it is imperative that we continue to educate that community The SMART-MIND project (Summer Mentoring and Research Training: Methodologies in Neuroscience of Drug-abuse), to be conducted at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), is directed at enriching the science education and research training of 8 undergraduate students and 2 high school teacher-student teams with a specific focus on the neuroscience of drug- addiction.
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