NeuroLab M3 is a comprehensive research education program that carefully guides high school students through an interrelated series of in-depth, interdisciplinary, and discovery-based explorations of scientific models, model organisms, and model systems in developmental neuroscience. Supported by a broad and inclusive professional partnership network consisting of top-flight biomedical research scientists, neuroinformaticians, and educational media and science communication experts, the program delineates a coherent and thoughtfully conceived learning progression that engages students in core scientific practices within and among distinct but interrelated research-based learning environments. Immersive residential research institutes in comparative functional genomics will engage 150 high school students in a complete and integrated scientific workflow that provides novel opportunities for them to expand the repertoire of tools that are currently available for scientists to investigate fundamental aspects of neural development, including neuronal specification and axon pathfinding. Through our collaboration with the Neuroscience Information Framework, a broad-scale neuroinformatics and resource access initiative enabled by the NIH Blueprint, the NeuroLab M3 program also presents new opportunities for students to meaningfully partake in the practices of data sharing, management, annotation, and analytics. More specifically, in addition to generating authentic and novel scientific data that is of practicl value to the biomedical research community, students will disseminate their findings through a public-access image resource database that is jointly maintained by the American Society for Cell Biology and the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research. Residential research experiences hosted at our harbor-based learning laboratory will constitute part of a student learning progression that culminates in 8-week university research internships offered through a regional network of biomedical partner laboratories at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles, California Institute of Technology, UC Irvine, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, UC, San Diego, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Collectively, these experiences are intended to stimulate and bolster interest in biomedical career pathways, foster realistic career expectations, cultivate an understanding of crosscutting concepts and core scientific practices, and enhance science process skills. A third project component seeks to achieve many of these outcomes by engaging large numbers of teachers and students in the use of an innovative, game-based learning interactive that leads them through the basic to applied research continuum and into visually compelling explorations of the scientific model-building enterprise. Developed in collaboration with NSF award-winning gaming experts, this public-access resource will employ an embedded suite of cutting-edge assessment metrics, data tracking tools, and other analytics to evaluate how students collect, analyze, assimilate, and apply new knowledge to complete interactive missions organized around basic neuroscience research and current models of axon pathfinding.
(prepared by applicant): The NeuroLabM3 program will create novel and exciting opportunities for high school students and teachers to explore the interrelationships among scientific models, model organisms and model systems and their relevance to important health science advances that emerge from NIH-funded research. Emphasis will be placed upon a comprehensive analysis/deconstruction of primary research underlying current models of nervous system assembly and connectivity, and how defects in these basic biological processes relate to spinal cord injury, neuromuscular disorders, learning and memory deficits, and even certain types of cancer. Importantly, through their participation in the project, students will generate, annotate, and disseminate authentic scientific data that will directly benefit biomedical research and studies of nervous system development during embryogenesis.