In the decades ahead, demographic trends suggest that the sheer number of older adults will increase, and they will make up a larger proportion of the overall population. Consequently, we will need an expanding cadre of scientists and professionals specifically trained to generate new knowledge about aging and best practices for providing services for older adults. To address this need, we will conduct an eight-week Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Aging and Neurologic Diseases at the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University. The program will 1) provide undergraduate students with an intensive experience that exposes them to the full continuum of research activities and teaches them generalizable research skills, and 2) frame the research training in the context of aging and neurological disorders that are common across the lifespan, particularly in later life. These two goals address the need to cultivate the next cohort of researchers while at the same time addressing the urgent workforce shortage of scientists and scholars familiar with the issues of an aging society. Up to 10 undergraduate students each year will be matched with an individual faculty member whose research focuses on one of three neurological conditions (stroke, Parkinson's disease, and dementia) or who conducts research on interventions that are relevant for individuals with these conditions (e.g., home modifications, increasing re- engagement in valued activities). Students will also gather for weekly seminars that will expose them to a multidisciplinary perspective on aging and older adults, teach them introductory research skills, foster an understanding of the research process and its implications, and encourage their professional growth and momentum toward further training. With this program we aim to recruit and engage trainees from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, which reflect the multidisciplinary approach necessary to advance research on the prevention and treatment of neurologic disorders among older adults and nurture their interest in pursuing academic and professional opportunities in the sciences and research.
The proposed Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Aging and Neurologic Diseases will recruit students with diverse backgrounds and disciplinary interests for an eight-week introduction to research on the prevention and treatment of neurologic disorders among older adults. Students will participate in lectures, activity-based learning, and skill building exercises, all in the context of three age-related neurologic conditions (stroke, Parkinson's disease, and dementia). In addition, students will be matched with faculty researchers to gain hands-on experience and mentoring in the research enterprise. Finally, students will take part in professional development activities to enhance their confidence and competence for advanced training.