This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
Founded as an Institute within the University of Puerto Rico in 1967 by the renowned neuroscientist JosÃ© del Castillo, the Institute of Neurobiology (INB) was established with the goal of using simple organisms to understand neural structure and function. UPR is a major minority-serving institution, and the INB graduate student population is predominantly Hispanic. The focus on Poikliothermic model systems holds new significance in furthering the understanding of the impact of climate change (seawater temperature, salinity, etc.) on ecosystems. The institution is focusing on simple organisms, and common interests such as neural plasticity, temperature adaptation, and signaling molecules. Funds are provided to correct significant deficiencies including 1) an antiquated air conditioning system and 2) an obsolete network cyberinfrastructure. The rejuvenation of the INB will significantly improve ongoing and planned research opportunities and create new opportunities for collaborative research. The renovations will have immediate broader impacts including: 1) significant benefit to the minority student body served by the University of Puerto Rico; 2) an innovative approach to "ecological neurobiology" that will provide the first wave of researchers equipped to deal with the emerging and important issues of global climate change; 3) the establishment of a Neurobiology Education Center that will serve to educate teachers, children and the public about the study of neuroscience, and the special relevance of these studies to Puerto Rico's tropical ecosystem.
Our NSF-funded renovation project was designed to significantly improve the capabilities of the Institute of Neurobiology, a research and education facility founded in 1967, and administratively a part of the Medical Sciences Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The funds were used to significantly improve the HVAC facilities at the Institute, increasing our energy efficiency. In addition, we were able to make improvements to our laboratory space, including the completion of a visiting scientist laboratory, and improving our internet capabilities. Perhaps most importantly, we were able to use these NSF funded improvements to our facility to subsequently attract major funding from a number of sources that required the Institute to be physically sound and up-to-date. These additional grants included a $5,000,000 NSF-funded CREST award, with which we established the Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience, and a $12,000,000 COBRE award from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Puerto Rico Center for Neuroplasticity. Our growth as an environmental research and training facility has been enhanced by our ability to use a portion of the CREST award to drill a well 200 feet deep that will allow us to provide running seawater to our marine facility. Finally, we have succeeded in the ARRA goal of stimulating employment. In addition to the hiring of the entire construction team, the CREST and COBRE awards have allowed us to hire administrative staff and provide stipends for students and salary support for faculty, contributing to the federal economic recovery. None of this growth would have been possible without the NSF renovation grant. The Institute for Neurobiology is now a viable research and education building, enhancing our ability to develop a dynamic research program of global import, and provide training to the minority population served by the University of Puerto Rico.