A Message from Alison Adcock, MD, PhD, Interim Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Dear Brain Sciences Community at Duke,
As I ramped up back-to-school preparations this year my son asked me, “Mom how many people do you think you’ve helped in your job?” Funny he should ask, because this was a year we at DIBS turned a lot of attention to this very question: Who do we help and how do we measure its impact to hone our work?
DIBS has long helped faculty in their work by convening researchers and scholars dispersed across Departments and Schools. Our signature seed funding for innovative research projects ignited faculty collaborations across brain sciences, generating new tools and interventions, and training new generations of scholars.
We are now perfectly positioned to bring the work of our scientists out of the labs to expand access for more scholars, learners, and stakeholders. With a generous new gift from Ron and Beth Ostrow, DIBS is literally bringing our work to light. By showcasing our knowledge on immersive digital media installations and equipping new teams to explore the questions and ideas these images inspire, the new laboratory for brain exploration will ensure Duke neuroscience realizes its full impact on other fields and lives.
In addition to making the Cube a true portal to neuroscience, DIBS is also helping inspire young people to pursue careers in neurosciences in another way: by funding teaching by faculty from clinical departments, like Len White. This year, Dr. White’s impact on student’s lives was honored by a donation that will fund a new undergraduate neuroscience teaching lab. DIBS support for Nicole Schramm-Sapyta’s research mentoring has brought our students directly to the frontlines of today’s crisis in mental health care, as detailed in the Fall 2023 DukeMag special issue Defending the Brain. Ensuring that undergraduates have access to faculty from across Duke is essential for the multiplier effect of these cross-model educational programs.
With a new NIH grant awarded this summer for graduate training, we are tackling the question of measuring our impact head on. With this funding, we will quantify the impact of a new training model for PhD students, measuring not only achievement but also student wellbeing and flourishing. Science is about learning to see through our biases to grasp the world as it is - a key resilience skill. The simple idea behind the grant is that learning to be a scientist should make our PhD students’ lives better, in addition to giving them skills to find solutions that are useful to others. We expect that applying what we know about brains will help our students make better use of this hard experience -- and also make a bigger impact on the world.
In all of our activities over the past year, we have brought our attention to the goal of amplifying our impact by expanding access to both the products and process of our science.
I hope you will explore the report below to learn about all our partners in this work, and the new ways DIBS is connecting even more minds to advance neuroscience and improve lives.
Yours in wonder,
R. Alison Adcock, MD, PhD
Interim Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
Campuses and Schools Represented Among DIBS Faculty Members
While most DIBS faculty have primary appointments in the School of Medicine and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, our network includes members from nearly every school, campus, and institute at Duke.
2022 - 2023 Participation
Numbers were tallied across the 10 undergraduate courses hosted at DIBS (NSC 102; 116FS; 153FS; 223; 352S; 366S; 380L; 385L; 444S; 499), the 10 "Brain & Society" themed Bass Connections teams, ours and others' research experience programs that meet at The Cube and/or make use of the neuroanatomy lab (DUNE, CNRI, CNAP, SNP, and BOOST), as well as a handful of graduate courses and workshops that take place at The Cube.
$1.25M GRANT WILL ENRICH GRADUATE TRAINING FOR DUKE AND NCCU STUDENTS IN BRAIN SCIENCE
In collaboration with colleagues at North Carolina Central University, the Impact Neuroscience Program will evolve the model of graduate science training to support students’ flourishing as they prepare for meaningful impact on the modern world.
A snapshot of some of the many awards and honors earned by brain science scholars at Duke this past year.
Spearheaded by DIBS Interim Director Alison Adcock and CNAP Director of Graduate Studies Gregory Samanez-Larkin, we received a $1.25M five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health this summer for developing the Impact Neuroscience program. This new graduate training program aims to catalyze achievement and create equity in three ways:
- Evolve the model of science training from a narrow pipeline to a cable;
- Train the students rigorously in generalizable skills; and
- Support their flourishing through the challenges inherent in graduate school, which may fall harder on under-represented students.
In addition to our forthcoming graduate training enrichment, we also continued our efforts to expand paid neuroscience research and professional development opportunities through CNRI and DUNE, and helped sponsor several events on the intersection of brain science and race this past year.
Sarah Gaither, who studies the identity crisis multiracial students face, organized a DIBS co-sponsored screening of the documentary MIXED, which follows the struggles and backlash facing mixed-race families. The film’s directors, Caty Borum and Leena Jayaswal, joined Gaither for the screening and Q&A session following its premier.
Stroke Survivors’ Resilience Captured by Duke Clinician’s Documentary
Speech-language pathologist and researcher Jamila Minga studies an underdiagnosed communication disorder brought on by strokes. Her debut documentary on right hemisphere stroke played to a packed house this past May as part of Stroke Awareness Month.
A new philanthropic gift from Ronald and Beth Ostrow and family has enabled an exciting art+science initiative at DIBS that will profoundly transform The Cube, inside and out. The feature media installation will turn the glass façade of our headquarters into a dynamic display of imagery from brain research labs, canvases, data sets, and more. Other planned installations include digital anatomy tables, a 3D modelling lab, and augmented reality stations. These tools will let us experience the molecules, cells, and circuits of the brain as expansive spaces and structures, offering new perspectives and insights to both experts and learners.
This new brain exploration lab has already engaged a core team of faculty collaborators from Visual Studies (Bill Seaman and Augustus Wendell) and Biomedical Engineering (Cameron McIntyre), in partnership with the Center for Computational Thinking.
Duke’s unmatched scholarly strengths in neuroscience expertise and computational innovation, including computer vision, generative art, and engineering, create the ideal incubator for re-envisioning how we represent the brain. This initiative will pave the way for making a wealth of data yielded by Duke brain research available for computational training and innovation for new student experiences, including Bass Connections and Brain+ teams, and will offer unprecedented opportunities for collaboration, education, and awe.
Education is one of the longstanding pillars that our institute strives to advance and support for the Duke and local Durham community.
This past year saw the continuation of our commitment to neuroscience education through our homegrown and supported programs, like the Cognitive Neuroscience Research Internship for undergrads and the Duke University Neuroscience Experience for high school students, as well as co-sponsored programs like the Summer Neuroscience Program.
We are especially grateful this year for generous gifts from Duke alumni and families of current Duke students that total $2.5 million dollars to support our educational endeavors. Their gifts will support both our efforts to democratize science through paid research experiences, and support initiatives to innovate undergraduate neuroscience teaching spaces and opportunities at Duke.
COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH INTERNSHIP GIVES UNDERGRADS A BOOST
Our Cognitive Neuroscience Research Internship (CNRI) program admitted 15 undergraduate students across the Fall '22 and Spring '23 semesters. In addition to an invaluable research experience, interns gain guided mentorship, professional skills development (e.g. Python programming), and camaraderie with their peer cohort.
We were also elated to have received a generous financial gift from Beth and Ron Ostrow, which will help keep the CNRI program going for many years to come.
SUMMER NEUROSCIENCE PROGRAM KEEPS ON SHINING
We were thrilled to continue our co-sponsorship of the Duke Summer Neuroscience Program, which provided financial support and professional skill development for 17 students in 2022, eight of whom went on to graduate with distinction!
TEACHING IS REWARDING AND AWARDING
In September, DIBS faculty member and neuroscience professor Tom Newpher was recognized for his teaching acumen and was one of four to have received the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.
Newpher, along with fellow DIBS faculty members Kevin LaBar and Len White, also received a 2023 Summer Course Development Grant from Duke's offices of Undergraduate Education and Interdisciplinary Studies in partnership with Duke Learning Innovation. The funds will support their redesign of the core neuroscience course, "Biological Bases of Behavior".
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TRADE BACKPACKS FOR LAB COATS
Our Duke University Neuroscience Education (DUNE) program welcomed its second cohort (and first in-person group) to campus in the summer of 2022 for eight weeks of hands-on neuroscience research, professional development, and camaraderie.
Watch a selection of short videos here that past scholars have shared about their invaluable experience at DIBS: Scholar Stories
BASS CONNECTIONS TURNS 10
The Bass Connections Program, along with its Brain & Society theme that DIBS helped spearhead, celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
This past year, primary Brain & Society teams boasted a whopping:
- 98 undergraduate students.
- 13 graduate students across a range of programs (including law, occupational therapy, and neuroscience).
- 26 faculty and staff leaders, and
- 14 faculty and staff participants
A collection of videos from the past year showcasing DIBS scholars' brain science research and breakthroughs.
Dive into this collection of standout research stories from the past year, spotlighting the impactful discoveries and innovations made by our DIBS scholars.