Alev Erisir / Biology

My dream project is a field trip to an Annual Meeting of Society for Neuroscience. The SFN is one of the largest scientific societies in the United States, holding annual meetings that draw 25-35,000 attendees. Thirty-five thousand scientists buzzing around in one convention center that accommodates numerous simultaneous symposia, lectures, workshops and research presentations. At one hall, a Nobel Prize recipient whom you thought only existed as a name in your textbook is giving a lecture. At another hall, 2000 presenters from all around the world are standing in front of their posters, exuding excitement over their most recent findings. Over there, the graduate TA of your psychology course is attending a hands-on demo for the latest and the coolest imaging technique, while a toddler is snoozing in his stroller in a giant ballroom that will soon be the venue for a talk which will inspire thousands of researchers and educators. Enthusiasm of discovery is so thick in the air that you feel gratified by being part of this event. What a perfect environment to be in if you have any doubts about how your life is going to be if you decide to be a scientist! This is usually what comes to my mind every time I attend one of these meetings, or every time a student or an advisee of mine seems to be struggling to make a decision to pursue science as a career. At those times, I often wish that there were means to take my students to a major scientific meeting so that they would seek and hopefully find their reasons to choose science through first-hand experience.

This year, the SFN annual meeting comes to Washington DC, one of few places in the country that can accommodate its sheer size. If granted the resources, I would love to take a small group of my students from my Neural Mechanisms of Behavior class this semester on a one-day field trip to the Washington DC Convention center during the annual meeting of SFN. With an aim to encourage participation of women or undecided, I shall select the students based on a short letter they will write, expressing their interests and what they expect to gain from this trip. In order to create a chance to fit their experiences into our syllabus, I shall assign them to attend talks about latest developments on specific topics we discuss in the classroom. I anticipate this to be as rewarding to me as I hope that it will be for my students. As the budget of this project, I estimate about $1200 to cover return Amtrak tickets and transportation ($100), registration ($110) and food ($40) for 5 students.