Neuroscience has a representation problem. Fewer students from underrepresented backgrounds pursue higher education in the field which leads to a less diverse group of neuroscience researchers, teachers and professionals. The Nevada ENDURE (Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences) program, launched in January by Professors Mariann Weierich, Marian Berryhill and Dennis Mathew hopes to help break this cycle. The program provides undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds including ethnic and racial minorities, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students who plan to pursue doctoral training in neuroscience with intensive research training experience. The program facilitates intellectual development and removes some of the barriers to the pursuit of graduate training.
"We [are offering] students in northern Nevada the opportunity for outstanding research training in neuroscience. We anticipate increasing the competitiveness of UNR graduates from underrepresented backgrounds for doctoral training in neuroscience."
ENDURE programs are funded nationwide by the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Professor Weierich joined the College of Science as the James K. and Lois Merritt Mikawa Distinguished Professor of Psychology in 2019 after leading an ENDURE program at the City University of New York – Hunter College. Soon after arriving at the University of Nevada, Reno, she began the work to launch an ENDURE program here as well.
“The University of Nevada, Reno represents an extension of the NIH/NINDS ENDURE network, through which we can offer to students in northern Nevada the opportunity for outstanding research training in neuroscience,” Weierich said. “We anticipate increasing the competitiveness of UNR graduates from underrepresented backgrounds for doctoral training in neuroscience. The program is brand new and we’re recruiting now! We plan to recruit from current TMCC and UNR neuroscience-related majors, including neuroscience, biology, and psychology (or TMCC equivalent). However, any eligible student with a plan to pursue doctoral training in neuroscience is welcome to apply. Both UNR and TMCC have a wealth of talented undergraduates from NIH-defined underrepresented backgrounds, and we’ll ask the help of our academic communities to share information about this program.”
The Nevada ENDURE Program complements Weierich’s named position, the James K. and Lois Merritt Mikawa Distinguished Professor of Psychology, with a similar mission.
“The Nevada ENDURE mission and the Mikawa mission overlap a bit and also complement each other,” Weierich said. “The Mikawa mission is to enhance ethnic and racial diversity in clinical psychology, including clinical neuroscience, and that mission encompasses training at the undergraduate and doctoral levels. Building diverse scholarly communities across research fields is key to students feeling supported and welcome, so interaction between initiatives is ideal.”
Nevada ENDURE trainees begin the program in the summer before the junior year, during which they are paid to spend 40 hours per week for ten weeks ($13/hr) working in a neuroscience research lab at one of the program’s summer partner institutions: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, the University of Michigan, or Stanford. During the summer before the senior year, trainees similarly conduct research at a second summer partner institution. During the junior and senior academic years, trainees are paid to work 15 hours per week ($13/hr) in a University of Nevada, Reno neuroscience research lab. They also attend a weekly seminar that provides additional training in topics including professional development, research ethics, and preparing research for presentation. Finally, trainees attend and present at research conferences including the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. All conference expenses are paid, as are University of Nevada, Reno registration fees that remain after financial aid.
“The Nevada ENDURE program provides the invitation to get engaged, smart, curious students into neuroscience labs and on the road to a career in neuroscience-related fields,” Berryhill said. “We know about teaching, nursing, plumbing, etc. from early on, but many careers are less familiar to us – say being a neuroscientist. College is a time to learn about unfamiliar careers and to build career awareness into undergraduate training. This program gives people money and time to learn about neuroscience, which is a growth area for careers. Neuroscience has a representation problem. We need more people from underrepresented backgrounds at the table.”
Along with the three program directors, Weierich, Berryhill and Mathew, there are thirteen faculty mentors with varied research interests ready to accept Nevada ENDURE students into their labs. Students will have the opportunity to explore the many niche research areas within the broader field of neuroscience. Between the directors alone, three areas of specialization are represented.
The Nevada ENDURE program is actively seeking student applicants for summer 2021. The application deadline is February 10, 2021.
“I am looking forward to working together with Drs. Weierich and Berryhill,” Mathew said. “The three of us represent different areas of neuroscience. Dr. Weierich is an expert in clinical psychology, Dr. Berryhill comes from a cognitive neuroscience background, and I am a cellular and molecular neurobiologist. Together, we form an excellent team and will each be heavily involved in this program’s success.”
Applying to Nevada ENDURE
The Nevada ENDURE program is actively seeking applicants for the inaugural group who will spend summer 2021 engaged in neuroscience research training. Students in their sophomore year are encouraged to apply. Students interested should visit the Nevada ENDURE website and review the eligibility and application requirements. The application deadline is February 10, 2021.