Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience (PRCEN) Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Undergraduate fellowships are available for studying: (1) coral calcification mechanisms; (2) human impacts on estuarine habitats; (3) effects of urbanization on Puerto Rican rivers and its aquatic fauna; and (4) the role of epigenetics in neuronal adaptation to environmental stressors and the consequences of environmental stress on synaptic growth, function and plasticity.
Research provides an environment in which students show critical thinking, risk management, computer and math literacy, and language and logic skills and promotes the initiative, creativity, innovation and leadership necessary for graduate school and productive careers. With this in mind, the Center will use both Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) and Annual Research Training (ART) as a foundation for increasing the number of students in science, positioning graduate students as mentors to foster the undergraduates’ aspirations to graduate studies and careers related to environmental science and neuroscience, and promoting faculty collaboration.
The Center has forged strong partnerships with leading institutions across the country that will greatly expand research and training opportunities for our students. Strategic partners include the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Rutgers University in New Jersey, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, University of Washington, California State University Northridge, Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System Program, and Texas Tech. MBL, for example, has committed to train one Center student per year in one of their famous summer courses (Neurobiology, Neurosystems & Behavior (NS&B), Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics & Survival (SPINES), Methods in Computational Neurobiology (MCN), Neuroinformatics, and Zebrafish Development and Genetics) and have identified 10 highly compatible laboratories at the MBL that have agreed to accept rotation students from the Center. All of the partners have committed to faculty and student exchanges to foster future collaborations. Annual and Summer research experiences are available:
a. Annual Research Trainings (ART) will pair students from UPRRP with faculty mentors and graduate students at the Center for two semesters. Topics of research will align closely with the research activities of individual faculty. All ARTs will be project-based and address aspects of nervous system function and adaptation in urbanizing, tropical landscapes. Where appropriate, the research will involve collaboration with outside agencies (e.g., San Juan Bay Estuary Program) and partner institutions (e.g., MBL). Students will be required to formally present their research findings at local or national scientific conferences and will use their experience to develop related science modules with the SJBEP that can be used in K-12 classrooms.
b. Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) will focus on similar issues in environmental neuroscience as those of ART. The approach brings together undergraduates for a cohort experience and leverages the facilities of all collaborating institutions for the summer research, including MBL and Rutgers University. The positions in both SURE and ART will be highly competitive, and the Steering Committee will evaluate the applicants with an eye toward balancing the distribution of students among the subprojects and participating faculty.