Started in fall 2017, the Neuroscience Club has brought students passionate about neuroscience together. The group, founded and led by Will Foster ’18 and Liz Heaton ’18, was started because the two students were yearning for more neuroscience in their life outside of the classroom and felt that there might be others like them on campus. The mission of the group is not only to connect members of the Haverford College community with an interest in neuroscience, but also to educate through hosting discussions, presenting distinguished speakers, and making classroom visits to primary and secondary schools.
“It is almost like a supplemental neuro class where I learn how to engage with the community, communicate science to children, and learn what it takes to make science-related events happen,” said Foster.
In addition to the club’s classroom visits, speaker events (like the one they held with Mary Lee from the National Institute of Health, who spoke about her clinical awareness), and collaborations with other groups on campus, the club has also held movie screenings, such as the one they hosted last semester of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which they followed with a discussion of its fictional, factual, and ethical aspects.
“I didn’t know I was interested in neuroscience until my first upper level course, ‘Neurobiology of Disease,'” said Foster. “Until then, I was taking classes to fulfill a psych major. I initially enrolled in the class because it was listed as a psych credit. The class made me realize how cool the material was, and I would say that it marks where my genuine interest began.”
Since he and Heaton are both psychology majors and neuroscience minors, the initially toyed with the idea of starting a psychology club at the suggestion of that department’s faculty. But they eventually decided to focus on neuroscience to “deal more directly with our passion,” according to Foster.
“We saw that there was an opportunity for more community engagement in terms of gathering people who were also interested in how the brain works and creating spaces where we could talk about this,” said Heaton. “We also saw it as an opportunity to collect all the different neuroscience minors across all the different majors, to link them together and create a community. A lot of the psychology majors who are neuro minors don’t know the bio majors who are neuro minors.”
This semester the members of the Neuroscience Club brought their knowledge and excitement to classrooms at Friends School of Haverford. They visited classes from kindergarten through the seventh grade and varied their approach respectively.
“For the seventh grade students we described neurons and circuits, while the kindergarten classroom visit, where we went over cerebrospinal fluid, was more activity-focused,” said Heaton, adding that it was such a positive experience that the Neuroscience Club has an invitation to return.
For Foster, that classroom visit was the highlight of his time in the club.
“The children were amazing,” he said. “They asked smart questions, displayed real interest, and seemed to really value our visit. It was great to feel like we made a difference in the community.”
“This club has been a really cool way to take what we’ve learned and share it with the community,” said Heaton, who will begin a neuroscience graduate program at Emory University in the fall. “I think that there is a responsibility of people in academia to share what they’ve learned. It’s been cool to share that with people, especially the kids.”