A Letter to the Community: Inspiring Science’s Next Generation
Dear NRI Friends,
At the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, we have always endeavored not only to advance scientific discovery and therapies on a global scale, but also to be leaders in our local community. I am therefore very pleased to report that the Duncan NRI has initiated an exciting school outreach program.
Designed to aid teachers and benefit students in some of Houston’s most underserved communities, the program will focus on brain health and will augment existing middle-school science education in the greater Houston area. Students will perform fun and stimulating hands-on experiments while working (virtually, at first) with the Duncan NRI’s wonderful faculty, graduate students, and postdocs. Once Houston fully re-opens, we will make regular classroom visits and, toward each semester’s end, invite students to spend a stimulating day at the Duncan NRI.
We have prepared a simple, one-page application for our trainees interested in becoming classroom mentors. Each accepted trainee will be designated an NRI Teaching Fellow and paired with a middle-school science teacher. Many of our faculty members and trainees count inspiring the next generation of young scientists among their overarching career goals, so their response to this program has been tremendous. Duncan NRI faculty will work closely with the Teaching Fellows to ensure that they help develop inspiring and stimulating curricula.
In partnership with the Houston Independent School District and the Spring Branch Independent School District, we identified schools in some of the most underserved communities in greater Houston. Many of these students hail from low-income families. One of the middle schools features a dual-language science program in Spanish and English for grades six through eight; our Spanish-speaking faculty and trainees are particularly excited to work with this school.
We consider this program a long-term commitment and expect it to play an integral part in science-education in our community. Once COVID-19-related restrictions become less onerous, we can cement in person the relationships we will begin to cultivate virtually. We are already looking forward to thoughtfully modifying and expanding the program in future years. As with scientific discovery, when it comes to our youth, we believe the sky’s the limit.
Huda Y. Zoghbi, M.D.
Founding Director, Duncan NRI