By invitation of White House, Michael Burman participates in ‘Super NEUROScience Saturday’ at Smithsonian

November 06, 2013

At the invitation of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, University of New England Assistant Professor Michael Burman, Ph.D., participated in 'Super NEUROScience Saturday' on November 23 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Through demonstrations and hands-on activities, Super NEUROScience Saturday aimed to foster a better understanding of the brain and how it functions, improve student study skills, promote improvements in neurological health, and boost general science literacy among young people. Attendees included students as well as legislators, policymakers and scientists.

“The event was amazing," Burman said. "It was really fun to collaborate with the best educators and the top policy makers from across the various sub-disciplines of neuroscience to teach the middle school students. The Q’rious space in the Smithsonian was beautiful and everyone brought a great energy to the event. I hope to foster deeper collaborations with the other educators, the Society for Neuroscience and the White House OSTP going forward."

"The event was amazing. It was really fun to collaborate with the best educators and the top policy makers from across the various sub-disciplines of neuroscience to teach the middle school students. ... I hope to foster deeper collaborations with the other educators, the Society for Neuroscience and the White House OSTP going forward."

- Michael Burman

Burman is a faculty member of UNE's Psychology Department and the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences (CEN) who teaches both introductory and upper-level psychology and neuroscience classes. He is also coordinator of CEN’s successful K-12 Outreach Program, which aims to increase interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, and neuroscience, in particular, among students in southern Maine.

CEN’s K-12 Outreach Program reached over 3,500 Maine students last year by placing UNE faculty, staff and students into K-12 schools to teach grade-appropriate interactive training modules in topics such as traumatic brain injury; learning and memory; human neuroanatomy; neurological disorders; cognition and attention; and sheep brain dissection.

“Super Neuroscience Saturday highlights how important the neurosciences are on public health, medicine and society," said Edward Bilsky, vice president for research and scholarship and co-director of CEN. "The confluence of scientists, educators, healthcare professionals and policy makers to these events underscores how seriously the White House and congress are taking the neurological and mental health issues that we face. For the University of New England to be invited and to participate in the events is an honor and an acknowledgment of the quality of our Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences.”

The White House Office of Science and Technology was made aware of UNE’s K-12 Outreach Program though UNE’s participation in the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives’ Lending Library Program and previous collaborations on teacher education with the outreach arm of the national Society for Neuroscience.

Burman’s research at UNE focuses on the intersection of memory and negative emotionality. His lab conducts behavioral, pharmacological and physiological research relevant to anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobias.

“At UNE, we firmly believe in both hands-on education and giving back to our community,” says Burman. “Our K-12 Neuroscience Outreach Program allows us to do both. Our students gain valuable knowledge and experience by bringing exciting demonstrations and activities to small groups of students in our area schools. Local K-12 students benefit by being exposed to material and expertise that they otherwise would not have access to. We have a great team working hard on this program and are honored to be chosen to represent UNE at this exciting event.”

Super NEUROScience Saturday took place in a new Smithsonian exhibit space called “Q?rius.” Groups of students participated in sessions that rotated in 15-minute intervals through a variety of neuroscience-centered experiences. Burman, along with collaborators Bilsky and Outreach Coordinators Kristen Erickson and Alex Deal, led an interactive station that focuses on learning about the mind and challenging the senses. They used interactive demonstrations to illustrate how to use attention and cognitive tricks to enhance memory and information retention.  

Super NEUROScience Saturday was organized by Carlos Peña, assistant director, Emerging Technologies,White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, under the direction of Philip Rubin, principal assistant director for Science and assistant director for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. Emily Dilger, public outreach manager, Society for Neuroscience closely collaborated in the event.