UVA Brain Camp
The UVA Brain Camp is a free day camp that aims to give highly motivated middle school students a fun hands-on experience and training in some of the most fundamental aspects of neuroscience. The program is free to teacher nominated middle school students who identify as members of underrepresented communities or are otherwise unable to afford traditional STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) camps. Our Motivation: We aim to develop a novel educational summer program that will ignite and inspire young scientific minds through hands-on experience in Neuroscience. The UVA Brain Camp week long summer experience will expose children to the brain, how it works, and how to nurture its development. Additionally, through this camp we will develop a mentorship network between UVA students and scientists and the greater Charlottesville community. This network will support and guide participants’ future scientific education and success. Our ultimate goal is to inspire and facilitate young students to pursue their scientific interests and do our part in addressing known disparities in STEM fields. Finally, this program also aims to provide UVA students with opportunities to develop skills related to scientific outreach. Rationale: In the last decade, there have been significant nationwide efforts to increase diversity in the sciences. While we are seeing some improvement, there is still a prominent shortage of faculty from historically marginalized groups in science and related fields. A survey of checkpoints for careers in biomedical sciences revealed that while underrepresented minority students (URM) and white students express a similar level of interest in biological sciences freshman year, there is a significant decrease in the number of URM students who end up earning a degree in biological sciences (Citation). A commonly reported reason for this is that students from URMs experience a greater sense of isolation and inequitable access to mentors and experiences that affect future career success.