Brain Awareness Week (BAW) seeks to highlight recent developments in neuroscience and increase the Hopkins community’s awareness of neuroscience and behavioral biology. This year’s program, which ran from April 3–7, is focused on “Emotions and Personality” and was organized by the University’s Undergraduate Society for Neuroscience, Nu Rho Psi.
BAW is a national organization founded by the Dana Foundation in 1996, which seeks to unite people around neuroscience and increase awareness and funding for neuroscience research.
The event at Hopkins included various activities, such as a painting event, brain bingo and personality quiz tabling. BAW culminated in a talk by Dario Nardi, author of Neuroscience of Personality: Brain-Savvy Insights for All Types of People.
Junior Anna Tang, co-chair of Nu Rho Psi BAW, discussed the importance of BAW in an interview with The News-Letter.
"The word neuroscience itself sounds very niche and very specific," she said. "I think more people would like neuroscience if they knew of its bigger scope. Part of Brain Awareness Week is really doing that, and the other part of it just giving people little fun facts so next time they're anywhere they can say, ‘Oh, I know what part of the brain controls disgust.’"
In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Russell Calderon, co-chair of Nu Rho Psi BAW, highlighted that the organization aims to add a fun twist to educational events.
"We try to incorporate events to achieve that purpose of educating students who might not have a neuroscience background and connecting them with whatever theme we have that year, but we also want to do it in a way that's engaging and fun,“ he said. “In my opinion, that's one of the best ways to learn something — to make it personal, to make it engaging — so that you walk away with new information and have a good experience from it.”
According to Tang, who was also co-chair last year, planning for BAW began over the summer but ramped up over intersession. Their first step was to pick a theme, which began by reviewing student feedback from last year.
"The hardest part was actually figuring out a theme and planning exactly what we wanted to do around that theme because that's all very abstract. We sent a feedback form on what people would like to see from us last year and someone wrote psychedelics,“ Tang said. “We seriously contemplated it and then we said, ‘Actually we might want to keep it a little PG.’ So, we thought of a PG slant version of it, and it came out to be ‘Emotions and Personality.’“
Calderon noted that the lack of COVID-19 restrictions this semester, as compared to spring 2022, also enabled BAW to increase its visibility and appeal by hosting in-person events with food.
In addition to organizing BAW, Nu Rho Psi aims to serve all members of the undergraduate community interested in neuroscience. They provide a pre-professional network and host events throughout the year focusing on three major categories: research, community service and public relations.
In an interview with The News-Letter, senior and Co-president of Nu Rho Psi Damon Choi discussed other efforts by the club.
"We allow our members to attend the actual neurosurgery grand rounds that happen at the Hopkins Hospital,“ he said. “We also have journal clubs where we allow members to discuss recent academic findings in neuroscience. For service, we do this thing called meal service volunteering where we go to a shelter and allow them to serve food to the homeless population in Baltimore.”
Like BAW, Nu Rho Psi is a national organization founded in 2006; however, the Hopkins branch of the organization pre-dates the official founding, beginning in 1997.
Recent Hopkins graduate and Nu Rho Psi Co-president Angel Lee explained the need for outreach events like BAW in an interview with The News-Letter.
“Considering the fact that neuroscience is so important to us and that one of the most important parts of health is the brain, there's so much that we still don't know about the brain,“ she said. “We need people who are interested in the brain trying to figure out more things about it.”
Calderon echoed this point, emphasizing that the goal of BAW is to inspire others to learn more about the brain’s impact.
"We all have brains, and we can all benefit from the information that neuroscience provides us about the things we experience in our daily lives: from how we deal with our emotions to how we come to understand our own personalities," he said.
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