The National Science Foundation has awarded our interdisciplinary group of UConn researchers a five-year grant, “The science of learning, from neurobiology to real-world application: A problem-based approach.” We aim to develop transformative models for graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, training 50 students (including 25 Ph.D. fellows). This grant follows our highly productive Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant in the Neurobiology of Language.
The “Science of Learning and Art of Communication,” or SLAC, draws on subfields of cognitive science and neuroscience: genetics, behavioral neuroscience, linguistics, education, psychology, and speech-language-hearing sciences. "SLACer" graduate students, and their mentors, will develop new, team-based, interdisciplinary approaches to learning. SLAC teams will also learn how communicate effectively with a wide range of audiences -- specialist peers, but also the general public. SLACers will face the challenge of how to clearly and effectively share ideas without assuming prior knowledge or relying on technical jargon. This skill not only enables excellence in research, but empowers trainees to become ambassadors for science to society as a whole.
Students will complete a one-year graduate seminar on the science of learning and the challenge of communicating their research to audiences ranging from specialist peers to school children, drawing on techniques from the performing arts and new approaches using digital media. In a hands-on practicum, they will develop skills crucial to academic and nonacademic careers that are often absent in graduate education, such as project design and management, budgeting and resource allocation, and external communications. The program will also promote diversity in academic and industry careers that require advanced training by prioritizing recruitment and retention.