Pueblo Brain Science: 

Building Diversity in Neuroscience

Hola, I am Syed (FlyGuy), a junior faculty at the University of New Mexico studying neural development in fruit flies https://www.neuraldiversity.org/

Other than research, I am committed to training and mentoring next-generation neuroscientists. At UNM, I have started an ambitious program, "Pueblo Brain Science", which includes multiple training components targeting a diverse population of students. Together with many other awesome people, we aim to "Build Diversity in Neuroscience" through:

A) NeuroCURE: Each spring, 10-12 undergraduates get training to do and experience science in this discovery-based lab course. Last year's student share course experiences here https://youtu.be/wW1SvDaZkEc

Please read more about undergraduate researchers in my lab here


B) NEURONAL: An informal mentoring program to mentor the University of New Mexico students. We meet once every month over pizza to share experiences and stories. 

C) NeuroScience Workshop: Students from places like New Mexico lack opportunities to meet scientists and experience science. Additionally, the education system of New Mexico is of the lowest standards in the nation, partly due to the lack of resources to engage and train students early on. My colleague Dr. Matthew Clark and I started an annual neuroscience workshop where we train high school teachers, students, and undergrads from different regions of New Mexico. We use fruit flies and 3D-printed modules to teach and excite teachers and students - Some news about the workshop here. Please feel free to email if you'd like to access a detailed report of last year's workshop.

D) Meet A Scientist Program: From my experience, students from non-traditional and underprivileged backgrounds don't envision themselves as scientists since they don't see or meet many scientists like them from their communities. As a graduate student, I started an organization for the students of Kashmir, www.jkscientists.org, where many students and trainees get mentored and meet scientists from similar backgrounds. In New Mexico, I started the "Meet A Scientist" program in New Mexico, and thus far, over 22 neuroscientists have interacted with our students. Thanks to our guest scientists, this program has been highly impactful, and many students, including those from Native American communities, have started working in my lab or other labs at the UNM https://www.neuraldiversity.org/teachingmentorship 

E) Training High School Students: Students from the high schools of New Mexico participate in neuroscience workshops, visit our lab and participate in summer research https://www.neuraldiversity.org/scientists

F) Science Outreach: We visit Zia and Jemez Pueblo schools and many other New Mexico high schools and demonstrate fruit fly-related classroom modules. I also get invited to participate in the education retreats of the Pueblos of Zia and Jemez and the youth festival or any other public events in these communities. We expose the young generation and the educators of these Pueblos to various science modules using 3D-printed tools and fruit flies https://www.neuraldiversity.org/science-outreach

G) Next Generation Science Standards: We are partnering with the high school teachers of New Mexico to take experiments to the classroom and build modules related to fruit fly research. Through science outreach events, training high school teachers, and hands-on activity modules using fruit flies and 3D printed tools, the overarching goal is to implement active learning modules in the school curriculum that align with the next-generation science standard. 

National Science Foundation funds our research and part of NeuroCURE through the CAREER award.

Recently, I was fortunate to receive the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience. 

The Grass Foundation sponsored last year's workshop, and thanks to the local business Yasmineh Cafe, Old Town Pizza, and Bawarchi, who sponsored food for the 2023 workshop. We also got free coffee from the local Star Bucks! - Workshop report coming 


The next event, "Development of Complex Behaviors", is a two-day symposium (August 31- September 01), where leaders, rising stars, and trainees in the field get together to discuss science and to build life-long mentoring connections. Many of the speakers are my mentors, friends, and colleagues, and we are excited to host them all here.   

If you are interested in collaborating on any of these activities, please let me know, and I am happy to talk more about my programs and interests. Your contributions will significantly impact the students and help build diversity in neuroscience.