First-year Neuroscience Graduate Program students spent 8 full days at the bench in January learning essential neuroscience techniques as part of a hands-on, in-depth course called NeuroPracticum. The course is held every January at the Marine Biological Laboratories (www.mbl.edu). This course provides unique training for students in an informal, and intense format and includes electrophysiology, molecular biology, imaging, and behavior. Before coming to MBL, students complete a semester of didactic course work. At MBL, they put their new knowledge into practice and work side-by-side at the bench with Brown University and MBL faculty. This year Neuroscience Graduate Program students were joined by three graduate students from other programs, supported in part by the Brown Institute for Brain Science (brainscience.brown.edu).
Why does this differ from “lab rotations” that Brown Neuroscience students undertake during the regular academic year? A student can only rotate in a few laboratories and learn a few techniques during rotations. And, a given laboratory can only handle a few rotation students per year. The NeuroPracticum course allows Brown University neuroscience graduate students to have an intense and practical experience at the bench with techniques that are the basis of modern neuroscience, – working side by side with professors who are expert in the techniques and systems. This intense experience integrates the practical with the theoretical; students understand both the strengths and limitations of techniques discussed in the classroom only when they use these techniques. The intense format of the course creates remarkable bonding among the faculty and graduate students.