The department hosts over 100 neuroscience students each year who train in Ph.D., M.D./Ph.D., in person master’s degrees or online master’s programs. Every summer, the department hosts a robust, 10-week training program for undergraduate students who travel from all over the country to learn in UF labs and to complete professional development training. One goal of the department, with a particular focus on inclusion, is to promote the next generation by coaching and mentoring students who will pursue neuroscience careers. About half of the students selected for the summer program are from underrepresented groups and smaller universities, many without advanced neuroscience research opportunities.
“We really want to diversify the research workforce in our field,” Bizon said. “It’s critical to help develop that next generation of neuroscientists who are just as committed to advancing the understanding of the brain.”
Benoit Giasson, Ph.D., vice chair of education, is one faculty member devoted not only to overall student development but also to championing members of his own laboratory. His students and trainees are taught a broad curriculum of neuroscience fundamentals, which will provide them a toolkit for a liftetime of learning and access to a broad range of career paths.
Every year, Giasson takes pride in the impactful and provocative research generated by trainees in his laboratory. Just last month, one of his students, Giavanna Paterno, published a paper in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications. Her paper had major implications for pathobiology and was a critical reassessement of the distribution of tau, a neuronal protein in the adult human brain.
If you ask Giasson about the highlight of his career, it won’t be the life-changing discoveries or the even the professional awards. He will instead talk about his students and tell the story of a handmade Stanley Cup replica trophy named the “Golde Cup,” in honor of Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the UF Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease. His lab students won the coveted trophy, which was custom-made of old lab equipment glued to a bucket and then painted silver by Matthew LaVoie, Ph.D., co-director of the CTRND.
Giasson believes laboratories should be happy, fun, enjoyable places to be — true communities.
“Nobody works here, we just have a lot of fun,” he said while grinning. “We spend a lot of hours here. Having a really good environment matters in that context. You want to be with people who want to be here.”