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  • 12/23
Sparking Excitement for the Brain
Sparking Excitement for the Brain
Neuroscientist Named Science Educator of the Year

Randy Blakely, Ph.D. Photography by Alex Dolce

By Emily Halnon

The prestigious Society for Neuroscience honors two researchers a year, but just one for their commitment to sharing neuroscience with the public. This year, that award went to Randy Blakely, Ph.D., executive director of FAU’s Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute and David J. S. Nicholson Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience.

“The brain is endlessly fascinating, and I want to spark people’s excitement to learn more about how it’s built and works, how it fuels our thoughts, actions, and dreams, and what underlies brain disorders,” he said.

The Science Educator Award celebrates the nation’s top neuroscientists who devote their time to research while having made significant contributions in educating the public about neuroscience through outreach, policy and public educational activities for the benefit of the community.

Blakely established numerous initiatives to make neuroscience more accessible to the public, including:

  • FAU’s Advancing STEM: Community Engagement Through Neuroscience Discovery (ASCEND), designed to educate students in middle or high school
  • Brainy Days, a month-long celebration of neuroscience
  • Journey Through the Human Brain exhibit at the Cox Science Center, which shares the story of the human brain through interactive and immersive installations
  • MobileMinds program, an illustrated van stuffed with educational resources and that visits regional schools around Palm Beach County, with an emphasis on reaching underserved communities

“We want to make neuroscience more accessible to kids who might not have as many resources or opportunities,” he said. “MobileMinds gives them a chance to learn – and be curious – about the brain.”

Blakely said he grew up in a community with limited educational offerings and credits his high school English teacher with encouraging his intellectual curiosity and ambitions and similarly aims to inspire students.

Additionally, at Vanderbilt, Blakely created the monthlong “Brainstorm” public education program as well as the public neuroscience exhibit “Mind Matters.”

“It just takes one person to see that you have something worth investing in,” Blakely said “to get you excited about what you can achieve.”

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