Brain Awareness Week at Philadelphia

Last Thursday I volunteered at a very interesting national event, the Brain Awareness Week (BAW). The BAW is “…an inspirational global campaign that unites those who share an interest in elevating public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain and nervous system research…” (From the Society for Neuroscience BAW website).

The BAW was launched in 1996, as a joint enterprise of the Society for Neuroscience and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. This is a worldwide effort that includes more than 2,000 universities, schools and related institutions.

The BAW event in my “neighborhood” was held at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Since 2006 the two-day long Brain Awareness event at the Franklin Institute has been coordinated by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers in the Philly Society for neuroscience chapter, including Dr. Maria Waselus, Dr. Jill Yersak, Dr. Russell Buono and Dr. Sara Jane Ward, with contributions of graduate students Ann Mae Di Leonardi and Jordan Trecki. I want to thank Dr. Ward for providing the Philadelphia’s BAW historical background.

Ongoing sponsors and supporters include the Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Jefferson, The Society for Neuroscience, AllSwim swim cap company, and Just Born candy company. Each year, 75 – 100 local scientists from over fifteen different institutions to volunteer at the Philadelphia BAW, who interact with over 1000 students, teachers, chaperones, and families visiting the museum. Some of the visitors’ favorite activities include drawing the parts of their brain on a wearable swim cap, being part of a Pavlovian learning experiments, protecting “egg” heads from damage from a fall, and viewing and handling real human brain material, including pathological specimens.

It was a lot of fun! We were in a big room with stations answering questions from the public, including many schoolchildren. Some of the topics explored in the stations were:

Guess which station was I at?


The planaria table for this year’s BAW was the idea of a friend and collaborator, Dr. Robert Raffa from Temple University. Dr. Raffa is actually the reason why I work on planarian pharmacology. I will tell you the story some other time…

In the meantime, here are some pictures!

Baldscientist, Dr. R.B. Raffa and a model of an invertebrate friend.

Baldscientist and Ben Franklin himself! He looked taller in the history books…

Talk to you soon!

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