Science Outreach: the importance of getting involved – Deutsche Neurowissenschaften Olympiade
Written by Chiara
When I first heard about the Deutsche Neurowissenschaften Olympiade e.V. (DNO), I was a little surprised because I had never studied neuroscience as a major at high school. The association is the German branch of the International Brain Bee, a science outreach initiative that organizes multi-stage neuroscience competitions for secondary school pupils on a global scale. The German Brain Bee (its original name) saw the light of dawn in Heidelberg with its competition taking place in 2011. By 2015 it became DNO, a non-profit organisation with four local chapters (Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Berlin, Bonn) maintained and operated by more than 60 members coming from all over the world.
I don’t have enough words to describe the level of engagement, dedication, passion and hard work that the DNO team, to which I belong, puts into this program. No matter whether you are a PhD student, a medical student, a biology or psychology bachelors student, a postdoc or a high school teacher: we all strive to create a high-standard neuroscience-outreach program to involve, inspire and introduce young and passionate kids to neuroscience − the next generation of neuroscientists and medical doctors.
When I was first introduced to DNO, I dreamt to be a part of this right away: creating something so special and inspiring secondary-school pupils to love and study such an amazing subject − the brain. Needless to say, I immediately jumped on the cart of the Academic Team to contribute to this program in the way I thought I would be more of help (and I would have more fun, too). Among DNO’s achievements, the one I am the proudest of is indeed the creation of the official DNO Study Guide, the first neuroscience handbook to be written and distributed to high schools in Germany. We, at the DNO Academic Team, worked nights and weekends to create a comprehensive neuroscience compendium covering topics ranging from the development of the nervous system to neuronal cell biology, from cognition and perception to motor functions, from disease to brain repair.
During the competition, participants face written and oral examinations, a neuroanatomy test and a patient’s diagnosis session where they are aided by videos in which they see patients, doctors and families describing their symptoms and struggles. All the efforts put into preparing the competition were definitely worth it for the excitement and the thrill of it, the emotion of seeing contestants engaging themselves in the study of the brain and of ways to understand, cure and treat its pathologies. Moreover, it is interesting to attend the booths of the linked science expo, where DNO members guide contestants through hands-on neuroscience experiments. Almost rejuvenating for a senior PhD student, I would say.
Outreach activities are of importance to get people closer to what we do and why we do it as scientists. DNO inspires prospective biology and medical students to be creative and stay abreast of the latest research. Besides, we give them the opportunity to get their first contact with real neuroscience work through internships and visits at international conferences. Other outreach programs explain how the brain works to a general audience, why it sometimes malfunctions and what we can do to treat it in such case. No matter what you choose to do, I exhort you not to overlook such kind of opportunities. You can re-learn a lot (raise your hand those who still remember everything learnt at the university), inspire and mentor future scientists, increase public awareness on a variety of topics, help people in understanding why what we do is so important. You will also meet plenty of people sharing your same values and enthusiasm for science, you will find new friends and get connected to new scientific discussion’s buddies, as it happened to me thanks to DNO. After all, our motto is Driving Connectivity!
Written by Chiara Galante; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured image: DNO e.V./Massimo del Prete.