The science is in: The more diverse a group of researchers, the stronger their lines of questioning overall, and the harder they work to make their cases individually, according to a Scientific American special report, "The Inclusion Equation." Prof. Julio Ramirez has spent his career helping students underrepresented in the sciences build theirs, and now, an initiative he co-directs is being honored on the national stage.
The Neuroscience Scholars Program, co-directed by Ramirez, has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM).
The two-year program is open to underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the neurosciences.
Ramirez, the R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology, focuses on holistic student mentoring in the lab and classroom as a vital part of his work. Ramirez won an individual PAESMEM in 2009, later presented to him in the Oval Office by President Barack Obama.
In 2012, Ramirez joined forces with Gina Poe, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, as co-director of the Neuroscience Scholars Program, which was founded in 1982 with support by the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. An advisory board of leading neuroscientists backs the program's commitment to advancing the careers of underrepresented young scientists.
"We're trying to help these young people have productive and fruitful careers," Ramirez said.
Since 1986, Ramirez has mentored more than 150 Davidson students as research colleagues in investigating recovery of memory function through neuronal sprouting following brain injury. That research might yield insight into means of helping individuals avoid or recover from Alzheimer's disease.
Ramirez's leadership of the Neuroscience Scholars Program is rooted in his dedication to science education, for which he has been repeatedly recognized. The American Psychological Association (APA) conferred on Ramirez its "Distinguished Career Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology Award," and in 2011, he became the first-ever undergraduate educator to receive the annual Award for Education in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). Davidson honored him with the 2012 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award. Most recently, he was chosen from among 11 finalists nationwide as the 2017 CUR-Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Awardee.
Ramirez's email tagline highlights the trademark mix of scientific curiosity and sense of fun he brings to his work with students:
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!' (I found it!) but ‘That's funny...'"- Isaac Asimov