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Recent grants totaling $235,000 will enhance learning opportunities for Lafayette neuroscience students.

Awards of $150,000 from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and $85,000 from Alden Trust will provide equipment for the instructional laboratories in Oechsle Hall, the new headquarters for Lafayette’s programs in psychology and neuroscience.

Lafayette is currently investing $10 million to transform Alumni Memorial Gymnasium into a 45,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art home for psychology and neuroscience. It will be named for Lafayette trustee Walter Oechsle, Class of 1957, and his wife, Christa, in recognition of their major gifts to the Lafayette Leadership Campaign.

Neuroscience is an increasingly popular, interdisciplinary area of study that focuses on the ways in which humans and animals are affected by the activities of the nervous system. Lafayette’s bachelor of science program in neuroscience, directed jointly by the psychology and biology departments, helps students understand nervous systems from a variety of scientific perspectives.

“Lafayette is poised to have one of the pre-eminent neuroscience programs at the undergraduate level in the country,” says Julio J. Ramirez, the R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology at Davidson College, who conducted a review of Lafayette’s program as founding president of Project Kaleidoscope, a national, NSF-funded alliance to strengthen undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

Wendy L. Hill, a professor of psychology specializing in comparative and physiological psychology, played the lead role in creating Lafayette’s neuroscience program. She is coauthor of the Project Kaleidoscope publication “Undergraduate Education in the Neurosciences: Four Blueprints.”

Hill was named Pennsylvania’s Professor of the Year in 1999 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for her extraordinary dedication to teaching and exceptional impact on and involvement with undergraduate students.

“Wendy Hill’s vision of education is one that will ensure Lafayette’s students will be among the best educated in neuroscience in the nation,” Ramirez says. “Her contributions in promoting excellence in neuroscience education at the national level are already being felt.”

“The funds from these recent grants will enhance several courses in neuroscience, including physiological psychology, neurobiology, advanced neuroscience, and a new course called neurophysiology,” Hill says. “The equipment will allow our students to do work that they haven’t been able to do before, such as record single-neuron activity from live animals. They’ll be able to coordinate brain activity with live behavior. They’ll also stain slides of brain tissue to analyze lesion sites. One of things we’ll have is a high-powered microscope that will enable them to digitize images, look at them on the computer, and load them on a website so other students can view them as well.”

Categorized in: Academic News