Over here at The Think Tank HQ, we are so lucky to come across, meet and converse with some of the brightest minds in science. One day, we thought to ourselves: These individuals' insight, experience and wisdom are worth sharing with the world! So here we are, kicking off a brand new series of Rest Stop blog posts, dedicated to picking the brains of all these fabulous people. For our inaugural Rest Stop, we take a minute to talk to Terre Constantin, PhD, executive director of the Brain Research Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting neuroscience research. Check out her interview below!
What do you think about all this recent attention (and funding!) for brain research?
TC: I love all of the attention that has been in the news recently about brain research. Of course, that is what the Brain Research Foundation supports, so anything that gets neuroscience in the news is not only good for science but great for organizations like the BRF and Think Tank. The funding side is an interesting question. I assume that most people are thinking about the BRAIN Initiative, a $100 million commitment that the White House announced in April 2013. And while once again all funding is great for neuroscience, there were two keys points that were not really mentioned: 1. That private organizations are playing a huge part in this initiative (The Allen Institute for Brain Science and Howard Hughes Medical Institute). 2. That in May 2013, the government cut research funding by $1.55 BILLION. The take home message is that private funding is critical in advancing scientific discovery.
What excites you most about current brain research around the world?
TC: The most exciting thing is all of the amazing advancements that are happening. The brain is unbelievably complex so cures for neurological diseases take time. But we are building the knowledge about the brain that will get us to those answers. I believe that treatments and eventual cures are definitely within our lifetime.
Do you have a role model in the STEM/brain research field? If so, who and why?
TC: It is going to sound like a lame, rehearsed answer but all researchers that stay in academia, relentlessly trying to understand the complexity of the brain. They work so hard, writing grants and scientific articles, running a lab. It is a very hard job. They are extremely dedicated to science, and I applaud them for it.
When did you know you wanted to become a scientist?
TC: I loved science and math throughout school but really became interested in science when I got to “see things up close and in action.” When we started to have science lab and do experiments in chemistry, physics, etc. I am a visual person so that solidified it. I knew I wanted to find out more. That is why The Think Tank is such a great concept. Bringing science to kids is key. Giving them a chance to have a hands-on interaction with science is not only interesting — it is fun. And science really can be FUN.
How do you think we can get kids, especially young girls and minorities, excited about exploration and discovery in STEM or neuroscience in particular?
TC: The sooner the better. We need to show kids how cool and fun science is. Many children just don’t have the opportunity to talk to or interact with a scientist. We need to make it accessible by bringing it to them. I think that coming in contact with a program, like The Think Tank, could be very beneficial. There are a lot of students’ lives and career paths that could be changed by understanding how important science, and because I am biased, how important neuroscience is.
If you could share one cool/fun brain fact.... go!
TC: Perhaps a lot of people know this but it is always still amazing to me….the human brain has about 86 BILLION neurons. WOW!!!! That is all I can say.