Brain Awareness Week

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is an international initiative begun by the Society of Neuroscience and the Dana Alliance in 1996 to further the public's understanding of Neuroscience. The Brain Awareness Week program is a collaborative effort between private schools, research institutions and health organizations across the country.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities and The University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth have been active partners in this effort since 1996 and have developed one of the most visible programs in the country. Neuroscience Faculty, Students from the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, U of MN affiliated staff and faculty and staff from Macalester College in St. Paul volunteer their time to make this event happen.

The focus in Minnesota has been on reaching fifth and sixth grade school children in the Seven County Metro area and greater Minnesota and teaching them about the brain and the nervous system. Since 1996, BAW presentations have been given to over 130,000 students. 

In addition to elementary school children, the BAW program is proud to sponsor the Brain Bee, a neuroscience based competition for high-school aged students (ninth thru twelfth) each year.


BAW 2021 Wrap


Brain Awareness Week 2021 celebrated brain research across the Twin Cities campus, and what a celebration it was! We had open lab meetings, neural networking hours, resume writing workshops, and Anita Randolph rocked an interview about her path to neuroscience research and why she thinks it’s so important to keep our community engaged with all aspects of research. Thank you, Anita! 


Our inaugural Poetry and Art Contests were a great deal of fun. Winners are displayed here. Mari Gades’ poem “Alzheimer’s” won the poetry contest. Jennifer Valiarovski’s “Electrical Monkey Business” entry won the 12-18 age category; Laurel Schuck’s “Astrocytes and Muller Cells” won in the 18+ category.


A big thank you is owed to the following people (in order of appearance):

  • Amanda Schmit (Psychology) and Cassandra Franco (Institute of Child Development) built the website and ran the communications team. Daniel Franks (Psychiatry), Christine Morgan (Psychiatry), and Rebecca Hervonen (Neuroscience), and Korrina Griffith (Psychology) also helped pull together resources and spread the word.
  • Julianna Goenaga led a team of presenters to talk to girls participating in Eureka! Check out their Day in the Life of a Neuroscientist FlipGrid. Curriculum designers were Amy Nippert, Carrie Sheeler, Haleigh Mulholland, Laura Buczek, Anita Randolph, and Margaret Stelzner. Panelists were Amy Nippert, Maria Linn-Evans, Adrina Kocharian, Claire Kaiser, Katie Mantell, and Lindsey Belisle. You have started something awesome!
  • Marija Cvetanovic, Esther Krook-Magnuson, Jed Elison, Megan Gunnar, Iris Vilares, Kendrick Kay, Michael-Paul Schallmo, Paul Mermelstein and Bob Meisel opened up their lab meetings and journal clubs to visitors.
  • Lorene Lanier hosted resume-writing workshops for undergraduate students.
  • Tay Netoff, Nicola Grissom, Geoff Ghose, Gulin Oz, Melissa Koenig, Meriah DeJosephs, Mo Chen, Alana Lieske, Ivan Alekseichuk, Brian Trieu, Audrey Sederberg, David Redish, Thomas Naselaris, Jesse Breedlove, Sam Montoya, Vanessa Lee, Wilma Koutstaal, Titus Adaikkalasamy, and Manny Esguerra hosted Neural Networking Hours where we enjoyed free-flowing conversations with new students and old colleagues.
  • Holly Menninger and the Bell Museum provided complimentary tickets to Mysteries of Your Brain planetarium show as prizes for Poetry and Coloring Contest winners.