ASU’s Biodesign Institute and Banner Research announce neuroscience scholars summer program

Undergrad and grad students are eligible; applications due by March 1

January 11, 2019

If understanding the inner workings of the brain is on your mind, now is the time to explore the Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program. Top-achieving college undergraduate and graduate science students are eligible to apply for the paid eight-week training program. Applications must be received by March 1.

Students selected for the program will work side-by-side with some of the world’s most talented scientists, clinicians and researchers in an environment devoted to neuroscientific biomedical research and clinical care. Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago. Download Full Image

“The Banner-ASU Neuroscience Scholars program provides invaluable hands-on experiences in the lab or clinic that fuel the curiosity, creativity and talent of the young people who participate each year,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. “We greatly appreciate the investments which help our students to flourish year after year.”

Students will work on a research project full-time in a laboratory under the mentorship of a scientist from Banner Research or the Biodesign Institute.

Students will have the opportunity to select one of four research tracks for deeper study, including basic and translational neuroscience; computational image analysis; healthy aging research; and brain and body donation. Each research track is correlated to a participating training facility.

CJ Bruske, a 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program alumni and a University of Arizona Honors College graduate, said, “My ultimate goal in life is to leave the greatest impact on my community … whether that be discoveries in the lab that ensure the next generation does not suffer from debilitating diseases or impacting a single individual in a medical setting.”

“The need is greater than ever to work collaboratively in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease,” said Eric Reiman, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute executive director and University Professor of Neuroscience at ASU. “It is a true honor to educate and inspire the creative minds of students across the country. They’re working to find answers to some of the most challenging questions, then bring their passion home to other students and colleagues.”

Students will receive hands-on training, attend educational seminars, learn about career options, practice scientific writing, attend social-networking events and create a scientific poster to present the outcomes of their research at a concluding symposium.

Banner started the scholars program 16 years ago. Since then, more than 220 students have donned lab coats for a summer of science. Most of the students pursue degrees in science or medicine. The Biodesign Institute joined the partnership three years ago.

Scholars are expected to commit 35 to 40 hours per week to the program. A stipend of $125 per week, for a total of $1,000, will be provided upon successful completion of the program. The overall aim is to give scholars cutting-edge experience in biomedical and clinical research.

Past participants have gone on to achieve success and shared impressive accomplishments, including scientific abstract and manuscript publications, top national student rankings, acceptance into first-rate graduate and medical schools, and national awards and scholarships.

Shiv Shah, an ASU student in the 2018 program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because I am fascinated by the intricacies and circuitry of the brain. The fact that billions of neurons are communicating with one another and give us consciousness and the ability to think simply amazes me.”

Haidyn Bulen, an ASU student and alumni of the 2018 Neuroscience Scholar program, said, “I am passionate about neuroscience because the brain is the very core of what it means to be human. … Neuroscience requires innovative thinkers and problem solvers.”

The Neuroscience Scholars program is an extraordinary opportunity for high-achieving students to connect their coursework to real-world experiences that cannot be replicated in conventional settings. Last year philanthropic gifts provided critical funding to make this program possible for nearly a dozen students — however, more than 100 qualified students applied. Organizers are actively seeking additional resources to make the Neuroscience Scholars experience available to more students in 2019. Visit our program website to learn more about opportunities to support this outstanding program.  

For more information, eligibility requirements and application, visit

Written by Dianne Price

Social work doctoral student wins prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research scholarship

January 11, 2019

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected Mónica Gutiérrez, a second-year ASU PhD student in social work, as a Health Policy Research Scholar.

Gutiérrez is one of only 40 students in the nation selected for the prize. She plans to focus her research on understanding the impact of displacement, gentrification and connection to place within low-income communities and how these factors contribute to the health and well-being of vulnerable families. She is particularly interested in the use of community-based participatory research to inform social policy and systems change. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Mónica Gutiérrez. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar Mónica Gutiérrez is a doctoral student at the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. Photo by Alexis Bojorquez Download Full Image

The award is valued at $120,000 and is disbursed over a four-year period.

“I feel personally connected to many of the communities that are directly affected by health inequities," said Gutiérrez. "I hope as a result of my research and the training acquired through the fellowship I can lead and collaborate across sectors to inform social policy and urban planning."

Gutiérrez believes a diverse pool of researchers and policymakers is needed now more than ever.

"With different voices in the conversation, policies and solutions can be more inclusive and relevant to a broader range of communities," she said.

Gutiérrez, a first-generation college student, earned her Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University and Master of Social Work degree from ASU with a concentration in planning, administration and community practice. In addition to her coursework, Gutiérrez is a research specialist at ASU’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, where she works with communities to conduct evaluations and disseminate findings regarding research-based interventions aimed at eliminating health disparities.

She also is a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides migrant students with academic support during their first year in college to establish a strong foundation for continued academic success. As a beneficiary of mentorship herself, Gutiérrez believes mentoring plays an important role in student achievement and retention especially for first-generation college students.

"I have always had a calling to serve my community and help give back just like the many mentors I have had in my personal and academic journey,” she said. 

As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Gutiérrez will join a diverse group of scholars to collaboratively tackle persistent health challenges by creating innovative solutions through research.

“This new cohort of scholars is committed to research that challenges long-held notions about the health of our communities,” said Harolyn M.E. Belcher, director of the Health Policy Research Scholars program, director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I am thrilled to work alongside them as they continue to develop into the kind of leaders who can enact real change and ultimately build a culture of health.”

Written by Miguel Vieyra