Exercise goal: A Neuroscience Elevator Pitch

Instead of the typical ice-breaker, I find it useful to prompt students to consider some problem in the world, that can be big or small, that neuroscience can solve. The end goal is to make them interact with one another, to discuss amongst themselves interesting real-world problems, to identify individuals who are highly excited about neuroscience, and to just get their creativity flowing. Because students are just coming into the class, the goal isn’t to have students bogged down into the technical details, but to describe in general terms, the problem, and how they can solve it. I think this idea is probably something one should re-visit throughout the course of the semester… as often, we learn material… but how can this material help solve things in the real world or in the market?

Prompt:

  1. Identify a singular problem in the world that is important, either to you or the world, big or small, that can be solved using neuroscience. This problem can be absolutely anything, it can be practical or completely in-practical. (3 minutes or so to discuss)
  2. Now, design a product or service that one can offer/design (kinda like a tech startup), which can help solve this problem. Your group is then going to make a brief 1-2 minute pitch to the rest of the class! (3 minutes)
  3. Go through each group, having them all stand up, state their names, pitch their problem, and then introduce their product or service that they would come up with! Essentially an elevator pitch. Comment on each of their ideas, either in terms of how practical it is, what research out there is doing that atm, cool bits of science, etc.

Comments/Experience:

Students are very imaginative given what little time they have to prepare and their starting knowledge of neuroscience. The exercise seems to introduce a relaxed atmosphere, and students seem to enjoy the break from typical ice breakers. It is open-ended, and in an environment where they can come up with anything, it seems to work really well. In particular, when students come up with ideas/problems, and ways to solve them, for issues that are currently being worked on in the field… it is both rewarding to you and the students to have them know that their outlandish idea really isn’t all that outlandish… and with the right tools and knowledge, probably one day, their ideas can likely come to fruition. One thing to note, try to keep students away from all focusing on “solving a disease state”, but rather “how to impact/treat/improve quality of life” for that disease state. It usually yields more interesting results.

Examples of ideas students came up with are:

  1. alarm clock which has electrodes in your brain to wake you up. Waking up in the morning is hard 🙂
  2. drugs for ameliorating depressive symptomology after risk taking behavior
  3. drugs/device for enhancing memory/recovering memories
  4. addiction drug or treatment… 1 stop shop every 6 months to reset your neurons!
  5. health care insurance revamp (bit general, but hey, its important!)
  6. wireless brain calling services (cellphone chip on your langage centers)
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