Research Program

Mentor Selection

The research activities programmed intend to provide undergraduate students with knowledge, experience, and appreciation for a scientific career in neuroscience. The student will select a mentor, with whom she/he will develop a research plan. Although mentored-bench work is the most important activity in this program, the trainees will be exposed to workshops, seminars, and scientific reporting activities to provide the necessary tools to excel as researchers in neuroscience.  A list of available research topics include:

Neural mechanisms of addictionCarlos Jiménez, Ph.D.
Cellular and Molecular Substrates of Anabolic Steroids Behavioral Effects Jennifer Barreto, Ph.D.
Exposure to anabolic steroids or to social isolation during adolescence have
long-lasting effects on motivational behaviors
Annabell C. Segarra, Ph.D.
Gene Profiling of Nervous Regeneration ProcessesJosé E. Garcia, Ph.D.
Mechanisms of Plasticity in Honeybee Social BehaviorTugrul Giray, Ph.D.
Molecular mechanisms underlying sleep in DrosophilaJose L. Agosto, Ph.D.
Neurobiology of AddictionCarmen Maldonado, Ph.D.
Effects of brain injury on threat/fear behaviorsDemetrio Sierra, Ph.D.
Molecular mechanisms underlying activity-dependent synaptic plasticityBruno Marie, Ph.D.
Central Pattern Generators and the Control of Motor BehaviorMark Miller, Ph.D.
Alcohol Tolerance via Wnt/ß-catenin impacts BK expression and subsequent ethanol consumptionCristina Velázquez, Ph.D.
Plasticity of cortical circuits .Amaya Miquelajauregui, Ph.D.
Regeneration of the zebrafish sensory systemMartine Behra, Ph.D.
Neural circuits and behaviorAndrew Seeds, Ph.D.
Click Here for a detailed list and description of the research projects. The student will be required to spend his/her first summer on the program at the selected on-site mentor’s laboratory. During this time the students will take several workshops.


Training activities before the selected students are integrated into the research laboratory: The objectives of the proposed activities are to facilitate the integration of the selected students to a research laboratory and provide knowledge about ethical and responsible conduct in research. To enhance the impact of theNeuroID program, these activities will be opened to all students registered in the course BIOL 4990 Introduction to Research and graduate students.

  1. Lab-notebook in research: The selected undergraduate students would be required to start in the summer after their selection. The principal investigators will give a 2 hr seminar on documentation of protocols and data in a lab-notebook. The seminar will illustrate to the students the correct way of documenting protocols, data, and observations in a lab-notebook. As instructional tools, they will use PowerPoint presentations and handouts so that the students have access to the information after the seminar. At the end of the seminar, a lab-notebook will be given to the students. The provided lab-notebook will serve as an evaluation tool of the student’s progress (see below).
  2. Laboratory safety and “etiquette”: In conjunction with the office of laboratory safety at the UPR-RP will offer a 2 hrs seminar about general laboratory safety including correct chemical management and response to lab emergencies. An additional 1 hr seminar will be given to discuss professional and responsible behavior that needs to be sustained in a research laboratory as well as simple techniques such as pipetting.
  3. “The art of reading a research article…!”: A 3 hr workshop will be offered to introduce undergraduate students to research articles. The workshop would be divided into two modules. The first module would be a 1 hr lecture about the different sections of a research article. The components and importance of each section will be discussed with the students. In the second module, the student will be divided into small groups and a research paper will be presented to them. A series of questions will be given to the groups and the students will search the answers in a specific section. A representative of the group will read the answer to the question. Through these activities, the students will learn to locate valuable information in specific sections of a research article.
  4. Ethics: A one day workshop on ethics will be developed as part of the training activities and an on-line research ethics course which includes: Ethical Issues in Research, Interpersonal Responsibility, Institutional Responsibility, Profesional Responsibility, and Animal and Human Participation in Research. This workshop is described in the section of Responsible Conduct for Research.
  5. Scientific Oral Presentation: An important component of a research career is the capacity to communicate science. A successful scientific career relies on the effectiveness to convey research interests, goals, and results in a concise, precise, and effective manner. Although scientific writing is the most important component in scientific communication, this 2 hrs seminar will focus on a scientific oral presentation. The seminar is intended to give a few tips on different strategies used to be an effective speaker and answer specific questions from the students. We will discuss different scenarios and strategies that are used to present scientific data clearly and effectively. This seminar has been given as part of the graduate course Colloquium in Biology (BIOL6001).

Workshops: The described activities will be open to a limited number of undergraduate students, with priority for NeuroID participants. The objective of these activities is to enhance the students’ research capabilities and increase their knowledge about funding opportunities ascribed to graduate students and through a research career.

  1. Graduate School Fellowships: Trainees will be instructed on fellowship mechanisms that they can apply for as graduate students (F31). The personnel at NIH-NIGMS, specifically the MBRS branch and NSF will be contacted to provide a seminar about pre-doctoral fellowship opportunities and strategies to write a successful proposal. Dr. García-Arráras has served in different study sections at NIH and NSF. Thus, he will be in charge of coordinating this activity.
  2. Technical workshops: A 3-days hand-on workshop would be developed in three different areas: Electrophysiology, Immunohistology, and Neuroproteomics. NeuroID participants will be required to take, at least, two of these workshops during the course of their two years tenure in the program. The workshops would be offered the week before the start of the Fall and Spring semester. The program directors will be in charge of organizing and coordinating these workshops.

Summer Research Programs

The students will be required to participate in a research summer program. The mentor and mentee will discuss the alternatives to participate in a summer research program. The mentee will be encouraged to continue his/her research at the laboratory of a mentor’s close collaborator. That will provide continuity to the ongoing research and stimulate the students to engage in collaborative work. However, the mentor and mentee could also evaluate the possibility of selecting a laboratory-based on specific techniques that may need to be transferred for the benefit of the mentee’s research project. Alternatively, the mentee could participate in a summer research program at an institution that she/he is interested in applying for graduate school. The NeuroID program has obtained support from different universities (e.g. Harvard, Yale, UC Denver, Northwestern Univ.) with active T32 training grants in neuroscience. The students will be encouraged to select summer research programs from these institutions.


The following specific rules are to be fulfilled by all participants of the NeuroID program. Failure to do so will result in suspension from the Program’s benefit up to dismissal from the program. The specific rules are:

  1. This first summer will serve to promote the interaction between the student and his/her mentor. Since the students will not take any course work, the students are expected to spend his/her summer in the laboratory. At the end of the summer session, the student will be required to submit a report. The report will have an introduction describing the main interest of the research laboratory and the specific scientific question the student will be addressing. Also, the student will explain the main techniques used in the laboratory, specifically those that she/he will be using on her/his project.
  2. During the academic year, the trainees will be involved in bench work in the selected laboratory, under the direct supervision of the principal investigator of that laboratory. At the end of each semester, the trainees are required to submit a progress report on the research work carried out. The report will be a 3 page summary of the research experience, data obtained, and future directions. A specific form will be provided by the NeuroID program.
  3. NeuroID participants will be required to take, at least, two of the technical workshops during the course of their two years tenure in the program.
  4. The first week of November prior to the summer session, the students need to submit to the NeuroID program the decision reached about the summer research experience. This document needs to be signed by the student’s mentor. The mentor and mentee are required to fulfill the application requirements for the summer research program.