​Social neuroscience fair gives Chicago kids hands-on day of science

Students at the Social Neuroscience Fair

This October, the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division hosted its first Social Neuroscience Fair, in collaboration with the Society for Social Neuroscience (S4SN) and Noggin. The fair, which took place at the Museum of Science and Industry, welcomed more than 500 K-12 students from area schools. The event was organized by social neuroscientist and director of the brain dynamics laboratory at the University of Chicago, Stephanie Cacioppo, PhD, and Hakizumwami Birali Runesha, PhD, Assistant Vice President for Research Computing and Director of the Research Computing Center, as an outreach effort to reach local kids interested in science.

“We do this to mentor and expose these younger generations to what this field really means,” Runesha said. “I think studying this at a young age helps kids understand and pick some of these careers.”

The fair featured 12 interactive stations, including one with special impairment glasses to challenge students to walk in a straight line, real human brains for students to study and handle, and a low voltage shock experiment to demonstrate the nervous system’s reaction.

Volunteers and students from the University of Chicago staffed the exhibits to explain and walk students through the different activities.

“We want kids to dream big, dream about doing big jobs and to ask big questions in life,” Cacioppo said. “We are convinced that we cannot dream of things that we don’t know exist. So that’s why we think as University of Chicago faculty that it is our duty to expose kids to what we know.”