Christina Ragan has been a lecturer of biology and the director of Outreach for Georgia Tech’s B.S. in Neuroscience program since only January of this year. Yet she has already won an award for her teaching because “her contributions to neuroscience education at various stages along her academic journey have been numerous and influential.”
That’s what the international Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) organization, which supports neuroscience research and education, says in a statement announcing Ragan as the winner of its 2020 Carol Ann Paul Neuroscience Educator of the Year Award.
“I am so honored and grateful,” Ragan says. “It means so much that my own peers, who are experts in neuroscience education, nominated me for this award. It's been a very tumultuous time, not just for education but for the world, and this recognition is a nice glimmer of sunshine during an otherwise stressful time.”
One of Ragan’s contributions to neuroscience education is highlighted by one of her nominators quoted in the FUN statement: “We first connected in early 2018 through the Teaching Resources for Biological Psychology and Neuroscience Facebook page that Christina founded and continues to actively support. I have found this page to be an incredible resource that allows me and over a thousand members to connect, share, and learn about new and effective teaching techniques.”
Ragan started the Facebook page in 2015 when she was a visiting assistant professor at Colgate University. “I created the group, initially inviting my grad school friends, because there really weren't many avenues for people to get feedback and request activities and assignments for neuroscience courses,” she says. “I wanted tried and true effective assignments and the ability to discuss ideas, so that's how the page was born.” That page now has more than 1,300 members.
Ragan’s outreach activities include annual Brain Awareness Day and Week activities during the month of March. Brain Awareness is a global campaign designed to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science, and is coordinated by the Dana Foundation. This year, Ragan organized a virtual interactive session on neuroscience for middle school students.
Ragan’s research interests include determining individual differences in the neurobiology of maternal behavior and anxiety during the postpartum period. “In her classroom, she has integrated her experiences researching maternal anxiety,” says another nominator.
Ragan has also been a research mentor for numerous students, helping many undergraduates in independent neuroscience research projects. Many of these students have received grants for their work, some have co-authored research publications, and many have presented their work at scientific conferences.
The Educator Award is given annually to a regular member or fellow of FUN in recognition of efforts related to promoting effective teaching of neuroscience at the undergraduate level. The award honors the late Carol Ann Paul from Wellesley College, an influential founder of one of the earliest undergraduate neuroscience programs, Ragan says.
“Receiving this award adds to the many awards neuroscience faculty at Georgia Tech have received, and continues to highlight the quality of education that our undergraduate students obtain in the neuroscience program.”
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Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences