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Insight: Research Edition
MCIN Program Celebrates 20 Years of Groundbreaking Research
In 1986, Dr. Stanley B. Kater launched the Program in Neuronal Growth and Development as a seminar series designed to bring nationally and internationally recognized scientists to the Colorado State University campus. Twenty years later the program, now known as the Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Neurosciences (MCIN), is a University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence with a global reputation for outstanding research and innovative graduate education.
Today, MCIN has 25 neuroscience faculty affiliates in four colleges and eight departments including Biomedcal Sciences, Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Computer Science, and the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, as well as the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. The diversity of the faculty members reflects a range of research interests linked together by one common element – the neuron.
“The neuron is what brings us together at the Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Neurosciences,” said Dr. Jim Bamburg, Director of the MCIN and a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Natural Sciences. “We are all working on aspects of the nervous system – muscle regulation, development, degenerative diseases, sensory perception, function and more. We are working to understand the neuron from the outside in, and the inside out.”
In 1990, Dr. Bamburg was elected as the program’s director and the group decided to establish a graduate program. The graduate program is unique in its approach in that it is not a degree-granting program. Enrolled students spend their first year rotating through MCIN laboratories and complete a core curriculum in the neurosciences. In their second year, the students select a mentor and a department (though the mentor is not necessarily in the same the department as the student), and the graduate degree they will pursue. They graduate from the University with a strong research background in neurosciences and a graduate degree that further defines their expertise. The student’s transcript notes that they have successfully completed the requirements of the interdisciplinary MCIN program.
In 1992, the University created the Programs of Research and Scholarly Excellence (PRSE) to encourage the growth and development of programs with a proven record and great potential. MCIN received PRSE recognition in the first year the program was established and has retained that status. Because of that designation, MCIN received budgetary increases all of which was earmarked for student support and stipends. In addition, in 2002 a subgroup of MCIN faculty received a training grant from the National Institutes of Health to support graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
In the years since its inception, the research focus of the MCIN has evolved as faculty members have left the group, joined the group, or changed research interests. Today, faculty research interests are focused in areas related to neuronal differentiation, degeneration and regeneration; ion channels and membrane physiology; synaptic mechanisms; neuronal circuitry and chronobiology; sensory biology; artificial neural net-works; cognitive neuroscience; and neurotoxicology.
“We have faculty working on just about every aspect of the nervous system,” said Dr. Bamburg. “We work at the cellular and molecular levels and, with the addition of faculty affiliates in the Department of Psychology, on cognitive function as well. Our faculty is supported by state-of-the-art research facilities that support the latest technological advances in microscopy, imaging, freeze-fracture, protein sequencing and more.”
Faculty members also have been instrumental in establishing a local branch of the Society for Neuroscience – the Front Range Neuroscience Group. The group, created in 2003, now hosts the premier neurosciences meeting in the Rocky Mountain region bringing in world-renowned speakers, a large and diverse group of vendors, and a poster session with the most recent break-throughs in neurosciences
.“Dr. Stuart Tobet deserves much of the credit for establishing and maintaining this vibrant group,” said Dr. Bamburg. “It brings much deserved recognition to the efforts of the MCIN faculty and highlights their research work as well as our graduate program. It’s very exciting to host this meeting and bring so many amazing researchers here to Fort Collins. Our students benefit greatly from these interactions, and also they get a sneak preview of what to expect at the national conference.”
The next 20 years are sure to bring even more recognition to the Program in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Neurosciences at Colorado State University as students and faculty redefine and refine our understanding of the complexities innate to the human nervous system. To learn more about the MCIN program, or the Front Range Neurosciences group, visit their Web site at www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/mcin.