Mid-term Written Assignment (Due Week 8):
Students will write a paper proposing a future scientific research study (1–3 experiments) expanding on one of the topics covered in the course. The proposal should not exceed three pages in length (1.5 line spacing, 1500 words max). Sections in the proposal should include the following: "Background and Significance," "Experimental Design," and "Expected Results." In the "Background and Significance" section, students should briefly describe the scientific question to be examined and the significance of the question as it relates to synaptic neurobiology, circuits, and / or disease. Emphasis should be placed on the "Experimental Design" section. This section should include the rationale for the experiments and a basic description of the designed experiments (with positive and / or negative controls). The "Expected Results" section should include potential results and interpretations, caveats and problems that might arise, and alternate strategies to overcome these pitfalls. Students are welcome to discuss their proposals with the instructors (before Week 7).
Oral Presentation (Due in the Final Class):
Students will choose a specific paper related to any of the course themes (e.g. molecular mechanism of synapse formation, synaptic plasticity, circuits, disorders) and present it to the class in the form of an oral presentation using PowerPoint (papers will be subject to instructors' approval). Each presentation should be approximately 15–20 minutes leaving time for questions. Specific presentation lengths will be determined based on the number of students enrolled. Students are expected to effectively present the question being addressed in the paper and describe the methods used. The focus should be on the key experiments and controls used in the study. Students are also expected to critically evaluate, rather than summarize, the authors' conclusions and comment about suitability of the authors' approach. Presentations should also include suggestions for improved analysis or future research regarding the topic described in the paper.