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Ear training for the next generation of neuroscientists

The funding will support specialized education for postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students

ear imagery
The Hearing & Communication Neuroscience training grant has been renewed at USC. (Photo/The National Library of Medicine)

If you want to know why hearing and communication neuroscience matters, meet Richard Reed. A musician who lost his hearing for nearly a decade, Reed received a cochlear implant and successfully continued his career as a professional pianist and organist.

Reed will be speaking and performing at 4 p.m. on Aug. 22 at the Hedco Neurosciences Building (Room 108) to celebrate the start of the academic year and the renewal of the Hearing & Communication Neuroscience (HCN) training grant at USC.

Support for the next generation of researchers is incredibly important.

Neil Segil

Funded with nearly $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the renewed training grant (number 2T32DC009975-06) will provide two additional years of support to two postdoctoral fellows and four Ph.D. students until 2019. The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will provide two years of support for a fifth Ph.D. student.

This specialized training has launched the careers of a series of students and postdoctoral fellows in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, neuroscience, linguistics, psychology and biomedical engineering.

“Postdoctoral trainees from the HCN program have gone on to premier faculty positions, such as Cornell and the University of Delaware, and one of the physician scientists has gone on to a staff scientist position at NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders,” said Neil Segil, co-principal investigator (P.I.) on the grant and professor of research in the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. “And the graduate students, by and large, have gone off to do further training as postdocs at other leading institutions.”

Sarah Bottjer, professor of biological sciences, serves as the other co-P.I. on the training grant. The program’s 18 official faculty mentors — called preceptors — come from the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and USC Dornsife. The program also has strong ties to clinical practice through the Department of Otolaryngology and the USC Center for Childhood Communication, located at the John Tracy Clinic, an audiology center for children with hearing loss.

The grant also funds programs for all USC graduate students with an interest in the field. Students from across the university participate in a monthly dinner meeting featuring an outside speaker, an annual retreat at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island and a biannual course about hearing and communication neuroscience.

“The big picture is that hearing and communication neuroscience is a pretty small field, and there are very few places in the United States where there is a concentration of scientists as large as there is at USC,” Segil said. “There’s still a huge unmet need from an educational standpoint, so support for the next generation of researchers is incredibly important.”

 

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Ear training for the next generation of neuroscientists

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