The Society for Neuroscience honours RI-MUHC employee for linking neuroscience to art
Cristian Zaelzer-Perez is co-recipient of the Science Education Award at Neuroscience 2019.
(Source: RI-MUHC and Society for Neuroscience.) Christian Zaelzer-Perez, PhD, has found a creative way to foster interest in science, and the Society for Neuroscience has taken notice. The research associate from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI‑MUHC) received the Science Educator Award last week at the Neuroscience 2019 meeting in Chicago, Illinois, with co-recipient Stefano Sandrone, PhD, from Imperial College London.
Supported by The Dana Foundation, the prize recognizes two outstanding neuroscientists: Sandrone, who conducts education activities fulltime, and Zaelzer-Perez, who devotes his time primarily to research in the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program at the RI-MUHC while conducting outreach, policy and education activities. “The creation of bridges between science, the arts, and other areas of human creativity and innovation fosters a direct benefit for people,” says Zaelzer-Perez. “It allows us to bring better health, better comprehension, and more humanity to the way we do things.”
In 2016, he founded the Convergence: Perceptions of Neuroscience Initiative, which aims to promote and educate the public on neuroscience, art, and the crossover between the two. As a scientist and graphic designer, Zaelzer-Perez worked to build a bridge between neuroscience and the arts by fostering the development of a space where neuroscientists and artists can meet and work together on collaborative projects that shed light on both fields. Its primary goal is to make neuroscience research accessible to the public by linking it to the arts.
Convergence creates professional development opportunities for researchers, artists, and teachers; builds capacity for student research mentorships across disparate fields; develops educational resources through catalogues, lectures, websites, and public events; reaches out through a variety of media formats, including blogs, videos, movies, and audio recordings; and produces exceptional exhibitions for a public audience that are at once beautiful, engaging, and highly informative. It also led to an innovative two-semester course called Convergence: Arts, Neuroscience, and Society, at Concordia University. This cross-university, interdisciplinary course invited students to explore the intersection of art, neuroscience, and society, and how these domains shape our understanding of ourselves and others.
Zaelzer-Perez hopes that the recognition his work received at Neuroscience 2019 will fuel it further. “It sparks my hopes that it will open many doors to do exciting things in science communication and understanding of its role in modern society,” he says.
The co-recipients of the Science Education Award split a cash prize and are invited to write a feature commentary on science education in the Society for Neuroscience’s open-access peer-reviewed journal, eNeuro.