The Neuroscience Community Education Lab studies how the social dynamics of students teaching and learning together may contribute to professional skills, well-being, and academic achievement.

Everyday Neuroscience

Teaching by listening

Everyday Neuroscience, an academically based community service course, complements the traditional content-based neuroscience curriculum by preparing Penn students to meaningfully deploy their knowledge beyond the traditional campus, building skills in communication, innovation, and critical thinking. The neuroscience-based lab activities are designed to reinforce fundamental biological concepts for Robeson students, such as cell theory, diffusion and osmosis, protein function, organ structure-function relationships, evolution, and genetics.

The teachers, administrators, and students at Robeson are vital to the success of the course.  Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships also provides generous guidance and support.  Research is conducted year-round to discover improvements to the course’s impact for both Robeson High School students and Penn students.


The Project Team

Lori Flanagan-Cato created the Everyday Neuroscience course in 2016.    She received her B.A. (psychology) from Rutgers, her Ph.D.  (neuroscience) from Pitt, and her M.Ed. (education policy) from Penn.

Paul Robeson High School, located in West Philadelphia, provides students with rigorous and relevant educational experiences.

The Netter Center for Community Partnerships is Penn’s core facility to foster beneficial relationships between the university and West Philadelphia.


Current Penn students

Harrison Fellheimer is conducting a Neuroscience honors thesis to study the possible effects of spatial reasoning games on cognitive function.

Theodor Lenz is conducting a Neuroscience honors thesis to study the possible connection between neuroendocrine changes and social perception.

Mya Bojarsky is conducting an independent study project to investigate the possible connection between autonomic physiology and social perception.

Previous Penn students

Peter Nwaoba (Penn ’19) completed an independent study project entitled “Does an ABCS neuroscience outreach program improve high school achievement?”  Peter is now a student at University of Virginia Law School.

Christina Steele (Penn ’20) completed an award-winning Psychology Honors Thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Adrianna Jenkins entitled “A Real-World Study of the Contact Hypothesis: Intergroup Contact in Academic-Based Service Learning.”  Christina is now a Marshall Scholar.

Violet Tu (Penn ’21), a biophysics and neuroscience double major, analyzed possible effects of our Robeson partnership on social perceptions.  She is now a research assistant in auditory neuroscience.

Previous summer interns

Cecelia Longo (Oberlin College ’20), worked as a summer intern to analyze the educational impact of Everyday Neuroscience.

Sarah Hatch (Penn GSE) worked as a Provost Fellow for Community Engaged Research to develop a theory of change based on Everyday Neuroscience.

Students interested in working on this project as a research assistant, an independent study student, or a work study student, can email Professor Flanagan-Cato to express interest.  A commitment of two semesters, 10 hours per week, is required.



What Works? Research

“Brain” storming

Each semester presents new insights into what Penn and Robeson students gain from the course and where the course can better address students’ needs.

In the coming year, the course will focus on:

    • communication and team work skills for the Penn students
    • cultivating curiosity for the Robeson students
    • critical thinking for both Penn and Robeson students


Flanagan-Cato, L.M.  Everyday Neuroscience: A Community Engagement Course.  Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education18(1):A44-A50; 2019.