UCLA Neuroscience High School Scholars Program

Who are we?

The UCLA Neuroscience High School Scholars Program is dedicated to diversifying the field of neuroscience by engaging and encouraging high school students from underrepresented communities to pursue a career in the field, particularly in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (ADRD) research. We are committed to fostering diversity in neuroscience and raising community awareness regarding ADRD, focusing on education, research, outreach, prevention, treatment, and providing mentorship. Our team of physician-scientists and research professionals are delighted to engage high school students from underrepresented communities.

Why is this important?

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that nearly seven million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is projected to increase to nearly 13 million by 2050. In addition, the health and long-term care costs for people living with dementia are projected to reach $360 billion in 2024 and nearly $1 trillion in 2050.

In the next few decades, the elder Latinx-Hispanic population is expected to grow by 391% and predictions demonstrate a large increase in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disease (ADRD) diagnosis within this community (Colby & Ortman, et al., 2015; Gonzalez et al., 2019; Perales-Puchalt et al., 2020). Further, studies demonstrate that Latinx-Hispanics and African Americans are one-half to two times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease than Whites (Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, 2023). In spite of these alarming trends, diversity in the field of neuroscience is significantly lacking representation from the Latinx-Hispanic, African American, and other underrepresented communities, which further increases the health disparity gap (Perales-Puchalt et al., 2020; Barone, 2023).

Lack of diversity in the neuroscience field contributes to health disparity issues, inadequate access to treatment in a timely manner, and minimal research participation from underrepresented individuals (Masset et al., 2021). Further, it limits our knowledge on the impact that ADRD has on underrepresented populations and impedes or delays adequate and efficacious treatments for these communities (Shah & Essien, 2022; Masset et al., 2021). Members from underrepresented communities that typically face health disparity issues, also experience disenfranchisement from participation in scientific research communities (Barone, 2023).

Diversity and inclusion in the workforce have been identified as a factor in decreasing health disparities in underrepresented communities (Matshabane, 2021). Enhancing diversity in the workforce can lead to a balanced perspective in areas of neuroscience research, increased quality of training, and increased ability to recruit and include talented individuals from underrepresented communities in research (The Lancet Neurology, 2021). A diverse workforce in the field of neuroscience can assist in minimizing the health disparity gap by providing cultural sensitivity, cultural competence, and increasing our understanding of how culture plays a role in various neurological disorders such as ADRD.

Program Opportunities

  • Monthly Virtual Seminars
    • Join us each month to learn about various neuroscience topics presented by leading experts in the field. Seminars occur on the last Wednesday of the month at 6pm. Email us to receive a zoom invite.
  • In-Person Summer Program
    • The 6-week program will expose students to various topics related to ADRD, highlighting health disparities and cultural sensitivities. The program will consist of 3 structured days, 4-hours per day that will allow for the students to engage in various activities such as:
      • clerical work, data entry, oral presentations, literature reviews, brain cutting sessions, seminars, journal club, community outreach/ engagement/advocacy in underrepresented areas, and clinical trials preparation all of which aim at enhancing the students educational experience. Students will learn to develop a high school Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Club. Students may be assigned to a mentor and work on a research project.
    • This in-person summer program is a commuter program, transportation and housing are not provided.
  • Virtual Summer Program
    • Join virtual seminars on various neuroscience topics
    • Learn to develop an Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Club at your high school
    • Observe brain-cutting sessions
    • Connect with faculty and staff
    • Research project (optional)
  • High School Alzheimer’s Disease Care and Research Club

    • If you are interested in becoming a Brain Health Ambassador and establishing a High School Alzheimer’s Disease Care and Research Club, please contact us.

    Program requirements

    • Juniors and Seniors (16-18 years old)
    • Students from underrepresented communities or students who wish to work in careers with underrepresented communities
    • Students who are mature, eager, and motivated to learn
    • Students who are considering a career in neuroscience

    Interested in more information?

    For more information about our program, please contact: 
    Maryam Beigi, MD
    Co-Founder & Program Chair

    Lorena Monserratt, PhD
    Co-Founder & Co-Director
    E-mail: lmonserratt@mednet.ucla.edu

    Jessica Morales, MPH
    E-mail: jessicamorales@mednet.ucla.edu