Paige Greenwood shares her experiences from the intersection of neuroscience, education, policy, and advocacy
Paige Greenwood is a rising 5th-year Neuroscience Doctoral Candidate at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and co-founder of the University of Cincinnatti Science Policy Group.
Paige's research focuses on the role of socioeconomic status on the behavioral and neurobiological correlates of reading for school-age children at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. She became interested in science policy through her science outreach teaching elementary school children of color about neuroscience in Cincinnati Public Schools. She aims to understand how she can use her neuroscience background to advocate for STEM educational reform for marginalized and low-income communities.
What got you interested in science and education policy?
My entire life has been influenced by advocacy since I was a little girl. I was diagnosed with learning difficulties at a young age which required my parents to push harder for me to gain the opportunities that I needed to succeed. Science always came naturally and has been my safe haven even in adulthood. I specifically recall my freshman year of high school when I wanted to take an honors biology course but was denied the opportunity as my counselor did not think I would succeed. In 2016, I earned my B.S. in Biological Sciences. Through lots of hard work and amazing mentors, I can proudly say today that I am now a Ph.D. Candidate in Neuroscience. It’s also no surprise that my experience has made me a huge advocate for STEM educational equality for Black and Brown children. I honestly feel that I got lucky because regardless of the doors that people deliberately closed I had amazing people in my corner who opened them. I want Black and Brown children to feel like they belong in the sciences by exposing them at an early age and engraining in them that they are more than equipped.
Can you share an example of a neuroscience lesson you taught to elementary school students?
The most fun part about teaching elementary school students about neuroscience is the excitement on their faces when they see real human brain slices. Every lesson that I’ve taught has included this so that each child can get an accurate depiction of what the human brain looks like and to learn about its functions. Using the slices, I walk through each lobe of the brain as well as the subcortical structures allowing each child to touch and ask questions. Ultimately, I want them to feel like they are neuroscientists in training so we do case studies about famous phenomena in neuroscience. Two of my favorites cases are about Patient S.M. who had a disease that hardened their amygdala causing a lack of fear and Phineas Gage who had an accident with a large iron rod being driven through the left side of his skull. Based on the information and the neuroanatomy they learned, they have to put on their investigative neuroscience hats to answer questions about each patient’s behavior. Seeing each child light up and discuss amongst each other is a gift and what drives me to continue doing interactive science education.
Paige has written multiple op-eds through NSPN's 2020 Election Initiative. What advice do you have for someone writing for the first time?
Don’t be intimidated. If you’re a scientist, applying a different writing style can sometimes be difficult as you have to adjust your language to target a lay audience. You do not have to be an expert at writing op-eds. It can be a really transformative experience because the critiques only make you a stronger writer. Storytelling can be a powerful tool for changing the perspective of a reader. Really assess who your audience is and what message you’re trying to convey. It can be a really fun learning experience if you commit yourself to the process of improving your communication skills.
What has been the response to your op-eds?
The responses have been incredible. I’ve received emails from people who have read my article confirming how important it is to address educational inequities within our public education systems. I have also received overwhelming feedback from family members, friends, and those within the Cincinnati community who share the same sentiment and are ready to reform these systems that disproportionately impact children of color. I hope to continue to use my scientific background to talk and advocate for the improvement of these issues.
[Re: Black Lives Matter] What is one thing you hope people will take away from this political moment?
After over 400 years of oppression that consisted of enslavement, Jim Crow Laws, public lynchings, and the Civil Rights Movement, we are still fighting for our humanity during the digital age of police brutality. The torch has been passed to the current generation who are just as committed to fighting for our equality in this country. We are realizing our power by pouring into black businesses and supporting the development and infrastructure of black communities. Laws are being changed and people are realizing that celebrating the emancipation of Black people in this country on June 19th is just as important if not more as celebrating July 4th. We are some of the most resilient people on this planet and we will not give up until we dismantle systemic racism that has infiltrated education, the process of voting by suppression, healthcare, the justice system and more. Black Lives Matter.