Hartford Hospital Neuroscience Collaboration Offers More Student Research Opportunities

Up to 20 New Research Slots Per Year Anticipated in Range of Neuroscience Specialties

Joanne Berger-Sweeney  and 
Mark Alberts, M.D. (Photo by Rusty Kimball.)

Hartford, Connecticut, May 26, 2017 – In a ceremony formalizing the relationship between the Ayer Neuroscience Institute at Hartford Hospital and the Neuroscience Program at Trinity College, officials from the College and Hartford HealthCare have signed an agreement that will create far-reaching opportunities for up to 20 Trinity students a year interested in conducting research in neuroscience.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president and Trinity College professor of neuroscience, and Mark Alberts, M.D., physician-in-chief, Ayer Neuroscience Institute, and chief, Department of Neurology, Hartford Hospital, signed the collaborative agreement in a ceremony held at Hartford Hospital on May 15.

Under the terms of the agreement, Trinity students interested in conducting internships or research within a vast number of the Ayer Neuroscience Institute’s specialties, such as strokes, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, movement disorders, neuropsychiatry, neurointervention, neurosurgery, and headaches, will be linked with physicians and researchers within those fields who are interested in working with Trinity students.

“The exciting thing about the institute is that it is the multidisciplinary approach needed to break down existing silos to make sure we have the resources to take proper care of patients,” said Alberts.

While the institute will not immediately be a physical bricks-and-mortar facility and will instead be more of “a functional entity,” Alberts called it a “multidisciplinary model of care.”

Alberts and Berger-Sweeney, both neuroscientists, agreed that one of the exciting things about this collaboration is for Trinity to be able to integrate with Hartford HealthCare from a research perspective.

“Because we’re a liberal arts institution, we look for interesting connections,” said Berger-Sweeney. She pointed out that Trinity has implemented a five-year B.A./M.A. program in which one can earn a bachelor’s degree and with a fifth year earn a master’s degree in neuroscience by conducting research.

Further, she announced that Trinity will soon open its Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience, “which will contain digital arts in one half of the building and neuroscience in the other half.”

“Trinity is stimulating young minds to go into neuroscience,” said Berger-Sweeney.

“On a national level, we cannot find enough good grads to go into the neurosciences,” said Alberts. “There is a shortage of bright, young minds to do this … the need is huge because a lot of the diseases we treat are diseases of an aging population. With the baby boomers getting older, we need these young minds to provide care and to be on the next frontier of research. Your [Trinity’s] B.A./M.A. program is a fantastic idea.”

Sarah A. Raskin, Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Trinity, said the College has researchers who are tremendously productive and who have published in conjunction with “researchers from Hartford Hospital and The Institute of Living.”

“We have 15 faculty members in the Neuroscience Program who range from a neurochemist and a neurobiologist to people doing clinical work, an engineer and a philosopher who is doing research on consciousness – a wide range of faculty members. We have tremendous neuroscience students who are bright, engaged, and active, some of whom are already doing research from their first or second semester at Trinity. Many of them wind up doing research at Hartford Hospital because it’s only three blocks from our College campus,” Raskin said, adding that Trinity’s Neuroscience Program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is one of the oldest such programs in the country.

“We want this to be the start of a very strong partnership that we can continue,” said Berger-Sweeney.

 Written by James D. Battaglio