Program History

Founded in 2008 by private donations from the Ellenbogen family and others, the Neuroscience Summer Student Program is a transformative and inspiring eight-week program that encompasses research, lectures and surgical observations. This education program was devised and launched in 2008 by Richard and Sandy Ellenbogen and coordinated by Jim Pridgeon, MHA, Senior Lecturer. Dr. Ellenbogen is Professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery and Director of the University of Washington (UW) Neurosciences Institute (NSI). 

From 2008-2015 the program was supported by private donations from the Ellenbogen Foundation and numerous community education and EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) advocates.  The goal was to provide inspiration, mentorship and scientific preparation for students interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience research, healthcare, or biomedical engineering/ medicine. One of the program’s major focuses is the recruitment of underrepresented minorities (URM), including economically disadvantaged and rural students who would not have normally been exposed to this unique opportunity. 

Since the program’s inception in 2008, 143 rising freshmen and college undergraduate students age 18 and older from 80 different schools have participated in the program. Students have participated in 17 different laboratories, engaging with more than 20 faculty. Students have attended over 140 unique Neurological Surgery Grand Rounds presentations, observed over 500 surgical procedures and clinical shadowing opportunities by following 20 different attending neurological surgeons at three different UW affiliated hospitals. Students have also participated in 84 weekly student group presentations by 24 different faculty members.

Although still a very young program, over 20 students from earlier classes have gone on to medical school or PhD neuroscience programs.

In 2016, the program earned NIH/NINDS R25 funding (Ellenbogen PI) based on its innovative focus on translational neuroscience, its record of diversity in both mentors and students, and for its high-quality faculty mentorship and student engagement. The program was felt to be unique by reviewers because it was principally based on donations from the Ellenbogen Family Foundation with additional funding by other community education and EDI advocates. Private donations still support gaps in NIH R25 funding for the educational program, graduation and social events.

The program has also actively participated in the Washington State Rainier Scholars Program for academic advancement of underrepresented/underprivileged students. Rainier Scholars offers a pathway to college graduation for hard-working, low-income students of color. The program has attracted and matriculated several Rainier Scholars since 2008. One student has finished medical school and is now in residency, another student is now in medical school and two other students are working in neuroscience labs.