A lineage of young neuroscientists from diverse backgrounds trace their scientific roots to a “fear lab” in Puerto Rico that the National Institutes of Health has been supporting for two decades. A crucible for studies of fear extinction, the lab has so far published 80 papers—some the first ever from Puerto Rico for certain journals—that generate more than 2,000 citations a year. Of 130 young people trained in the lab, 90 percent are from Puerto Rico and Latin America and half are women.
“Like most labs, the key has been fostering intellectual growth through journal clubs, lab meetings, weekly one-on-ones, and philosophy of science retreats,” said the lab’s founding director, Gregory Quirk, Ph.D. “Done right, these four activities develop skills of logic, communication, and intellectual inquisitiveness in trainees while also building group cohesiveness.”
After completing a post-doc fellowship at New York University, New York City, under well-known fear researcher Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., Quirk launched the lab in 1997 at what is now Ponce Health Science University, Ponce, Puerto Rico. A decade later, it moved to its current location at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School in San Juan, adding some human and non-human primate studies.
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