STEMM Idol Speaker Dr. Jim Olson

Young minds had the opportunity to learn more about neuroscience when Dr. Jim Olson returned for a fourth year in the STEMM Idol Speaker Series. The professor and researcher could add "a magician's doubter" to his list of titles as he explained how our eyes and our mind works to defy illusions.

While presenting, Dr. Olson showed students to not believe everything they saw at first glance. He gave several examples where students first saw different images than their classmates. Dr. Olson went on to show students how the brain works and can sometimes trick what our eyes are seeing.

"We perceive things in a way we can't out think them... some illusions you've seen before. These you can't because they're built into the way our brain is wired," Olson explained.

Dr. Olson graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Engineering Physics. While there, he expanded his interest from physics to biology and spent some time working in a laboratory in the Chemistry Department before moving on to the University of California at Berkeley to complete his doctorate in Biophysics. In his research at UC Berkeley, Dr. Olson studied the interaction of laser light with nerve cells in culture and performed some experiments using the billion electron volt heavy ion particle accelerator at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories. He also taught physics in small group sessions and laboratories.

He then moved on to the nearby Stanford University School of Medicine for more research training in Neurochemistry and additional experience teaching in the medical cardiovascular course. Dr. Olson also developed and taught physics courses in the respiratory therapy program at a local community college.

Next, he took a faculty position at Tulane University in New Orleans where he began teaching medical neuroscience and continued his research on a variety of conditions that affect the brain. Finally, Dr. Olson moved to join the Department of Emergency Medicine at Wright State University in 1986 to head up their research laboratory.

Dr. Olson's research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Emergency Medicine Foundation, among others. He also participates in medical and graduate neuroscience courses and helps direct medical research projects for residents in the department's resident training program. In addition to science and science education, Dr. Olson enjoys taking pictures and printing black and white photography (from film), playing guitar, and flying.

In 2010, Dr. Olson was presented the Science Educator Award by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). The annual award "recognizes an outstanding neuroscientist who has made significant contributions in promoting public education and awareness about the field," and includes a $5,000 prize. According to a 2010 SfN press release, Dr. Olson worked to promote the inclusion of neuroscience topics into Science Olympiad competitions and into the curriculum for more than 5,000 middle schools and high schools across the U.S.

Are you interested in becoming a CJ STEMM Idol Speaker Series presenter? Contact Meg Draeger, CJ STEMM coordinator, at (937) 461-3740 x487, or at mdraeger@cjeagles.org.

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