To get students to think about the brain, Alice Cronin-Golomb encourages them to eat one—made out of cake, of course.
The College of Arts & Sciences professor of psychological and brain sciences teaches undergraduate neuropsychology, an academically challenging class with quirky extra credit assignments. In her annual edible brain competition, entries must be complex and anatomically accurate. It also helps if they are delicious. “Some students make cakes,” she says, “but Rice Krispie Treats are easy to mold. I’ve seen great ones made out of fruit.”
While the edible brains don’t survive long enough to be displayed in her Kenmore Square office, art that pays homage to the brain is splashed all over, like the brain sculpture made out of rainbow rubber bands and Styrofoam that sits on a bookshelf. “A student put a huge amount of effort into this,” says Cronin-Golomb, the codirector of the BU Center for Clinical Biopsychology and director of its Vision and Cognition Laboratory. “MRIs of white matter of the brain are shown using very colorful imagery, so I think the student was trying to simulate that. These extra credit assignments have to be something that shows a lot of work.”
Cronin-Golomb, who has taught at BU for 27 years and has amassed numerous teaching awards, says that many successful scientists have creative outlets and the extra credit work she assigns encourages students to use their creativity. “They are something that gets students excited and helps them think about the material from another angle,” she says. “Because when you’re putting these things together, you have to study the anatomy to do it right.”