New Fellowship Will Honor the Late Neuroscientist David Bucci

The Bucci fellows will spend a term preparing to attend a meeting of renowned scholars.

Dartmouth is creating a capstone seminar for neuroscience majors, thanks to an endowment honoring the legacy of David Bucci, a Dartmouth neuroscientist and expert on memory and learning who died Oct. 15, 2019.

"Dave loved teaching, and always based experiential classroom practice on cutting-edge research," says Elizabeth Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "With a scholarly focus on learning and memory, he emphasized the importance of active learning, and each year took a group of neuroscience majors to the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. The Bucci Fellows Program will build on that legacy."

Beginning in fall 2021, Bucci fellows in their senior year will spend much of the term preparing for the neuroscience society conference by reading, presenting, and discussing original articles about a set of topics in neuroscience. They will then attend the meeting, where they will learn about the newest work on the topics they have focused on, and meet the researchers whose papers they have read. The meeting attracts around 30,000 attendees and includes 14,000 presentations.

"For students, this is an exciting opportunity," says Brad Duchaine, a professor of psychological and brain sciences (PBS) and the department's chair. "Not only are they learning about research that's hot off the presses, they're also getting to hear from and talk to the authors of these studies. In the field of neuroscience, they'll be meeting celebrities."

The program formalizes a course Bucci taught for neuroscience majors during his 15 years at Dartmouth. He would share the latest research with students who had developed a strong foundation in the discipline, preparing them for the opportunity to meet scholars in the field at the annual conference.

The program's endowment is a gift from Bill Helman '80, a former Dartmouth Board of Trustees chair and member for eight years, ending in 2017.

"In my time on the board, it was very clear to me the important role Dave played on the faculty. In addition, he was a source of wisdom and insight for me and for board members," Helman says.

PBS is developing the criteria for the fellowships, which will likely be based in part on grade point averages, according to Duchaine, adding that there will be up to 16 students in the program.

"The undergraduate fellows will operate in a high-energy intellectual environment that is being refreshed by four new outstanding faculty members who are starting this year," he says.

Bucci held the Lincoln Filene Professor of Human Relations endowed chair in PBS. He had been a Dartmouth faculty member since 2004 and nurtured a generation of scholars during his time in the classroom and laboratory.

"It is always difficult to lose someone in a small organization, but Dave was absolutely central to PBS, so his loss was deeply felt. He was a people person who brought out the best in others and cared greatly about our department and the College," says Duchaine. "This program is an ideal way to honor his memory and commitment to the students of PBS."