Doctoral Candidate, Program in Neuroscience
Throughout her graduate career, Claire Weichselbaum, Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience, has been invested in sharing her passion for science with the wider St. Louis community. During her first semester, she began volunteering with science outreach programs on campus and at the St. Louis Science Center, and she co-founded Brain Discovery, a program that connects Washington University scientists with local 4th-6th grade classes. This program provides hands-on opportunities to experience science as it is actually practiced by conducting experiments in neuroscience with real equipment and building relationships with research professionals. Thanks to this effort, many students in the St. Louis region have discovered not only how their brains work but also what it means to be a scientist.
Under Claire’s leadership, Brain Discovery has reached over 1,500 students across the St. Louis region with more than 45 trained scientist-volunteers. Demand for the program continues to grow, and Claire has built a leadership team of dedicated volunteers to ensure its ongoing success. Last year, the fruits of her labor were showcased in the video “The Next Generation,” in which several Brain Discovery students reflect on how their future discoveries might change the world.
Claire’s dedication to service extends beyond science education. As a volunteer at Stray Rescue of St. Louis, she has fostered dozens of cats and recently established the “Young Rescuer’s Library” as a community resource with children’s books about pet rescue, adoption, and care. Claire is also an active member of First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, where she has served on committees and led children’s programming focused on social justice and activism. She is known for leading a creative back-to-school service event every August and for her storytelling stuffed animal friend, “Loving Bobcat,” who helps young people understand global issues.
On campus, Claire established the annual Neuro Holiday Gift Project, a collaborative effort among neuroscience graduate students to buy gifts and necessities for families in need. As with so many of her initiatives, what started as a small project has grown into a robust tradition, bringing together students, faculty, and staff each year in service to the St. Louis community. About Claire’s service, faculty nominator James Wertsch writes, “There are few young adults I know who have managed to demonstrate great skills and accomplishments in academic inquiry and at the same time work so effectively for the benefit of others who might also have such aspirations. In fact, Claire has managed to leverage her impressive accomplishments in scientific research to generate opportunities for the underserved students she works with in our region.”