Highlight of the semester - why CrawFly is the perfect training opportunity for those teaching neuroscience

Genevieve Bell

“If you’re trying to implement invertebrates into your lab work or into the classroom but you don't necessarily have people around you to help you or guide you, this is it. This is a great place to network, to get ideas, and to gain that knowledge of how to implement them in a classroom setting. It’s perfect.”

-Genevieve Bell


Building out a neuroscience course is both an exciting and daunting task - especially when proposing to implement a new model into your teaching lab! This is the current mission of Genevieve Bell, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Genevieve completed her B.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Biology, and Ph.D. in Neuroscience all at Florida State University. In her position at Centre College, Genevieve teaches a variety of courses including Introduction to Psychological Science, Physiological Psychology, Introduction to Genetics, and her self-created course Sexy, Tasty, and Fly - which studies mating-induced chemosensory changes in female Drosophila.

While completing her Ph.D, Genevieve developed an allergy that forced her to find an alternative to the rat and mouse models she had been utilizing. She began learning more about flies and the opportunities available with them for research. Upon starting at Centre College though, she ran into a roadblock - no one was using Drosophila outside of the labs for genetics classes.

“I told them that the idea was to move to working with flies in my lab and for my research…They were open to me using them, it was just the issue of no one else was doing research with the flies! I’m new to fly research and there’s no one around me that can offer guidance or assistance. That’s how I came across the Crawfly workshop.”

Genevieve learned about the training opportunities available at the CrawFly Invertebrate Neurophysiology Workshop from several of her colleagues in the Behavioral Neuroscience program. The opportunity came at the perfect time, as Genevieve is preparing to build an Introduction to Neuroscience course next.

“I needed to find cost-effective ways to make this class happen. I knew it would be good for building out that course, and it would also be good for me in the lab since I’m still learning about flies. It just seemed perfect!”

The CrawFly Invertebrate Neurophysiology Workshop is an intensive neuroscience education training that is held in-person twice a year. This workshop is based on topics explored in the “Crawdad Project,” a three-year program funded by the National Science Foundation to promote the use of invertebrates in undergraduate physiology and neuroscience lab courses. The goal is to provide teachers hands-on experience with invertebrate preparations that can easily be incorporated into laboratory courses back home.

Read on to learn more about Genevieve’s experience at the CrawFly Summer Workshop, which was hosted at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York this past June.

Encouraging, Inspiring, and Mind-Blowing - CrawFly Summer 2023

Over the course of the five-day workshop, Genevieve gained experience while also establishing valuable connections with the other attendees and instructors present. For her, it was the collection of people and the supportive environment they shared that she enjoyed most.

“The best part was the other people who were a part of it. It was a mix of grad students and other professors from different levels. The networking with the attendees and with the faculty - everyone was so nice and helpful. That was the best part of it, we were all just trying to help each other.”

Bruce Johnson and the team of instructors from the Department of Biology at Cornell University encouraged attendees every step of the way, whether it was exploring new ideas on the spot, providing flexibility for each attendee to work at their own pace, or keeping discussions alive throughout all sessions. Genevieve herself has always valued the space to explore, and strives to provide her students with that same freedom to try new things in the lab. She was inspired by this during the CrawFly workshop as well.

“If I didn’t have the freedom to explore as a kid, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am today. I wasn’t scared to put my foot out there and just try something. I’ve tried and I’ve failed, and that’s okay.

At the workshop, they gave us the room to screw up and to figure things out... All the sessions melded into each other, it was flexible for our ability to learn and try different things.”

In addition to the supportive network of attendees and instructors, Genevieve also highly enjoyed the hands-on practice with different techniques and live recordings, which helped to develop her skills. The highlight of these recordings being on the fly larvae, a mind-blowing moment for her!

“I’m still like ‘WOAH! We did intramuscular electrophysiology on fly larvae?!’ I didn’t even know that was possible! We were in the session where they were giving us the lecture beforehand and my jaw was dropped the whole time! That was the part that got me. I just thought that we were going to patch on to a large motor neuron during the crayfish [session] and call it a day.

Doing the recordings gave me that confidence of ‘These things are possible and I can make this happen in the classroom.’”

Related: Meet Professor Bruce Johnson: renowned neuroscientist and lead CrawFly instructor

Looking Ahead

With the success of the workshop under her belt, Genevieve is taking the time to sort through the new ideas she has for her courses. She is excited to apply what she has learned, not just to her Introduction to Neuroscience course, but to a variety of others as well.

“I have so many ideas from the workshop. I’m going to use a lot of it, I just need to rein it all in! This has been the highlight of my semester.”

Genevieve looks forward to seeing these ideas translate into reality within her classroom, and to see the impact it has on her students’ ability to learn complicated topics.

“The main thing with the crayfish is that it’s a bigger animal and they are able to see everything. I want them to be able to see the neuron and understand how those different elements impact neural firing and how that impacts the behavior.

Those visual impacts will be the largest benefit for the students. It was the largest benefit for me. I don’t know how many times I learned and forgot things, and it just never clicked until I saw it. If they can see that, it will help to make the connection for them.”

ADInstruments would like to thank Genevieve for taking time to meet with us and talk about her experience at the CrawFly Invertebrate Neurophysiology Workshop! We are excited to see how she continues to implement what she has learned, and to apply her feedback to the continued development of the workshop.

CrawFly January 2024 will take place at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Learn more and register once tickets become available by visiting the event page here

CrawFly Winter 2023 Class Picture