What is NW Noggin..?

NW NOGGIN:  Neuroscience outreach group (growing in networks)


NW Noggin (Northwest Neuroscience Outreach Group:  Growing in Networks, www.nwnoggin.org) is a robust, creative, and largely volunteer driven non-profit organization (EIN:  81-3885713) that brings scientists and artists and students of all ages together to share their expertise, enthuse young people about science and art, share area educational resources, and inform and excite the public about ongoing, taxpayer supported neuroscience research…


In the summer of 2012, a small group of graduate and undergraduate volunteers from local universities got together and developed a four week class on the brain and behavior for 20 middle schoolers at Sabin K-8, Northeast Portland public school.  A Portland artist, Jeff Leake, developed art projects to help convey concepts in neuroscience, and extend our outreach efforts further…


Since that summer in 2012, we’ve worked with more than 18,000 academic priority students in Portland, Vancouver, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, San Diego and DC public schools! We’ve offered free talks from students in neuroscience and art at Portland’s Velo Cult, and have informed thousands of community members about research, training graduates to present their work to a lay audience.


Our graduate and undergraduate art and neuroscience volunteers are developing experts in science communication, teaching in schools, theaters, museums, symphonies, homeless youth centers, breweries, and bike shop pubs! For more information please check out NOGGIN BLOGGIN…

Neuron ART

Essential to our training of new scientists is the inclusion of art (the “STEAM” approach).

Arts integration makes learning personally relevant. It allows open ended exploration of scientific concepts, and offers science teachers a broader palette from which they can differentiate their lessons. This cross-disciplinary collaboration is also valuable to artists, who often use their skills to explore and enhance work in other fields. Yet art students are seldom exposed to this kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration during their education.

Harrison Park brains

We start by integrating graduate students (many from OHSU) into advanced undergraduate neuroscience courses at Portland State University (and, in the past, at WSU Vancouver) during the academic year.  The undergraduates learn about neurons, networks, and techniques, pore over peer-reviewed journal articles, and gain fluency in the language of the discipline, before working directly with graduate students, who spend several weeks in the classroom teaching about their work.  This informs our undergraduates about currently funded research opportunities, and helps train our graduate students to teach.

We sometimes bring everyone together again in summer, along with art students, to develop their own collaborative, creative, multi-week courses for K-12 students enrolled in city, county, state and federal programs designed to offer enrichment opportunities.

Primate Center

However, starting in 2015, we dramatically expanded outreach both in schools and the broader community. Noggin volunteers now regularly visit K-12 classrooms throughout the academic year, and arrange public, semi-monthly collaborative presentations on research and art.

In spring of 2016, we were invited to bring 26 outreach volunteers to Washington DC to present brains in public schoolsCongress, the White House, and the Phillips Collection!  In October of 2016, we were recognized for our innovative outreach model by the Obama White House  –  specifically for bringing together students from multiple institutions, and multiple academic disciplines, and connecting them directly with the broader community…


We headed back to the U.S. Capitol in 2017, and presented multiple outreach posters at the Society for Neuroscience conference, visited the National Institutes of Health and 700+ K-12 students in DC area schools, presented brains and made art in Congress  –  and ran a mobbed “Art of Neuroscience” booth at the convention center!

LEARN MORE: From classrooms to Congress!

LEARN MORE: Serving 700 students at SfN!

LEARN MORE: NW Noggins Bring #brains2DC!


An exciting aspect of NW Noggin is how everyone gains useful experience.  Our undergraduates benefit from exposure to graduate students, and learn about graduate school, and federally funded research opportunities at OHSU, PSU and elsewhere.  Graduates and undergraduates develop their own cross-disciplinary lesson plans and activities, and they teach K-12 students, conveying concepts in science in effective and engaging ways…


Our art students contribute immensely to our outreach activities, by brainstorming effective and creative, hands on projects to explore concepts in neuroscience, and by developing arts-integrated lessons that further student understanding of science and art.

Finally, our K-12 participants get very excited about these subjects, and discover how to further satisfy their interests by continuing their education through college and beyond…


We also partner with many local institutions, including Portland’s innovative P:ear homeless youth center, the Portland Art Museum, Caldera Arts, MESA, Youth Engaged in Science (YES!), BioGift and Velo Cult, a bike shop/event space/pub in Northeast Portland where our volunteers offer collaborative presentations of their lab and studio work, and raise awareness of exciting art projects, and ongoing, federally funded neuroscience research underway at PSU, OHSU and WSU Vancouver…

In summer 2016, Northwest Noggin incorporated in the state of Oregon, and received federal status as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the fall!  Our EIN is 81-3885713…

We’d like to more effectively and efficiently accept investment in our pipe cleaners, sheep brains, nitrile gloves and additional arts supplies for school and community events, and for travel, conference attendance, and stipends for our tireless graduate and undergraduate volunteer educators.  

We are very excited about this development, and we welcome your support!

For a VIDEO INTRODUCTION to nwnoggin.org, prepared by past participants (and PSU students) Lindsay Miller and Michael Miller (who met each other while volunteering with NW Noggin!), please check out the following…

All About NW Noggin

Bill Griesar, Ph.D.
Neuroscience Coordinator, nwnoggin.org
Senior Instructor, Psychology, Portland State University
Affiliate Graduate Faculty, Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health & Science University

Curriculum vitae: GRIESAR_CV_JANUARY_18


Jeff Leake, MFA
Arts Coordinator, nwnoggin.org
Adjunct Instructor, Psychology, Portland State University

Adjunct Instructor, Neuroscience, Washington State University Vancouver
Gallery 114




Latino Network Noggin Slides 2017 (pdf)

March-for-Science-2017 (pdf)

March-for-Science-2017 (ppt)

Click below for slides from an introduction to NW Noggin, in a workshop we presented at the Oregon Arts Education Association conference in fall, 2015…


OAEA Conference slides 2015

Additional introductory slides on NW Noggin are found here…


What is NW Noggin SLIDES (PPT)

What is NW Noggin SLIDES (PDF)


PeaceHealth Conference slides from November 2015


PeaceHealth SLIDES 11_2015 (PPT)

PeaceHealth SLIDES 11_2015 (PDF)


Portland Art Museum slides from “In Dialogue” presentation (11/15)


PAM-In-Dialogue-SLIDES-11_2015Final (PDF)

PAM-In-Dialogue-SLIDES-11_2015FINAL (PPT)


PSU NTTF Slides:  NTTF talk SLIDES May 2016 (ppt)
PSU NTTF Slides:  NTTF talk SLIDES May 2016 (pdf)

Comments are closed