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Not for publication

March 30, 2004 -- No. 173

Duke neurobiologist to motivate students to let dreams take flight

Thursday (April 1), 11 a.m. to noon
Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building
UNC campus

Media representatives are invited to cover a speech given by Dr. Erich Jarvis, neurobiologist and assistant professor at Duke University, to about 150 N.C. college students. His speech, "Dreams Taking Flight," is part of the 2004 Spring Health Professions Forum hosted by the N.C. Health Careers Access Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The forum is especially targeted to N.C. undergraduate students interested in pursuing health careers and who come from minority and-or underserved populations.

Jarvis will use his own life story to urge students to pursue careers in health care and the sciences. Jarvis will chronicle his journey from Harlem to Duke University, where at 37 he received the Alan T. Waterman Award, the National Science Foundationís highest honor, for his achievements in research.

Jarvis leads a team of Duke University Medical Center researchers in a quest to understand how songbirds learn to sing Ė research he hopes may lead to treatments for human speech disorders.

Jarvis grew up in Harlem, with relatives and friends in prison and on drugs. His father, once a pianist and chemist, began using drugs and suffered from schizophrenia early in Jarvisí childhood. He often lived in caves in city parks. Jarvisí parents divorced, and his mother raised him and his siblings.

Despite their troubled family life, Jarvis has credited his parents for inspiring him to become a scientist. His fatherís keen observation and appreciation of the natural world and his motherís desire for him to pursue a career helping others led Jarvis to science.

After studying dance at the High School of the Performing Arts in New York City, Jarvis attended Hunter College, where he earned bachelorís degrees in biology and mathematics. He went on to study neurobiology at Rockefeller University, earning his doctorate in 1995. He was one of 52 African-Americans to earn a doctorate in biological sciences that year. He joined the Duke faculty in 1998.

The N.C. Health Careers Access Program is based at UNC-Chapel Hill and has centers on several N.C. campuses. For more information on the program, click on

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N.C. Health Careers Access Program: Renee King, (919) 966-2264 or

News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or