Photo taken by Dr. Tony Simon @22qUCDMIND
Every summer, at UC Davis, a handful of first and second-year neuroscience graduate students work together with the amazing administrators of our graduate group for one purpose: organize, plan and execute the annual UCD Neuroscience retreat at one of two locations: Lake Tahoe or Point Reyes. Planning includes everything from: recruiting faculty and student speakers from the group, inviting a special guest lecturer, securing deposits and assigning rooms, choosing snack and coffee packages, coordinating rides and setting up the entertainment portion of the evening. This year, our hard working organizers were: Lauren Fink, Jamie Krueger, Jon Wong and Tyler Manning and our special guest lecturer was Dr.John Huguenard from Stanford University.
The keynote lecture by Dr.Huguenard was less of a lecture and more of a classroom-style conversation. Alongside interesting data and historical facts, Dr. Huguenard peppered our group with “quiz questions” to keep us engaged and actively participating.
The UC Davis Neuroscience retreat is an annual event and, as such, includes a few key traditions:
- Hats in honor of Dr. Barbara Chapman (next year, let’s do more of these)
- Officially welcoming our first-years into the cohort
- Celebrating the achievements of our group
- Fun, lively (and fiercely competitive) gaming
… and we also added a few new items to this list, which we hope will develop into long-standing traditions:
- We were joined by students and faculty at UC Merced
- We began tweeting like there was no tomorrow (#neuroretreat15)
- We eventually took the evening dance party outside to a huge field and danced the night away under the moonlight
As games begin to wind down, this group (left to right: Dr. Elva Diaz, Danny Sanculi, Jenny Mohn, Darlene Archer) start pumping the music and warming up the dance floor
As always, we couldn’t have done this without our lovely administrator Cristeta Rillera – so thank you. Until next year!
Cristeta Rillera & Anahita Hamidi enjoying lunch and “coffee talk” at Marconi Center
The Perspectives in Neuroscience Seminar Series 2015-16 edition kicked off this past Thursday, September 24th with an engaging lecture by Dr. Mark D’Esposito of UC Berkeley. After spending some time convincing the UC Davis group of neuroskeptics that fMRI can, and does indeed, pick up on segregated patterns of activity across the brain, Dr.D’Esposito shared his lab’s data on the modular (yet integrated) brain. His research team assessed whole-brain network structure in a set of patients with various types of focal brain lesions. Interestingly, those lesions found in areas deemed “connectors” (important hubs facilitating between-network communication) resulted in greater changes in the overall network structure of the brain than did lesions of comparable size elsewhere (i.e. not connectors). Furthermore, the local perturbation in one hemisphere of the brain had widespread effects on the rest of the network as a whole. In the words of Gratton and Nomura:
“These findings fundamentally revise our understanding of the remote effects of focal brain damage and may explain numerous puzzling cases of functional deficits that are observed following brain injury.” – Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(6):1275-85, 2012
Thus, despite the time spent discussing the modularity of different brain networks and areas, the inevitable fact that networks are also, undeniably, connected to one another remains. Or in Dr. D’Esposito’s own words: “to summarize, the brain is mostly modular”. Importantly, however, this modular view has real clinical implications. For example, in a more recent study conducted by his research team, modularity is predictive of patient responsiveness to cognitive brain training. Additionally, the lesions found at specific “connectors” are linked to various predictable brain diseases. Work is still ongoing.
After the lecture, a group of graduate students and post docs had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr.D’Esposito and pick his brain about training students, running a lab, setting up a synergistic team, and measuring your success as a scientist.
It was a strong start to our Perspective in Neuroscience Seminar Series (which we will be indexing on Twitter using hashtag #PINSS15 from now on, so stay tuned!) A link to the schedule of upcoming talks in the series can be found here.
Our UCD neuroscience graduate group has consistently been well-represented at the GSA sponsored Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Student Symposium (IGPS) and this year was no exception. Major congrats to our very own Abby Laman-Maharg. Her oral presentation, Stress and Sex: How Context Affects Depression, won the $5,000 Chancellor’s Grand Prize for Best Oral Presentation and Dean’s Prize for Best Oral Presentation in Social Sciences! You can read more about this year’s (IGPS) event here.
CONGRATS ABBY! #UCDNeuroREPRESENT!
Believe it or not, it’s almost Fall! Sure, the leaves aren’t changing colors (because hey, it’s always summer in California) but incoming students across various graduate groups are settling into our charming little college town of Davis and the Week of Orientation and Welcome (WOW) will soon be underway. In fact, tomorrow marks the beginning of a series of events put on by Graduate Studies which are set up to usher an incoming class of graduate students to UC Davis.
Two orientations will take place this week: (1) International Graduate Student Orientation (IGSO) and (2) Graduate Diversity Orientation Program (GDOP). Both are three-day orientations that begin tomorrow (the 17th) and run through the 19th. The Week of Orientation and Welcome (WOW) the following week, September 22-26th.
You can read more about all these events here.
Just be sure to register for any sessions you are interested in attending ahead of time! And of course, to the incoming neuroscience class: we, the upperclass(wo)men (aka: the older ones) are always here to answer your questions!
Dearest First Years, Best of luck to you on your quals day. You’ve trained for this!
It’s officially Fall. We’re gearing up for a new school year (yes, yes, I know…graduate school is a 365-days-a-year endeavor) and though our calendars are already starting to fill up with classes, TA-ship responsibilities, journal club meetings, seminar talks (David Eagleman is coming on Monday!!) and conference meetings … we would be absolutely remiss as a graduate group to gloss over the passing of a neuroscience giant this past week: Dr. David Hubel.
Last night, I watched a few youtube videos of the landmark Hubel-Wiesel experiments and smiled at the recognition of a sweet familiar accent; Dr. Hubel, I had forgotten, was not only a fellow neuroscientist but also a fellow Canadian (our similarities end there). Such moments as his passing are moments to remember: we stand on the shoulders of giants. I say that sincerely, without the pretentious and hackneyed quality that may accompany it. The thing is, it’s easy for us neuroscientists to forget: we owe so much to those who came before us. Maybe it’s because every discovery we make about the brain is guaranteed to come with a host of other complex questions. As neuroscientists, we feel often (quite acutely) the unbalanced ratio of the known to the unknown.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Humility never hurt a soul and a good challenge inspired many a great discovery. But perhaps it would also do us some good, from time to time, to look back at the lives of others who have dedicated themselves to a life of research. Those who used the unknowns as a constant source of inspiration. Those who kept themselves young at heart and engaged in their work with joy.
Here’s to you, Dr. Hubel.
[photocredits: NYTimes, September 24 2013]