The symposium featured four nationally known scientists: (left-right) Ben Arenkiel, Ph.D. (Baylor College of Medicine), Vincent Pieribone, Ph.D. (Yale University), David Lyon, Ph.D. (University of California Irvine) and Michael Krashes, Ph.D. (NIDDKD).
The Kontos Medical Sciences Building was busier than a cluster of excitatory neurons on March 20 when 150 neuroscientists convened for the annual symposium of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.
The symposium featured a quartet of nationally known speakers who travelled from UC Irvine, Yale, Baylor and the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to present the latest discoveries from their research labs. From their talks, the symposium’s topic was born: “Optogenetics, Chemogenetics and Circuit Mapping of Brain Function.”
Each speaker described some of the latest tools used by neuroscientists to uncover the connections and functions of the central nervous system. These tools ranged from using the unique properties of the rabies virus to delineate CNS connections to using fluorescent protein genes derived from ocean coral to generate voltage probes that can convert voltage changes across biological membranes into optical signals.
CVCSN student presenter winners were Jianmin Su (Virginia Tech), Kareem Clark (VCU), Claire Dixon (VCU), Joseph Balsamo (JMU) and Ryan Poland (VCU). Photo taken by Pavel Lizhnyak.
An associate professor in VCU’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Colello says that the annual gathering has always been a place to learn about recent findings, but it’s also an important forum for students to begin to take their place in the neuroscience community.
In an hour-long session, called a Data Blitz, eight doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars from VCU presented a series of oral presentations. They shared their research findings with an audience populated by faculty, students and post-docs from neuroscience research programs around Central Virginia.
“I was delighted how well all the students did at explaining their research and its impact within the five-minute time constraint of the Data Blitz talk,” says Colello.
VCU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology postdoc Michael Surace presented during the Blitz. “Although the Data Blitz format presses you to present your data concisely, this may actually be a benefit,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of conversation it sparked with other researchers, especially those from other institutions.”
An additional poster session boasted nearly five dozen abstracts representing the work of undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs from a half dozen Virginia schools: Eastern Virginia Medical School, James Madison, VCU, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and William and Mary.
At the end of the day, symposium organizers selected five outstanding student presenters for awards.
“It was a wonderful opportunity, not just to be able to share your work, but to see all of the amazing research being performed right in our own backyard,” said Kareem Clark, VCU graduate student and poster presentation winner. “As a grad student, a regional meeting such as this one is great for networking and finding potential post-doctoral positions locally.”