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UCL Neuroscience Symposium 2014: an overview

By ucyow3c, on 2 July 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Jack Moore, BSc student at St Mary’s University

With over 800 people attending and almost 200 posters being presented, there was a real sense of excitement around the halls of the Institute of Education (IoE) where the 5th annual UCL Neuroscience symposium was held on 19 June.

James Rothman

Professor James Rothman

With so many people at the event, and so much being presented, it was a great opportunity to discover what other researchers have been doing and share thoughts on the latest developments. Over the years the event has only got bigger, with the entry queue this year winding all the way up the stairs of the IoE.

The day began with last year’s Nobel Prize winner, Professor James Rothman (Yale University), giving a thought-provoking opening keynote speech on how calcium controls neurotransmitter release to a packed auditorium of both students and staff. As Professor Rothman is a Professorial Research Associate in the UCL Institute of Neurology, it seemed a fitting way to begin a symposium in which such a diverse and successful domain get a chance to come together and learn about what is being achieved by different institutes and laboratories.

After the applause for Professor Rothman had quietened down, everyone finally had a chance to see all 180 posters on offer at the event. Dr Martine Groen, who was on the panel deciding this year’s Laboratory Poster Prize, told me the winning poster would have to be one that was nice to read and walk through, making clear what the research question is and why it is interesting.

Posters on show

The panel were going to have a hard to time deciding the winner with such a varied range of topics covered by the 32 laboratory posters. This can also be said of the 150 research posters, covering everything from the physical functioning of neurons, to how this translates into our actions and the brains degeneration, to research techniques.

The second session of talks began with session chair Professor Linda Greensmith from the UCL Institute of Neurology introducing speakers from numerous different fields of neuroscience, including Dr Luca Crepaldi, the first of two Early Career Prize winners.

UCL Provost and President Professor Michael Arthur closed the session, expressing his pride in the research being conducted across the UCL Neuroscience Domain, with 500 research groups, 2,000 members and twice as many publications as any other institution in Europe.

As everyone made their way to lunch he, half jokingly, mentioned that it would be great if we could overtake Harvard to become No. 1 for publications worldwide and pledged to support neuroscience at UCL as much as possible.

Along with the posters, many companies had also come to the event to advertise the latest developments in brain imaging technology and experimental tools, as well as organisations looking for potential employees. There was something for everyone, from students to professors, to have a look at.

A packed audience

A packed audience

The final session began with prizes still to be handed out for the best laboratory poster. We heard Professor Nick Fox talk of his important work on neurodegeneration and Professor Cathy Price talk about her work on speech recovery after stroke.

Then Dr Barney Bryson stepped up to claim his Early Career Prize award and show all of us how he has managed to use light image to control firing of stem cell derived motor neurons in mice to restore muscle function, a talk that many, including Professor Cori Bargmann from The Rockefeller University who gave the closing key note speech, considered a personal highlight when discussing the event at the wine reception afterwards.

Professor Trevor Smart, Chair of the UCL Neuroscience Domain, then handed the laboratory poster prize to Dr Jason Rihel for his poster on how genes and neurons regulate sleep in Zebrafish, improving our understanding of what moderates sleep/wake cycles, and closed the event.

Dr Jason Rihel and lab members

Dr Jason Rihel and lab members

With so many posters at the event and talks covering a whole array of fields, many stayed around to enjoy some wine and share their opinions and views on the various topics covered during the day. It was great to see everyone from MSc students to Professors exchanging ideas and theories.

Next year I am sure the event will continue to grow and maybe by then we will have achieved President Arthur’s half joking remark: overtaking Harvard on the publications leaderboard.

If you wish to find out more, please visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/research/domains/neuroscience/events/2014-neuroscience-symposium

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