From advancing the understanding of the brain to providing professional development activities, the (Triangle SfN) hit the mark April 13 at their annual spring conference. NIEHS was a sponsor of the well-attended event in Cary, North Carolina.

The society invited three local neuroscientists to give presentations.

Neuroscience research abounds in the Triangle

Patricia Jensen, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Developmental Neurobiology Group, serves as president of Triangle SfN. “Due to our prior success, we extended this year’s program to a full day event, filled with new and exciting research presented by our members and esteemed speakers,” she said. This was the third annual spring conference for the group.

Participants agreed with her assessment of the day. “It was exciting to hear the awesome research going on in the Triangle area,” said Georgia Alexander, Ph.D., from Dudek’s Synaptic and Developmental Plasticity Group.

“This symposium exposed me to research I don’t usually have the chance to think about,” added Negin Martin, Ph.D., managing director of the NIEHS Viral Vector Core. “For instance, at NIEHS, we do not use primates in any studies, so the link between biological expression of D2 receptors and social behavior in primates was new to me.”

Networking and career development

The conference offered a variety networking opportunities.

  • Two poster sessions.
  • More than a dozen exhibitors.
  • “Ask a Grad Student” — a special luncheon session to allow undergraduates to learn more about graduate education.
  • A luncheon opportunity with the keynote speaker.
  • A closing reception.

“Having the vendors available at the same time allowed people to move between vendors and posters,” said Korey Stevanovic from the NIEHS Neurobehavioral Core. “It was outstanding that so many undergraduates were able to present their research,” observed another attendee.

Lunch with the keynote speaker, David Anderson, Ph.D., from the California Institute of Technology, was a popular choice. One participant commented that Anderson provided insight into how to maintain understanding of broad biological questions while developing a narrow focus to address pertinent hypotheses.

Keynote lecture raises the bar

Anderson’s keynote presentation focused on his lab’s research on “Internal States and the Control of Innate Behaviors.”

“He was famous for his work in Drosophila, which is a powerful genetic tool,” said Qing Cheng, Ph.D., from the NIEHS Ion Channel Physiology Group. “He brought that expertise into a mammalian system and combined it with optogenetic techniques, to study the complex relationship between aggression and courtship.”

“Dr. Anderson showed that in both systems, the state of mind that allows these incongruent behaviors has a similar dependence on a few cells and on stimulus intensity,” Cheng continued. “It was the work of a great mind.”

An important venue for scientific exchange

By all reports, the local society is serving an important role. “I like that the neuroscientists in the Triangle area have this opportunity to come together,” said Bernd Gloss, Ph.D., of NIEHS. “I think it was a perfect venue for the participants.”

One of the organizers, Shannon Farris, Ph.D., from the NIEHS Synaptic and Developmental Plasticity Group, was already thinking about next year. “Looking forward, the Triangle Chapter seeks to continue connecting neuroscientists across North Carolina by hosting events for scientific exchange and networking, while also keeping our community and legislators informed of the importance of neuroscience research to our state,” she said.

This same sentiment was echoed by Jensen in her welcome address, where she encouraged all members, at all stages of their career, to commit to service and to participate in the neuroscience community’s vibrant, scientific exchange.

(Simone Otto, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research and Training Award postdoctoral fellow in the NIEHS Ion Channel Physiology Group.)

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