Visitor of the Week: Aalok Varma


Meet one of our featured visitors this week, Aalok Varma of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India. The second year graduate student, a member of Vatsala Thirumalai's Neural Circuits and Development Lab, is on campus for our annual Ion Channels in Synaptic and Neural Physiology course. High in energy and spirit, Aalok mentioned how much he has already learned in the first week and appreciated learning new techniques and perspectives brought on by the course. Here is what else Aalok had to say: 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My lab works on understanding how the nervous system controls movement and how these systems develop, using zebrafish as our model organism. My own project in the lab is about understanding the contribution of different synapse types to behavior and development.

Was there something specific about the Ion Channels in Synaptic and Neural Circuit Physiology that drew you to apply? 
I applied to this course not only to get exposure to the use of electrophysiology in neuroscience in a way that goes beyond the scope of my research, but also to get to meet and learn from experts and contemporaries alike.

What is your key takeaway from the Ion Channels course?
As of now, I think my key takeaway from the course is that a healthy competition (and timely guidance, of course) make doing difficult experiments and learning tough techniques a rather fun experience.

How many CSHL courses have you attended?
This is my first visit to CSHL and I certainly hope to attend other courses here in the near future! 

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
The course is definitely intense, but has been rewarding within just a short time span of a week (and we have two more to go that I'm really looking forward to!). So, I'd recommend that you apply if you are interested in neuroscience. Also, the course does offer financial support if you need it, so don't let financial considerations prevent you from sending in an application.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
Several things, I'd have to say. The scenic backdrop, for one - it's not often that there's a beach in the backyard of a laboratory complex! I like the camaraderie we've developed among ourselves at the course, despite the many ups-and-downs of lab work. And lastly, I'd have to say that I really like the coffee here! 

Aalok's attendance and travel to the Ion Channels course were funded by the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and Infosys Travel Award, respectively. Special thank you to IBRO and Infosys for supporting and enabling our young scientists where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network. 

If you're a neuroscientist in a developing country interested in attending a neuroscience-related course, make sure to check the financial support we have available for you here.  

Also, thank you to Aalok for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course – go here.