First-Time Visitor

Visitor of the Week: Marek Svoboda

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Meet Marek Svoboda of Dartmouth College. Marek is a PhD Student in Quantitative Biomedical Sciences and a member of Dr. Giovanni Bosco’s lab. He is wrapping up his two-week training at our Single Cell Analysis course and is considering to attend our Single Cell Analyses meeting this fall.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am using a mouse model of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with a mutation in a specific gene (PTEN) to characterize the molecular pathways responsible for the developmental abnormalities observed in humans. In my research, my goal is to move us closer to an effective treatment of ASD by combining medical knowledge with wet lab and computational techniques.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
My main interests lie in neuroscience and genetics, both of which are essential for the study of Autism, an increasingly prevalent developmental disorder in children. In my future, I would like to become both a researcher discovering new ways to treat neurological diseases and a physician delivering those directly to patients.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I have always been interested in psychology and the inner workings of the human mind. At high school, I was inspired by my amazing Biology teacher and the more I learned about the human body, the more I wanted to understand the nervous system and the associated pathology. Later in college, I decided to become a physician-scientist with a focus on neuroscience.

Was there something specific about the Single Cell Analysis course that drew you to apply?
I am the only person doing single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) in my lab, and the only person doing scRNA-seq of neurons at my institution. Therefore, my primary motivation has been to acquire some of the more advanced wet lab and analytical skills for this technique. More generally, though, I personally believe that the ability to extract a wealth of information from individual cells bears an incredible potential for the future of personalized medicine. While I am using scRNA-seq in my own thesis research project, I hope to combine it with other single cell techniques in my future research and maybe even clinical practice.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
I have already learnt some of the basic analytical processing steps for the data that I will obtain from my own experiments, which I am really excited about – though, I know more is yet to come! I really like the combination of wet lab and bioinformatics that this course offers. At Dartmouth, I am a member of the Single Cell Interest Group, and so I am also looking forward to sharing all the cool single cell techniques and other ideas with my colleagues back home.

What is your key takeaway from the Course?
There is so much more to single cell analysis than just RNA! Depending on the question, it may be a good idea to complement the transcriptomic data with the other ‘omics’ approaches, which are all fairly doable – with the right guidance and resources, of course.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Make sure to have as few outside commitments during the course as possible, as the course itself is relatively intense and at the same time absolutely worth it. Come here ready to work hard, learn a lot, but also socialize and meet new people. Be mindfully present every second of the course, as the time spent here is extremely valuable!

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I really appreciate the fact that during the course, the conditions are perfectly conducive to what we are meant to focus on here. The course is extremely well-organized: one day we show up to lab and it is ready for RNA extraction. The next day, as if by a miracle (in fact, by tireless work of TAs, often into the late night), the lab is ready for confocal microscopy. Everything we need is available to us here all the time, and the atmosphere at CSHL feels very welcoming overall. As a result, taking a course at CSHL is a worry-free experience that creates a wealth of lasting memories.

Marek received financial support from Regeneron to cover a portion of his course tuition and a Research Alumni Award from Dartmouth to specifically attend this course. On behalf of Marek, thank you to Regeneron and the alumni of Dartmouth’s graduate program for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Marek 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.

Visitor of the Week: Sanjay Joshi

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Meet Sanjay Joshi of the University of Kentucky. The Nepali national is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a graduate research assistant in Prof. Sharyn Perry’s lab. He is on campus for the first time, training at the Frontiers & Techniques in Plant Science course and is interested in returning for our Programming for Biology course.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in understanding the development of plants. The knowledge in plant growth and development can be utilized in improving the productivity of crops. Currently, I am working on understanding the gene regulation in seed embryogenesis in Arabidopsis.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
After completing my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). The unique experience allowed me to learn innovative science and technologies, and exposed me to different agriculture (compared to what I was accustomed to in Nepal). I did my masters research on the post-harvest management of apples -- but from a molecular perspective -- which inspired and opened an entirely new window into agriculture as a whole. I became fascinated with understanding new techniques and methods related to genes and proteins which I can eventually apply to improving the productivity and sustainability of plants.

How did your scientific journey begin?
Having grown up in the countryside of Nepal where farming is the main profession, I was into growing crops since my childhood. My interest in gaining knowledge on cultivating crops through a systematic and scientific approach led me to join the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences in Chitwan, Nepal for my undergraduate studies. I always enjoyed doing experiments and liked finding solutions.

Was there something specific about the Frontiers & Techniques in Plant Science course that drew you to apply?
When I read the course curriculum and the labs techniques, I was excited since this course can help me in understanding plant biology better and learning new techniques like TRAP, INTACT, CRISPR. It is providing me with an opportunity to be exposed to different flavors and aspects of research in the plant world. 

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
This course has certainly changed my views on research and experiments; encouraging and motivating me to incorporate new techniques in my research – such as the TRAP method – so that I can explore at a new level.

I am happy to share my experience and techniques learned here to my colleagues in my institution.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The plant science field is evolving. A large number of interesting things have been discovered yet a big portion of plant biology is still a mystery. Newly emerging techniques and tools will enable us to answer questions that have yet to be addressed.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would encourage and recommend the Frontiers & Techniques in Plant Science course to all my friends and colleagues interested in plant science. It is an excellent platform for learning and professional development;. providing exposure to both theoretical and practical demonstrations which enhance your professional skills.  This course also gives you the opportunity to meet many renowned scientists in the plant field thereby helping you join the community and build a network.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
CSHL is a wonderful place to live, with a peaceful ambiance and greenery all around. I have a lot of happy and fun memories to take home from this course, and loved all the social events thoroughly:. the scavenger hunt, course picnic, the totally relaxing and enjoyable sailing trip, having ice cream after the sailing trip, and hosting the fly course at the totally entertaining Venus flytrap party.

Sanjay received financial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Regeneron to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Sanjay, thank you to NSF and Regeneron for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Sanjay 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.

Visitor of the Week: Steven Chen

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Meet Steven Chen of the Indiana University School of Medicine. A third-year PhD student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, Steven is also a member of Yunlong Liu’s lab in the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. He is on campus for his very first course at CSHL – Advanced Techniques in Molecular Neuroscience – and is considering coming back for the next Genome Informatics meeting.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in the regulation of messenger RNA splicing by RNA-binding proteins in the brain. I am taking an informatics approach to understand these splicing mechanisms that affect posttranscriptional processes.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I have been interested in RNA processing since my time in Amy Gladfelter’s lab when she was at Dartmouth College. We studied how cells are organized in time and space, specifically how RNA transcripts are trafficked and partitioned within the cell. As my interests developed during undergrad, I became more interested in genomics and how they can inform new hypotheses on molecular mechanisms. With the advent of RNA sequencing, we can now profile thousands of splicing profiles at once. I have made my focus to study RNA processing in the brain since it is particularly enriched in posttranscriptional regulation.

How did your scientific journey begin?
My scientific journey began as a little kid joining my parents on weekend trips to the lab during their postdocs. To pass the time, I would assist my mom in labeling tubes. During my senior year of high school, I worked in Irina Petrache’s lab studying how e-cigarettes and nicotine can damage lung endothelial cells. I would also shadow Dr. Petrache when she saw chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients in clinic, and this inspired me to become a physician-scientist.

Was there something specific about the Advanced Techniques in Molecular Neuroscience course that drew you to apply?
I was primarily drawn to the Advanced Techniques in Molecular Neuroscience course by the scientific reputation of the instructors and guest speakers. I knew I was here to learn, and it is a blessing to be able to do so from such great minds. In addition, I had been analyzing data from the techniques taught in the course, and I wanted to be able to design and implement these on my own.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
Since I come from a largely computational background, I have already learned a lot about the time and effort it takes to carry out experimental techniques like culturing astrocytes, single nuclei isolation, and making bacterial artificial chromosomes. I have also gained more scientific insight into neuroscience and have learned so much about the role of glia. Furthermore, I have acquired newfound appreciation for the history of how we have accumulated all this knowledge in the field. This will inform my critical thinking in discussions with my colleagues at home.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The culture of being in Cold Spring Harbor almost magically allows course participants to freely speak about scientific ideas and even question canonical thinking. The people here are so inquisitive – it is almost like an incubator for new theories of molecular neuroscience. The guests come from all over the globe, but we all share a passion for understanding even the most basic of molecular mechanisms. It is a really special place to be at even if only for just two weeks.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I think it is definitely worth the time spent here. You will not only form many new connections but also lifelong friends! But make sure you come prepared to work hard and be challenged in thinking critically (and also maybe with some late nights in the lab).

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The people here are awesome! Among the four courses running concurrently, there is always someone new to meet. It is easy to strike up a new conversation since we are all visitors. And we are constantly able to learn new things since everyone comes from a unique (cultural and scientific) background. The (unlimited) food is also great, so I have to control myself sometimes.

In addition to the Eli Lilly - Stark Neurosciences Fellowship in Neurodegeneration awarded to Steven, he received a fellowship from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Steven, thank you to the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Steven 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.

Visitor of the Week: Dwani Patel

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Meet Dwani Patel of the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is currently in the 2nd year of his PhD training and a 4th year student in the MD/PhD program. He is a member of the Ocular Gene Therapy Lab run by Dr. Daniel Lipinski. Dwani was recently at our Banbury Campus taking part in the Vision: A Platform for Linking Circuits, Perception and Behavior course. The biennially-offered course wrapped up earlier this week and Dwani shared with us his thoughts on his first course at CSHL.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My research interests are in developing gene-based therapies to prevent blindness arising from neurodegenerative and retinal vascular diseases. Specifically, my thesis work is focused on developing technologies to enhance the treatment and diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy in the pre-symptomatic stage of disease.

How did you decide to make it the focus of your research?
My overarching goal is to lead a research program that will directly help to improve human health and condition. At the Medical College of Wisconsin, the multi-disciplinary and collaborative cell biology, neurobiology, and vision science training program encouraged me to explore the field of ophthalmology. Here, I found Dr. Lipinski who combines exciting and promising technologies like AAV-based gene therapies and advanced imaging techniques to restore sight and prevent blindness – one of the most feared conditions that affects many in my own family.

How did your scientific journey begin?
My science career began as a Bioengineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. My work was focused on integrating spectroscopy techniques and numerical methods to expand the innovative field of digital molecular pathology for cancer diagnostics. In 2013, I had the opportunity to take part in the Amgen Scholars Program at Washington Univeristy in St. Louis where I studied the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s Disease to identify novel targets for therapy. This program introduced me to the career path of a physician-scientist, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to balance a career in clinical management and translational research.

Was there something specific about the Vision: A Platform for Linking Circuits, Perception and Behavior course that drew you to apply?
A significant portion of my studies prior to taking this course focused more on clinical neuroscience and ophthalmology and less on the biology of vision and neural circuitry. I took this course to fill the gaps in my knowledge and to understand the complexities of vision and higher order sensory processing that extend beyond the eye.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
This course has given me a deeper insight into the complexities of the visual circuitry and has taught me that vision impairment is far more complicated than simply being able to see or not. As a physician, the lessons learned will help me set individualized and more meaningful milestones to assess a patient’s improvement in vision. As a scientist, our discussions have given me insight into critical questions that remain to be investigated.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
Understanding visual neuroscience and neural circuitry is an incredibly challenging endeavor. Nevertheless, there has been tremendous progress. Individual groups are taking top-down, bottom-up, computational, physiologic, engineering, and biologic approaches to tackle this important question. The continued success and progress of this project will greatly depend on our ability to come together, compile, share, question, and challenge each other as we did in this course.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
This course is an incredibly unique opportunity to sit and live with some of the most profound and accomplished scientists and thinkers in our field. Take every opportunity to ask questions and learn from them.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
My favorite part of the course was without a doubt the people. Our course directors Farran Briggs and Joseph Carroll, along with our TA Lindsey Salay, did a phenomenal job organizing the course. The students were also diverse in all respects and this made for very engaging discussions.

Dwani received a scholarship from the National Eye Institute (NEI) to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Dwani, thank you to the NEI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Dwani 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.

Visitor of the Week: Sheenah Bryant

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Meet Sheenah Bryant of Central Michigan University. Sheenah is an adjunct research faculty member in Ute Hochgeschwender’s lab, and a proud single mom and Native American. She is on campus for the Ion Channels in Synaptic and Neural Circuit Physiology course where she has been expanding her expertise in generalized ion channel regulation.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in studying the mechanisms of neural circuit formation in development. I hope to characterize changes inneurons resulting from neural hyperactivity during development, and the changes in neural circuit trajectories that control adult behavior.

How did decide to make this the focus of your research?
My dissertation focused on characterizing individual cell membrane proteins. Near the end of my doctoral work, I was introduced to novel method of neural control during a lightning talk by a member of my postdoctoral PI's lab. Those two minutes inspired me with many fundamental questions about neurons, and even our brain, that could be studied by controlling neural activity using bioluminescence-driven optogenetics. I knew immediately that this was the work I wanted to dedicate my research career to.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I have loved the creative curiosity of science since I was very young.  As a Native American and also a single mother, my path thus far has been filled with challenges of doubt and sacrifice, and great reward. I feel passionately that pursuing my dreams as a developmental neuroscientist will inspire my children and the Native American students I meet throughout my career, to pursue their dreams regardless of how unknown or difficult the journey may seem.

Was there something specific about the Ion Channels in Synaptic and Neural Circuit Physiology course that drew you to apply?
I knew this course would be an intense few weeks of classroom and lab training of powerful techniques for studying the contribution of ion channels to neuron functionality, which is at the core of my research goals. Attending a CSHL course is an amazing opportunity because they bring together experts from all over the world to instruct and lecture.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
The research techniques I have learned -- such as cultured cell, tissue slice and in vivo patch-clamp electrophysiology -- has helped me to exploit my expertise of generalized ion channel regulation towards answering questions within the field of neuroscience. Each of these techniques I will need to study the relationship between ion channel activity and behavior of organisms.

What is your key takeaway from the Course?
This course is providing me with a clear understanding of how proper regulation of ion channels enables neural function and circuit formation, and the cutting edge techniques used to study these relationships.

If someone curious in attending the Ion Channels in Synaptic and Neural Circuit Physiology course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I highly recommend this experience to all students at the beginning of their research careers. In a very short amount of time, I successfully mastered difficult experimental techniques and learned the scientific foundation of my new field of study. I hope to attend several other courses during my postdoctoral training.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The extremely knowledgeable instructors and guest speakers were very kind and excited to be here. It is such a fun and collegial atmosphere, which I'm sure I will take with me to my postdoctoral university.

Sheenah received funding support from her PI’s National Science Foundation (NSF) NeuroNex grant. On behalf of Sheenah, thank you to NSF for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend training course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Sheenah 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.