Neuroscience

Visitor of the Week: Heiko Schutt

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Meet Heiko Schütt of the University of Tübingen (Germany). Heiko is currently finishing his PhD in Felix Wichmann’s lab within the Neural Information Processing Group. He is on campus attending his first CSHL course: Computational Neuroscience: Vision

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I model human visual behavior: what images humans can differentiate and where in the image they look. For my models, I use neural data for inspiration which I implement using image-processing methods.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
I knew I wanted to study visual perception once I realized how well it can be understood and the number of fascinating problems still unresolved. For example, I am deuteranope which means I am missing the photoreceptor type needed to register medium wave length lights. Therefore, there are some colors which I cannot differentiate. As this process is well understood, we can calculate which colors I can identify and which ones I cannot. Displaying colors on a screen, which everyone -- but me -- could easily distinguish from each other made a very impressive illustration. Such exact predictions are a rarity in neuroscience and psychology, and gave me hope that exact solutions are possible in other parts of vision science. 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
My scientific journey began as a psychology student in Gießen, which has a large group of psychologists working on visual perception. I started as a research assistant and was immediately fascinated by the illusions in visual perception, its complexities, and how much we can understand in this field.

Was there something specific about the Computational Neuroscience: Vision course that drew you to apply?
I was mainly drawn to apply for this course by the great collection of speakers and alumni. This course really brings together a broad selection of world-leading scientists in this field.

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
I learned a lot about the neural basis of my models. The retinal physiology discussed at the course will be a great source of inspiration for the front end of the early vision model I currently develop.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The most important takeaway are the people I have met here. Of course, I increased my knowledge and beliefs about visual neuroscience, but getting to know the researchers behind the original studies and meeting a great set of peer scientists will be invaluable for my future in science.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
If you can attend, do it! This is one of the best visual neuroscience courses in the world. Once you are here, don’t take yourself too seriously and allow yourself to get to know the science and other scientists.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
From our evening discussions to our Nerf gun battles, ultimate Frisbee matches, and evenings on the beach - I enjoyed the relaxed attitude of this course.

Heiko received a scholarship from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Heiko, thank you to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network. 

Thank you to Heiko 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: Doris Ling

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Meet Doris Ling of Washington University in St. Louis. The graduate student is a member of the Barani Raman Lab which studies the insect olfactory system; as well as the Yehuda Ben-Shahar Lab which studies the genetic basis of behavior. Doris returned to CSHL to take part in the annual course on Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits & Behavior

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in how the brain encodes complex sensory information – currently I am researching this in the fruit fly brain and how it represents chemical information such as smells.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
My background is in engineering and in a previous life I was interested in developing artificial chemical sensors. I quickly came to realize that man-made chemical sensors tend to fail in complex odorant environments but natural chemical sensors, such as our noses or a fly’s antennae, easily deal with these complexities. So why not study how nature builds such robust chemical sensors? 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
Growing up, I had great teachers whose enthusiasm for teaching and the sciences made it easy for me to get excited about science too.

Was there something specific about the Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits & Behavior course that drew you to apply?
I applied to this course because I wanted to learn more laboratory skills specific for studying the fruit fly nervous system. Learning such hands-on technical skills from leaders in the field has been truly invaluable in ways that I am not sure I would have been able to obtain anywhere else.    

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
This course has provided me with such a breadth and wealth of knowledge regarding everything from the developmental neuroscience to the genetic tools available in fruit flies. It was also great to learn from people with such diverse academic backgrounds. I hope to channel everything I’ve learned to ask more informed and interesting questions about Drosophila neurobiology!

What is your key takeaway from the course?
Flies are awesome. Even though their brains only have 100,000 neurons (compared to humans which have 100 billion neurons), they are still capable of so many interesting and elaborate behaviors. And considering how many biological processes are fairly conserved throughout the animal kingdom, the fly is a necessarily simple but sufficiently complex model that can teach us a lot about ourselves.  

How many CSHL courses have you attended? 
Just this one, and I attended the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting last fall. 

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Do it! This course has been invaluable to me in terms of the experimental skills I have learned, the conversations I’ve had, and the people I’ve met. The instructors are so knowledgeable, but more importantly, ever so patient and kind teachers. It has been a great opportunity to get to know them and to have them on our team.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The people I met at CSHL during the course are nothing short of amazing. Their company has brought me countless laughs and gave me an unwavering faith about the future of the field. I already miss our late-night conversations and gossiping about science at every coffee break. I hope that I may one day be as motivated, diligent, and ambitious as they are. 

Doris received a fellowship from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Doris, thank you to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Doris 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: Ilse Eidhof

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Meet Ilse Eidhof of The Radboudumc (Netherlands). The PhD student is part of the Drosophila Models of Brain Disorders Research Group led by Annette Schenck. A 2016 Drosophila Neurobiology course alumna, Ilse returns to campus for the 2017 Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting where she presented a poster.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, and use the fruit fly as the model to understand the mechanisms underlying these disorders. 

Was there something specific about the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting that drew you to attend?
I have a number of reasons for attending this meeting. For one, I believe this meeting to be one of the greatest in Drosophila neurobiology and its long list of speakers consists of those who are absolutely the best in the field. In addition, this meeting provides a platform to interact with other Drosophila scientists; and I am particularly interested in new technological innovations that are presented and discussed here.  

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
Mainly the current state of today's Drosophila research and which new tools and techniques I can incorporate into my own work.

How many CSHL meetings have you attended? How about CSHL courses?
This is the second meeting at CSHL I am attending; and in 2016 I was part of the Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits & Behaviors course. 

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would definitely recommend those interested in this meeting to attend because I believe it to be one of the biggest and greatest in the field. It covers a broad range of topics - from basic neurobiological questions to technological innovations and disease modeling - that there is basically a topic of interest for everyone. Plus, the overall quality of the research presented is quite amazing. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
I really like the open atmosphere at CSHL; and there are numerous opportunities to meet and interact with fellow scientists in the field. 

Thank you to Ilse 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: Suguru Takagi

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Meet Suguru Takagi of The University of Tokyo (Japan). A PhD student in Akinao Nose's lab, Suguru visits CSHL for the first time to attend the 2017 Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting where he presented a poster. 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My research interest is to elucidate the neural-circuit mechanisms that enable an animal to respond adaptively to a given sensory cue. I take advantage of cutting-edge toolkits to tackle this problem in collaboration with various experts in the field.

Was there something specific about the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting that drew you to apply?
A number of people from our lab have attended the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting and I have always heard that this meeting is wonderful. In addition, it is very inspiring to have the opportunity to actually talk with the speakers and presenters who I had only previously known from publications. 

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
My key takeaway is the importance of cross-disciplinary interactions. The experience of gaining new perspectives during the many in-depth discussions I had regarding my work and my fellow attendees' work is fascinating.

How many CSHL meetings have you attended?
This is my first time attending a CSHL meeting, and it has been amazing so far!

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Just attend and join in on the meeting. It is a great opportunity to get some inspiration from all of those who work in this field.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The site is calm and cozy; with the beach being my favorite. I envy those who work here with nice scenery and facilities.

Thank you to Suguru 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: Sadie Nennig

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Meet Sadie Nennig of the University of Georgia in Athens. The graduate student is a member of Jesse Schank's lab in the Physiology and Pharmacology Department of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and will soon start her fourth year in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program. Sadie is also a CSHL first-timer. She is on campus for the Cellular Biology of Addiction course and shares her experience of the annual course so far.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I recently finished a project investigating the role of transcription factor NFkB in alcohol reward. My ongoing dissertation studies aim to elucidate the neural circuitry underlying comorbid alcohol abuse and depression in hopes of identifying potential therapeutic targets for this specific subpopulation of alcoholics. 

Was there something specific about the Cellular Biology of Addiction course that drew you to apply?
Since starting my graduate studies, I have found that it is very easy to primarily focus on the recent literature and exciting findings of the particular drug of abuse that you work with. Although I currently study alcohol abuse, I have always been intrigued by how all drugs of abuse work in the brain. Thus, I was ecstatic to learn about this course and to have the opportunity to apply. I knew that this course would be immensely valuable not only for my current studies during my PhD, but also for my career as an addiction researcher.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
This course has allowed me to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the incredible techniques available to study addiction and complex factors leading to the development of dependence. From behavioral neuroscience, to genetics and biochemistry, we have had the opportunity to learn about ways to study addiction from many different and valuable perspectives. It is truly amazing to see the work going on across fields aimed at understanding this devastating disorder and how we can treat it more effectively.

How many CSHL courses have you attended?
This is my first one, and I can already say I cannot wait to return!

If someone curious in attending the Cellular Biology of Addiction course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would recommend this course in a heartbeat. The atmosphere created here allows you to interact with well-known researchers, postdocs, and graduate students in an intellectually engaging yet comfortable setting.  I am someone who is typically intimidated to ask questions in settings such as large conferences. However, the instructors, lecturers, and students alike have created a learning environment in which I feel comfortable to engage in discussions. I have been able to learn so much in this environment and apply what I have learned to my own studies. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
Night swimming with the glowing algae! 

Sadie received a stipend from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Sadie, thank you to NIDA for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Sadie 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.