Neuroscience

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.

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