Xenopus Course

Visitor of the Week: Dylan Guerin

cshl-visitor-dylan-guerin

Meet Dylan Guerin of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The graduate student in Dr. Ai-Sun Tseng’s lab is currently training at his first course at CSHL: Cell & Developmental Biology of Xenopus: Gene Discovery and Disease where he has been perfecting his injection and imaging skills, and learning how others use Xenopus embryo in their work.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
Our lab is interested in studying the mechanisms underlying regeneration. Specifically, I am interested in genes controlling embryonic eye regeneration in Xenopus laevis.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I was interested in regeneration before applying to graduate school. It is amazing to me how some animals can completely regrow lost appendages and it would be even more amazing if we could do that as well.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I am just naturally curious about the world and that curiosity was luckily encouraged by my parents. Science was the natural path to follow to feed that curiosity.

Was there something specific about the Cell & Developmental Biology of Xenopus: Gene Discovery & Disease that drew you to apply?
My advisor brought the Xenopus course to my attention as a way to interact with other Xenopus labs as we are the only lab in Nevada working with Xenopus. Personally, I wanted to learn how to perform micro injections and gain more experience with imaging.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
The injection and imaging skills I learned here will be useful in my research as they are techniques we use in our lab but I have not had the chance to perfect until now.  From talking to others in the course, I have gained a new perspective about how they utilize the Xenopus embryo from a developmental point of view--where I look at it from a regenerative lens. They are similar but with some interesting differences.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
My key takeaway is that there are many different approaches to using Xenopus to answer scientific questions.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
The course is a good way to see what others in your field are doing. Also, you get as much out of the course as you put in.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
It was great to meet people from all over the world and get to know them. The personal interactions I have had here have been very enjoyable.

Dylan received a scholarship from the Howard Hughes Medical institute (HHMI) to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Dylan, thank you to HHMI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Dylan 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.

Xenopus Reunited

Photo provided by Heather Ray

Photo provided by Heather Ray

It is our pleasure to introduce the launch of our guest writer series. The series will highlight pieces from course and meeting participants, and graduate students of the Watson School of Biological Sciences who share their personal insights to a meeting or course in which s/he took part.

Kicking off the Series is Heather Ray, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an alumna of the 2017 Xenopus course, who recounts her CSHL course experiences, and the unexpected benefits her participation at the course continually presents.

In April 2017, I stepped off the airport shuttle at the Cold Spring Harbor Campus ready to start my two-week long adventure as part of the Cell and Molecular Biology of Xenopus course. Everyone I know who has attended a CSHL course told me what a great experience it would be, and I was highly anticipating the chance to learn from some amazing scientists and make a lot of new personal and professional connections. Within the first day, I knew that what everyone had told me was true and I would not be disappointed.

For me, one of the best aspects of the course were the people that I came to know. When you spend 24 hours a day working, eating, socializing, and resting with the same group of people, you get to know them pretty well. We came from all over the world and each person brought his/her own unique ideas and perspectives; and yet we all had one thing in common: our passion for our science. By the time the course ended, I thought of them as family and missed seeing them once I returned home. But, one of the great things about our profession is that there are always opportunities to see each other again, and I anticipated I would next meet up with some of my new friends at a meeting or other scientific event.

L to R: Amy Sater, Elizabeth Van Itallie, Mustafa Khokha, Karen Liu, Andrea Wills. Photo provided by Heather Ray.

L to R: Amy Sater, Elizabeth Van Itallie, Mustafa Khokha, Karen Liu, Andrea Wills. Photo provided by Heather Ray.

While at the course, it was easy to see how all of us in the same class would connect with each other. But what I didn’t anticipate, is how much these course experiences translate across the years and create a sense of kinship between people who have never met. I was able to experience this type of connection firsthand in August of this year at the 17th International Xenopus Conference in Seattle, WA. This biennial meeting attracts researchers from around the world who use Xenopus species in their research, and there is always a good chance that a number of former CSHL Xenopus course participants - including students, TA’s, and lecturers - will be in attendance. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was generous in sponsoring a reception so that we could host a “Xenopus Course” reunion for the course participants present at the conference. We advertised the event ahead of time and asked people to wear their special course T-shirts as a way to honor the course and identify each other.

Going into the event, I was expecting some level of participation and discussion among those who already knew each other and wanted to reconnect. I quickly found my own classmates (there were six of us present, including two TA’s) and we had a great time catching up. But then my expectations were far exceeded as I witnessed the number of people who chose to participate in the reunion and were having a great time talking to, not only their own friends but, everyone present. I was amazed to see people wearing their course T-shirts from 20 years ago and we shared some great laughs over the stories behind the pictures and phrases enshrined on the shirts.

The reunion became much more than a chance to connect with old friends; it grew into a great opportunity to make many new friends and colleagues as well. I found myself talking to Atsushi Suzuki, an associate professor at Hiroshima University in Japan, who took the course as a graduate student in its very first year in 1993. I met several people for whom the course meant so much that they kept returning to the course becoming involved for many years in multiple roles. We talked about how the focus of the course has changed over the years with the change in technology and direction of the field. I had a great time meeting the original directors who dreamed up the course and saw it come to fruition. One of those masterminds, Rob Grainger, told me how happy he is to see that the course is still benefiting and inspiring so many scientists and serving the research community he loves. In all, there were almost 50 of us at the reunion. That equates to 50 new friends, 50 new colleagues, and an exponential growth of my network.

Fifty-eight (58) of the 226 17th International Xenopus Conference attendees were an alum of our Xenopus course. The CSHL Xenopus course alums present at the 2018 Xenopus Conference were: Ira Blitz, Daniel Buchholz, Brenda Cadiz-Rivera, Chenbei Chang, Pan Chen, Ken Cho, Jan Christian, Hollis Cline, Vaughn Colleluori, Mark Corkins, Helene Cousin, Michael Danilchick, Priya Date, Lance Davidson, Marietta Easterling, Hironori Funabiki, Maike Getwan, Michael Gilchrist, Adriana Golding, Robert Grainger, John Gurdon, Richard Harland, Rebecca Heald, Stefan Hoppler, Darcy Kelley, Cindy Kha, Stephanie Khairallah, Mustafa Khokha, Cristopher Kintner, Paul Krieg, Taejoon Kwon, Carole LaBonne, Juan Larrain, Karen Liu, Alexandra MacColl Garfinkel, Ann Miller, Kelly Miller, Rachel Miller, Emily Mis, Sally Moody, Takuya Nakayama, Anna Noble, Heather Ray, Robyn Reeve, Amy Sater, Asako Shindo, Hazel Sive, Eun Kyung Song, Jian Sun, Atsushi Suzuki, Marcela Torrejon, Elizabeth Van Itallie, Peter Vize, Peter Walentek, John Wallingford, Grant Wheeler, Coral Zhou, and Aaron Zorn. Photo provided by Heather Ray.

Fifty-eight (58) of the 226 17th International Xenopus Conference attendees were an alum of our Xenopus course. The CSHL Xenopus course alums present at the 2018 Xenopus Conference were: Ira Blitz, Daniel Buchholz, Brenda Cadiz-Rivera, Chenbei Chang, Pan Chen, Ken Cho, Jan Christian, Hollis Cline, Vaughn Colleluori, Mark Corkins, Helene Cousin, Michael Danilchick, Priya Date, Lance Davidson, Marietta Easterling, Hironori Funabiki, Maike Getwan, Michael Gilchrist, Adriana Golding, Robert Grainger, John Gurdon, Richard Harland, Rebecca Heald, Stefan Hoppler, Darcy Kelley, Cindy Kha, Stephanie Khairallah, Mustafa Khokha, Cristopher Kintner, Paul Krieg, Taejoon Kwon, Carole LaBonne, Juan Larrain, Karen Liu, Alexandra MacColl Garfinkel, Ann Miller, Kelly Miller, Rachel Miller, Emily Mis, Sally Moody, Takuya Nakayama, Anna Noble, Heather Ray, Robyn Reeve, Amy Sater, Asako Shindo, Hazel Sive, Eun Kyung Song, Jian Sun, Atsushi Suzuki, Marcela Torrejon, Elizabeth Van Itallie, Peter Vize, Peter Walentek, John Wallingford, Grant Wheeler, Coral Zhou, and Aaron Zorn. Photo provided by Heather Ray.

For many of us, one of the hardest parts of the job is to network, and yet it is so crucial for success. To walk up to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, and spark a conversation can be quite intimidating; especially if it is someone you admire. But what I learned this summer is that by simply sharing the common bond of having participated in the CSHL Xenopus course, networking becomes easy and natural. I was able to meet and “talk shop” with leaders in my field who I otherwise might not have. I also know that my new network isn’t limited to the attendees of the reunion or my course year cohorts. I can contact anyone associated with the course and, just by simply identifying myself and the common bond we share, they would become a great new connection. This summer, I learned that while the time you attend a CSHL course may be limited, the benefits you gain are not. I look forward to continuing to reap the bounty from my course experience for years to come.

If you’d like to join the CSHL Xenopus community and its alumni events, be sure to take part in the Cell & Developmental Biology of Xenopus: Gene Discovery & Disease course. It will again be offered at CSHL on April 3-16, 2019. Applications are due January 31, 2019 and are being accepted here.

If you’re a past meeting or course participant interested in submitting a piece on your experiences at CSHL, let us know.

Visitor of the Week: Jennifer Landino

cshl-visitor-jennifer-landino

Meet Jennifer Landino of the University of Michigan. Jennifer is a postdoctoral fellow and member of Ann Miller's lab in the Department of Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology. She was on campus to train at the Cell & Developmental Biology of Xenopus, her very first CSHL course. 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in investigating how cells divide in epithelial tissues, where they are attached to neighboring cells by cell-cell junctions. I specifically want to understand how the neighboring cells contribute to successful cell division while maintaining tissue integrity. 

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
During my PhD research I studied how the cytoskeleton drives cell division in the context of a single cell. For my postdoc, I wanted to expand my understanding of cell division and investigate how groups of cells work together in a tissue to ensure successful division.  

How did your scientific journey begin? 
I became interested in cell division as an undergraduate working on cytokinesis in yeast. This is a fundamental biological process that underlies disease progression, in particular cancer, and has motivated me to continue studying cell division throughout my graduate and postdoctoral training. 

Was there something specific about the Cell & Developmental Biology of Xenopus course that drew you to apply?
My lab uses Xenopus laevis as a model system to study epithelial cell division in a developing animal. I have no experience working with live animals, or developing embryos. This course was a chance to learn about the diversity of experimental techniques that are available in this model system. 

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
I feel more confident in my experimental skills. I also found that my conversations with the instructors and guest lecturers helped me generate ideas that I can use for my own research when I return to the lab. 

What is your key takeaway from the course?
This course was an excellent opportunity to learn and practice a broad range of techniques. I enjoyed learning about the current research in the field - ranging from developmental biology to cell biology. 

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
This course is a great opportunity to expand your understanding of the Xenopus field. My primary focus is on cell biology, and I have very little experience with developmental biology. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed learning about classic embryology experiments that were done in Xenopus

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
 I most enjoyed feeling like part of the Xenopus community. I now feel like I have people I can turn to, outside of my own lab, who will be able to help me grow professionally and scientifically. 

Jennifer received a scholarship from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Jennifer, thank you to the NICHD for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Jennifer 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.