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Neuroscience Students at the Society for Neuroscience Conference

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Author: Grace Porter | Category: Beyond The Bench | Neuroscience | Neuroscience | November 27, 2017

Over 30,300 neuroscientists from around the world gathered in Washington D.C. from November 11-15, for the 47th annual Society for Neuroscience (Sfn) conference. Many of us in the Neuroscience discipline here at UT Health San Antonio were fortunate enough to be included in that number.

There is plenty to keep an attendee busy all five days of the conference. SfN hosts thousands of posters, hundreds of symposium talks, and dozens of special lectures covering a wide range of themes, including development, neurodegenerative disorders, cognition, and techniques, among others. 

Job seekers can attend networking events and career development workshops while hopeful undergraduates tour the Graduate School Fair (where they can talk with our own students, such as Allie Sharp and Mustafa Mithaiwala, at the UT Health San Antonio booth). Additionally, an entire day can be spent browsing the vender exhibits. 

Sales representatives touted their newest technology and products, ranging from rodent behavior apparatuses to microscopes to textbooks. 

Some exhibits even included games to attract potential customers; Simon Levy and I got a shout-out on Thermo Fisher’s social media page for being the first ones to get a full score on their virtual reality neuron game!

There is also the social aspect of the conference to consider. There are many evening social events sponsored by SfN, individual schools, or interest groups. UT Health San Antonio hosted the annual Center for Biomedical Neuroscience Reception at the Oval Room on Sunday evening.

Students had the opportunity to mingle with faculty and staff while enjoying light refreshments, or network at other events, such as the Neuroimmunology Social hosted by the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society. Of course, time also had to be allotted to be a tourist and see the national monuments and Smithsonian museums. Washington D.C. is a great city to have fun and explore after a long day of science.

With so much to do, downloading the official SfN meeting planner app to create a personal itinerary was imperative. Poster sessions and symposiums were divided into 10 categories by theme for easy organization, while special lectures were presented throughout the day. 

During the conference, Mustafa won an Apple Watch. He was one of the lucky winners for wearing the pin ‘champion for Neuroscience’ which was awarded by the Cell press journal. He also met Dr. Eric Kandal who won the Nobel Prize in physiology/ medicine for his work on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. 

I particularly enjoyed the Presidential Special Lecture on the first night of the conference by Dr. Erich D. Jarvis, titled “Insights from Nonhuman Animals into the Neurobiology of Language”. Even though many of the lectures were not directly relevant to my research, it was a great experience to listen to notable scientists in the field present their findings and learn something new.

Attending the SfN conference this year was a great opportunity. I learned about experiments being conducted in our lab’s area of research and developed a deeper appreciation for other fields of neuroscience. It was inspiring to be in the same room as the leaders of our scientific community. I returned to the lab with fresh motivation for my future career and new ideas for research.

About the Author

This article was written by Grace Porter, a second year student in the Neuroscience discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program. Grace's project involves investigating the role of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in regulating the brain-based consequences of chronic stress or inflammation. The goal will be to identify mechanisms by which genetic disruption of the BDNF system contribute to a state of vulnerability for the development of neuropsychiatric symptoms. The "Beyond The Bench" series features articles written by students and postdoctoral fellows at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. 

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