Latest Event Updates
The aim of the CamBRAIN Annual Careers Event, which was held on 3rd May at St John’s College, was to showcase some of the different career paths open to people who have neuroscience degrees.
Many students find it hard to choose what type of career they would like to pursue after finishing their degree. So this event was a unique opportunity for students to hear about jobs ranging from science writing to managing clinical trials through consultancy to running your own lab or company.
The event was opened with a plenary session in which six speakers talked about their career paths. Dr Liam Wilson, who is one of the founders of CamBRAIN, talked about his job with QuintilesIMS. For his job he manages the publicity and he spends much of his days writing to inform the public about technological solutions to scientific problems.
He was followed by Dr Adam Tozer, who is a science writer for Technology Networks. He showed us the different platforms he uses to reach a variety of audiences communicating the newest neuroscience research.
Dr Sara Soleman spoke about her job at GlaxoSmithKline as a Clinical Development Manager. For her job, she manages a dozen different clinical trials at the same time.
Yet another career path was chosen by Dr Tahl Holtzman, who set up his own company, Cambridge NeuroTech, with which he sells technological products which he developed during his post-doctoral position at the university. He saw the potential of commercialising his tools and his company is now very successful.
Dr Ewan St John Smith is a University Lecturer at Cambridge University. He runs his own lab besides tutoring and lecturing.
Last but not least was a talk from Dr Tim Rittman who is a Clinical Research Training Fellow in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. He combines the intense job of a doctor with conducting research and fatherhood very successfully.
The speakers each discussed pros and cons of their careers. Some career paths involve much travelling, whilst others require long working hours. Many of our speakers have had periods during which they were not sure what type of work they would like to do. And for many of them, it took several years before they reached the job they wanted. All of them advised choosing a career based on your interests and deep passions. Several of the speakers who had chosen careers outside of academia mentioned how it can sometimes feel like you waste your degree if you don’t stay in academia. However, the speakers all felt they had gained many transferable skills during their degrees which they definitely still applied to their work now. Throughout their talks, all speakers emphasised the importance of networking.
After the six talks, Sally Todd from the Cambridge University Career Service provided an overview of all services the university provides: ranging from practice interviews and CV writing to help you choose your career area.
A speed networking session with refreshments followed after the talks. All participants were given the opportunity to engage with the speakers. Since many of the speakers had mentioned how building a network had been crucial to developing their career, a network session to put this into practice was very useful.
Meeting people who might be able to alert you to a new job advert or recommend you for a new position is crucial for any career path you may choose!!
The event highlighted that there is a broad variety of jobs available for neuroscientists and with so many opportunities in our field everyone can find a career path which is right for them.
Article by Heleen van ‘t Spijker – CamBRAIN Junior Treasurer
The British Neuroscience Association (BNA) Festival of Neuroscience is a fascinating biannual event which aims at bringing together neuroscientists from all over the UK (and the world!) to share ideas, celebrate recent successes in the field and to meet others who are equally excited about the future of neuroscience. With more than 1500 delegates, 750 posters, over 40 seminars and symposiums spanning across 12 diverse themes and 60 exhibitors, the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2017 was one of the largest international neuroscience meetings in Europe this year.
The BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2017 took place in Birmingham from the 10th – 14th April at the glamorous International Convention Centre located in the heart of what felt like a lively and friendly city. As usual, there was a strong Cambridge presence at the festival with numerous attendees, speakers and presenters affiliated with the University of Cambridge as well as a number of companies and organisations based in Cambridge.
The programme of the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2017 was extremely diverse and dynamic – there was a little something for everyone who attended. Delegates could choose to take part in various symposiums, plenary talks, public engagement sessions and lectures, career speed networking events, poster presentations, social events and exhibitions. It is hardly possible to describe in so few lines all the fascinating events I managed to be part of during these four days, but here is an overview of some of the highlights for me from BNA2017.
The day started with a session on spinal motor control where some cutting-edge research was presented. Of particular interest was a talk by Dr Ronaldo Ichiyama from the University of Leeds who shed new light on the timing of epidural stimulation, rehabilitation and drug treatment after spinal cord injury. He claimed that in contrast to previous beliefs that these therapies should be administered simultaneously, the best functional outcomes are achieved when there is an interval of several weeks in between.
The talks were followed by a poster session where there was a variety of posters from presenting a novel zebrafish model of autism spectrum disorders, through describing the role of microglial activation in Alzheimer’s disease to finding a novel marker for religious beliefs.
The exhibition was also of top quality with a variety of exhibitors from all over the UK and the world – some of them had tempting offers especially for the delegates and exciting competitions. I even managed to win myself a little fluffy devil from Miltenyi Biotec named Den Dritic.
The official opening of the conference, as well as a rather intriguing introduction to the first plenary speaker, was given by the BNA’s President – Prof. John Aggleton. Prof. Masud Husain – an outstanding researcher from the University of Oxford brought us up to date with the most current research on the topic of how memory, attention and motivation link together and how this link is disrupted in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The first day of the festival ended with a welcome reception where the CamBRAIN (Veselina Petrova) and Cortex Club (Samuel Picard) Presidents exchanged some ideas and inspirations for future events.
Day 2 of the BNA Festival of Neuroscience 2017 had a strong Cambridge presence. The day started with a session entitled “Old brains, new insights” where two researchers –
Karen Campbell (currently at Brock University, previously in Prof. James Rowe’s lab) and Kamen Tsvetanov (a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. James Rowe’s lab at Addenbrookes) showed fascinating fMRI studies on the CamCAN cohort of 3000 people aged between 18 and 88. Karen provided evidence that the functional strengthening between brain networks declines in old vs. young participants using a natural viewing task which tested attention, memory and emotion. Kamen spoke of the different profile older brains show on fMRI scans compared to young brains and described a novel model of accounting for vascular effects when analysing these results.
This session was followed by yet another outstanding Cambridge researcher’s plenary lecture – Prof. Andrea Brand from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience. Prof. Brand presented some exciting research on how neural stem cells can be awoken by nutrition in adult Drosophila model with the participation of a gene unsurprisingly named Tribbles for the fans of Star Trek.
In the breaks between sessions researchers and exhibitors could admire some intriguing pieces of neuroscience art by artist Rebecca Ivatts who paints the human brain in its various different states. The next session for the day was the President Symposium which aimed at familiarising the audience with the latest Wellcome Trust and EEF-funded projects on neuroscience-informed education. All these projects aim at improving students’ school experience at several hundred schools across the UK by implementing the latest neuroscience research such as the effects of exercise on the cognition, the reward pathways in competition-based tasks, etc in the school curriculum. The session was extremely inspiring as one could see a real example of neuroscience research directly being used to improve people’s lives.
The second plenary lecture of the day was given by Prof. Graham Collingridge – a winner of the 2016 Brain Prize who played a pioneering role in understanding the molecular basis of LTP and its role in learning and memory by studying the hippocampal circuitry.
Probably the most memorable event of the day for me, however, was the public lecture given by Paul Howard-Jones, a well-known figure from the famous TV show “The secret life of 4, 5 and 6 year olds”, a Professor of Neuroscience and Education at the University of Bristol and “a former earlgray addict” as he described himself. Paul gave a fascinating talk about how neuroscience plays an indispensible role in education and about some of the misconceptions of neuroscience research in teaching.
Day 3 started with a rather interesting careers workshop called “Beyond Academe”. There we had the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories, unexpected twists and turns as well as the motivation of several neuroscientists who have gone on to work in various different fields. Among the presenters were Victoria Gill (BBC Presenter), Gary Gilmour (Senior Research Scientist at Eli Lilly), Lucy Foss (Team Manager, Wellcome Trust), Natasha Bray (Associate Editor at Nature Reviews Neuroscience) and Erica Smith (Preclinical Scientist at Imanova). All talks had two overriding messages – one was that you can still have intricate contact with science even outside of the traditional academic path and the second one was that switching fields of expertise is not uncommon today as long as in the end of the day you end up in a happy, fulfilling position which satisfies your drive and your thirst for knowledge. The morning symposia were followed by a plenary lecture given by Alon Chen outlining some of the stress pathway mechanisms using optogenetics.
However, undoubtedly the most memorable and inspiring event for me for the day and probably for the whole festival was the second plenary lecture given by Prof. May-Britt Moser. May-Britt was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine together with Edvard Moser and John O’Keefe for discovering the cells in our brains which form a spatial map of our surroundings – place cells and grid cells. As described by John Aggleton in his introduction, May-Britt is someone with unstoppable enthusiasm, being able to ask simple but important questions and someone who is willing to go an extra mile in order to answer these questions. Indeed, all these qualities came through May-Britt’s talk – the research she presented was so logical and the ease she explained complex concepts with was astonishing. I did indeed ask myself “How did not anyone think to do this in the past?” and at the same time I knew that the answer lies in the fact that in order to do “big science” you need to be open-minded and see things from a different perspective which is exactly what May-Britt did. For me, this lecture was not only an inspiration but an eye-opener to the kind of science I would like to conduct in the future – selfless, intriguing, logical and most of all inspiring to others
The last day of the BNA2017 was rather extraordinary. The day started with a symposium on “Breaking Neuroscience” in which we had once again a strong Cambridge presence – Dr David Belin presented some exciting research he recently conducted in collaboration with Prof. Barry Everitt revealing some of the brain pathways involved in addiction through the use of a rodent model of cocaine self-administration.
The last workshop of the conference was a rather touching and a personal one. It was named “Neuroscience Post-Brexit”. As an EU scientist in the UK, I still have many questions unanswered about the future of my career in this country and so did many others who attended the workshop. However, this workshop was not about answering questions – it was about sharing experiences, thinking of ways how we can counteract the consequences of Brexit and what we as individuals could do to make sure that cutting-edge science continues to be carried out in Britain even if there are some barriers to it.
The closing part of the BNA2017 started with presenting the awards for best posters among two categories – student award and young investigator award. The award ceremony was followed by a fascinating lecture by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore describing how adolescence is an extremely sensitive period of brain development and how some external pressures such as peer pressure can have a major effect on behaviour and health.
In a nutshell, BNA2017 did not fail to arouse my fellow neuroscientific curiosity for yet another year! Inspiration, cutting-edge science, laughter, friendly faces and an endless sea of knowledge – this is what the BNA was for me this year. I cannot wait for BNA2019, hello Dublin!
Article by Veselina Petrova – CamBRAIN President
After decades of being classified as of no medical use, psychedelic drugs like LSD, MDMA and psilocybin are beginning to gain ground in medical research. Preliminary results are indicating it may have the potential to treat various mental illnesses, such as depression, PTSD and even addiction. However, as scientists begin to tackle the workings of these incredible compounds, for some, the most important battle will be to overcome the stigma they have garnered from years of being a banned substance, leaving its impure, harmful and unregulated forms to dictate public perception.
With this goal in mind, CamBRAIN decided to tackle the taboo and so the idea for our biggest event this term was born. Three panellists were invited to draw on their individual areas of expertise: Professor Paul Fletcher from the university’s psychiatry department; Amanda Fielding founder and director of a leading funding body for psychedelic research, the Beckley foundation; and Leor Roseman, a budding PhD student in the field from Imperial College London. Chaired by Professor Ed Bullmore, Head of the Department of Psychiatry, it was set up to provide an informed discussion on the value of these drugs to science and medicine and the challenges that lie ahead.
After the crowd of over 200 people settled into their seats in the main lecture theatre of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, Ed started the evening’s proceedings by introducing the three panellists. Then, Professor Paul Fletcher took the stage as the first speaker for the evening. He drew from his work on ketamine to explain how mind-altering substances can be an incredibly useful tool for modelling psychiatric disorders, in this case psychosis. Early into his discussion, he used captivating visual and auditory aids to demonstrate two forms of hallucinations. Then, he explained that models are indispensable tools for research but asserts that models are just that- a model. He pointed out that you wouldn’t look through the windows of an aeroplane model and complain that you couldn’t see a pilot or a drinks trolley. Paul concludes his point by stating that a model should only be judged based on the purpose it serves, which in the case of early stage psychosis, ketamine does very well.
Next up, was Amanda Fielding. Amanda started the Beckley Foundation in 1998 and has since played a pivotal role in the revival of psychedelic research in the past decade. Long before that, however, she has spent decades trying to convince governments and the public to take seriously the medical and psychological benefits of psychedelic drugs. Through her foundation, her voice is finally being heard. The work done by the Beckley foundation was the main focus of her talk for the evening. She highlighted key findings from their recent collaborations, most notably with Professor David Nutt and Dr Robin Carhart Harris, who pioneered the world’s first imaging study of the brain on LSD. This served as a perfect introduction for the next speaker, who hails from that lab and was part of that monumental study.
Leor Roseman did his BSc in Neuroscience in Tel Aviv University. He then started his MRes at Imperial College London where he worked under the supervision of Prof. Nutt and Dr. Carhart-Harris. He is now a PhD candidate of the Beckley-Imperial Research Program. Leor talked about the recently completed pilot study investigating the therapeutic effectiveness of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. He then presented fMRI data recorded before and after psilocybin-assisted therapy showing enhanced amygdala activity in response to emotional faces after therapy. Moreover, Leor compared those results to the blunted amygdala response following traditional antidepressants. He suggested that psychedelic-assisted therapy could be a treatment avenue that preserves, and even enhances emotional receptiveness.
After the speakers’ sessions, the floor was opened to Q&A. This discussion was chaired by Professor Ed Bullmore. The session went on for over forty-five minutes. The audience challenged the speakers by raising the problem of placebo effects in psychedelic research. The speakers openly discussed this issue and went on to answer questions about the overlap in research between meditation and psychedelics. Lastly, the speakers explained the future hurdles facing psychedelic research. This psychedelic conversation tackled the taboo; it cleared the myths and answered some key questions surrounding psychedelics research. It reminded us CamBrainiacs that we must keep an open mind, discuss our ideas and have the courage to tackle taboos.
By: Muhammad Kaiser & Aicha Massrali
The CamBRAIN festive Neuro-Art Competition took place in the hidden gem of Selwyn college – The Diamond room. Just 5 minute-walk away from King’s, it is perfectly distant from the hustle and bustle of the main street. The competition attracted almost 30 performing and visual artists from all over Cambridge and beyond.
Brain science offers a multitude of questions to ponder on and explore through painting, as does the Visual Artist Judge Valeriya N-Georg (http://www.valeriya-n-georg.com). Coming from a fine arts background, Valeriya insightfully integrates medical and scientific concepts in her works through collaborations with professionals working in these fields, as seen in “Grey Matter”, “Astrocyte”, and “Gardens of the Unconscious” among other pieces. The work she decided to share with CamBRAIN was “Deepest Imprints: Perfect Harmony” based on prenatal brain development research by Kitty Hagenbach. Valeriya helped us assess creativity and deeper meanings of the artwork.
To the contrary, Steve Cross, the Performing Artist Judge, has a solid background in science and a PhD degree. Rather than following a typical career path, he has decided to combine his interest in stand-up comedy with science to create Science Showoff (http://www.scienceshowoff.org). He thinks that scientists have a few hidden fun sides to share, and Science Showoff is an inspirational project which aims to both bring a comic relief in a professional work field and engage with lay public. Additionally, it offers an alternative to the status quo of an academic career progression as it demonstrates that there is no limit to what you can do with your degree. Steve was critical of the novelty of concepts and presentation skills.
Lastly, your humble servant (Nataly Martynyuk) had the pleasure to be the Science Judge. Long time before I realised that my hand dexterity longs for a dissection scalpel and forceps, I attended art classes and was foretold a career as a painter. I have no regrets about not pursuing it, even though I continue scribbling in my rare spare time of a PhD candidate. I have done scientific illustrations for research groups in Cambridge and London, as well as completed several murals in a psychiatric ward of Mile End hospital as a part of a volunteering clinical project. The work I presented for CamBRAIN was inspired by my microscopy experience, which reveals “A Universe For My Eyes Only”. My job was to evaluate the relevance of the media to the depicted ideas and ensure scientific accuracy.
The number of astonishing art pieces we were presented with made it extremely difficult to choose winners. The variety of media did not make it any easier, and a few pieces were leading only by a whisker.
The first prize was deservedly taken by David Jane’s (http://david-jane.info) “Self-Portraits”, which have playfully explored MRI scans as a series of prints. While Artist Judges were mesmerised by how David has transformed something as trivial as a piece of scan into creative images and collaged them to make them look nothing like the original, I appreciated the idea of thinking of ‘self’ on the portraits in a neurological way.
The second prize went to Dana Galili and her comedy sketch. She was fun, witty, and truly made the evening brighter. Besides, her stories about fly mating behaviour were somewhat educational, as she pointed out that “there is a lot we can learn from the flies”.
The audience agreed to disagree with the judges and awarded “Bipolar Flight” by Hannah Belcher with the popularity prize.
Heleen, Jessica, Jon and the rest of the CamBRAIN committee have ensured the smooth and timely event organisation with the only regret that Veselina could not join us on the day.
Regardless of who got the prizes, everyone who attended has certainly won.
BNA’s “Bright Brains” is looking for writers/reviewers!
“Bright Brains” is a newsletter that is created and edited by BNA students, postdocs and early career researchers from all over the UK. It appears three times a year in the BNA bulletin and everyone is welcome to contribute as writer or reviewer.
Individuals interested in writing/reviewing please contact David Howett (firstname.lastname@example.org), and check out previous issues here for the type of content.
Voting for the position of the second Social Secretary of CamBRAIN will open at 12pm on Thursday 20th of October!
Below are the two candidates and their short manifestos:
Hello, my name is Christof and I would love to be your social secretary. Why?:
S: tudying for my PhD in Clinical Neuroscience
O: bviously the one for the job
C: ommitted to forging interdisciplinary relationships throughout Cambridge University and the UK
I: ncidently is passionate about neuroscience and neuroscience themed events
A: ctive in the community
L: oves to connect with others and help others connect through varied events
So if you agree, please, vote me for me, vote for Christof.
In my life as an MD/PhD psychiatrist, I aspire to bridge the basic neuroscience and clinical psychiatry communities, foster collaboration, communication, and training opportunities, fight stigma, and raise awareness about mental illness. These efforts will require all possible resources, and strengthening our young neuroscience community will be key. As social secretary, I will advance the commendable enterprise of our important society. I will strive for improved unity of all segments of the neuroscience community in Cambridge so as not to succumb to the geographic and departmental barriers that can hinder efforts towards our common goal: decoding the brain to alleviate human suffering. Oh, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m extremely social.
We would like to thank all of you who attended our Welcome Reception last Wednesday. We were delighted to meet all of you and to share our experiences and ideas for the future of CamBRAIN. It is very inspiring for us to see how motivated and interested you all are in our society and in neuroscience in general!
We considered the event to be a huge success and we hope that this is only the start of very productive year ahead! Here are some pictures from the event. You can also find them on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CamBrainCNS/).
Please feel free to tag yourselves!