Latest Event Updates
CamBRAIN was a proud collaborator of the 2018 Cambridge Science Festival. The aim of the Festival is to provide opportunities to explore and discuss all things scientific and to encourage young and the old alike to learn more about science – so it was a perfect match for CamBRAIN! We sent up a stall at the Guidhall on the 18th of March and our CamBRAINers were flooded with joy by curious bright young children wanting to make their own neurons out of playdough, have their face painted (with beautiful neurons, of course!) and make paper hats that showed the intricate functional anatomy of the brain. We also had cool smartphone microscopes that allowed us to see some real neurons in a slice of a mouse’s brain. At the same time we partnered up with Neural Knitworks and helped in their stall to make multi coloured fabric neurons with buttons as nucleus. Who said scientists can’t be creative?!
No matter the activity it spurred lots of interesting questions from our new friends in science, some of which we are still trying to answer with our research so it was nice to also share a bit of the current work being done besides some more general facts about the brain. We had lots of fun. We loved to see you there, if you’ve missed it don’t worry – we can’t wait to do this again next year!
Article written by Marta Camacho – Social Secretary
Our first Neurotalks event of the term got off to a great start at the Panton Arms! Thank you everyone for the overwhelming attendance. We will be looking to increase the size of the room for our next set of talks! Over 50 people came to see talks by Dr. Claire Durrant (née Harwell), Research Associate in Clinical Neurosciences, Dr Eliajh Mak, Research Associate in Psychiatry and David Howett, PhD Candidate in Psychiatry on their research into Alzheimer’s disease. The informal talks allowed these researchers to share their preliminary data from their current projects with the cambridge neuroscience community and showed us the the wide ranging methods in which we can study such diseases.
Claire demonstrated the use of her organotypic brain slice cultures in studying the mechanisms of protein accumulation, and Eliajh presented the application of neuroimaging techniques to investigate biomarkers in Alzheimer’s brains with both talks having interesting implications for the role of Tau and beta-Amyloid.
David’s spacial navigation tasks using virtual reality head-sets were then able to show the differences in performance between control and Alzheimer’s groups, with the potential for use as a fun interactive diagnostic tool.
A lot of engaging questions were asked during the talk and the researchers addressed them brilliantly. Afterwards there was the chance to have a cozy discussion and mingle with our speakers over a pint.
We always appreciate new ideas for talks and speakers so get in touch if you would like to present at future Neurotalks!
Future topics include: Ethics in the Neuropsychology of Gambling (is it gaming? Or is still in discussion?), Repairing the Injured Brain, and the Science of Love! We look forward to seeing you there.
Article written by Monica Killen – Junior Treasurer
Who will be on your next CamBRAIN committee?
Here are the candidates:
My name is Kate Harris and I am a first-year PhD student in Clinical Neurosciences.
I would love to be on the CamBRAIN committee because I am extremely passionate about neuroscience and I would like to be involved in connecting and engaging fellow neuroscientists! I have really enjoyed the events that the current committee has organized this year, in particular, the NeuroArt competition.
I would like to apply for the position as President for CamBRAIN. I think I would be a valuable member of the committee because I enjoy working in a team and I have gained experience in organizing projects and liaising with organizations during four years working in the business world prior to starting my PhD.
I wish to be considered for the position of President. I am currently completing my MPhil in medical genetics and I will be studying graduate course in Medicine in September. My BSc degree was in Neuroscience and my aim is to specialise in neurology upon completion of my medical degree. This year, I attended multiple events of CamBrain and I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of their members and the range of topics they touched upon and I am very passionate about participating in the committee next year.
As NeuroSoc President for two years at King’s College London, I helped organise academic talks and three day-long conferences. Our keynote speakers were leading researchers in their fields, including Sir Colin Blakemore and Nobel Laurette Prof John O’Keefe. I was also one of the founding members of LSNeuron which is a collaboration among neuroscience societies from 5 London universities which aimed to create a networking platform for neuroscience students in London, as well as students of relevant fields such as Medicine, Psychology, Philosophy and Arts. We successfully held a two-day conference for 600 delegates and raised over £3,000 via our fundraising event ‘Skydive for Epilepsy’ donated to Epilepsy UK research.
I would love the opportunity to be involved this year in CamBrain and participate in the organization of the society’s events, aiming to introduce students to the latest research that is taking place in Cambridge and worldwide.
My name is Marino Krstulovic, I am currently a research assistant working on developing electrophysiological techniques in sheep models of Huntington’s disease at the Morton Lab at PDN. During my undergraduate degree I was the co-founder of the psychology society of my University, and during my Masters I was the welfare officer of my MCR. CamBRAIN and CamNeuro have established amazing foundations which have unified the diverse neuro-scientific research community in Cambridge.
After being elected as a CamBrain secretary last year I am keen to continue this role in order to foster further collaborations, learning and socializing in our research community.
I am a first-year PhD student in Clinical Neurosciences, studying metabolism in traumatic brain injury. I have only just arrived in Cambridge but really enjoyed attending the events run by CamBRAIN in the last two months. It has been great for meeting other neuroscience students and I’ve quite enjoyed learning more about topics outside my own field at the talks.
I would just like to get more involved and help out! I have been part of several student society committees in my undergrad and look forward to bringing some new ideas for CamBRAIN’s science communication efforts.
Palani GN Emmanuel College, Medicine
I FEEL THAT I AM A TRUSTWORTHY, RELIABLE AND METICULOUS INDIVIDUAL. I will always be there making sure finances are in the right place at the right time, but never noticed.
I HAVE A NATURAL INCLINATION TO KEEPING NUMBERS IN CHECK AND SOLVING ANY DISCREPANCIES THAT MAY ARISE. Furthermore, I enjoy making and finding deals. To be also part of CamBrain and facilitating the sharing of ground-breaking ideas among great minds makes it all the more interesting.
I. EMMANUEL MEDICAL SOCIETY TREASURER
Secured a significant sponsorship and had to manage several large setbacks in planning large events
II. SINGAPORE MEDICAL SOCIETY TREASURER
III. CRYPTOCURRENCY ARBITRAGE TRADING
Had to look for opportunities and make deals on the various different currency exchanges to profit bigly
My name is Bianca Oltean and I joined the Psychiatry Department in January this year as a research assistant. Since then I thoroughly enjoyed attending the events organised by CamBRAIN and I wish to take this opportunity to get involved in shaping the future of our vibrant society as the next Communications Coordinator. I have extensive experience in working within committees and representing students in roles such as Deputy Chair of the Student Committee at the British Psychological Society, Education Rep & Deputy Chair of the International Students’ Association and Faculty Coordinator of Hull University Union.
SOCIAL SECRETARY (2 POSITIONS)
I am finishing my first-year PhD in Psychology, looking at the neural circuitry underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder. Before my PhD I have worked at a national museum as the head interpreter for over a year. Besides supervising and coordinating the heritage interpreters, I organised and led educational programs, volunteer trainings, special events, and much more. Ever since I arrived in Cambridge I have been following the activities in CamBRAIN. As a member of the neuroscience community, I want to contribute my share of effort in organising events that are valuable experiences, socially or academically, for everyone who are interested in neuroscience.
I’m a research assistant at Roger Barker’s lab with a keen interest in science communication. Before coming to Cambridge I volunteered for 4 years with “Ar” – a science outreach programme in Portugal. Ar events are free events for the general public (usually around 400 people) in the form of 2 expert talks, demonstrations or interactive games to the audience. Past speakers include Miguel Nicolelis, Ed Boyden, and Deborah Gordon). In 2011 and 2016, I headed two Ar events on the brain-gut axis and on pain (please visit http://www.ar.fchampalimaud.org/) and I really miss it! I would love to join the CamBRAIN team and continue to foster the idea of why science is important as well as surprisingly fun!
Hi, my name is Deniz Ghaffari. I’m a first year PhD student in the department of clinical neuroscience. As an international student who was new to Cambridge, I was always interested in communicating with other institutions and societies related to neuroscience and stablishing more connections. Back in the university I did my undergrad I was a member of our department’s biological society for four years and I have experience in scheduling events, talks and seminars both for the scientific community and the public. Here in Cambridge I’m willing to continue this by applying for the “Outreach coordinator” position in CAMBRAIN committee.
My name is Yizhou, I am a part-time MPhil student at Queens working on brain tumours. Alongside my research, I am also a trainee in Neurological Surgery at Oxford and an honorary clinical RA at Imperial College London. I would like to apply for the role of an outreach coordinator to promote CamBRAIN to the public and to foster interdisciplinary collaborations across academia and industry.
At medical school, I co-founded a charity organization and successfully organized a science communication conference. Leading my research across both Oxford, Cambridge, I am well placed to promote CamBRAIN between different areas and teams.
INTEREST GROUPS COORDINATOR
I’m Arko, a 2nd year PhD student in Psychiatry and a Johnian. I am studying synaptic connectivity in Autism using human stem cell-derived cortical neurons. Having savoured the diverse flavours of Neuroscience ranging from inflammation in glioblastoma (2011-12) to neuroimaging in music cognition (2013-14) and intervention for children with Autism (2014-15), I learned to appreciate the importance of cross-talk between niche areas. I also enjoy shooting with a DSLR, designing theater sets, doodling with charcoals and meddling with guitar-pedals. I cherish being a founding-member of Synaesthesia, an all-young-neuroscientist-band, and organizing Planet Autism, annual exhibition of paintings by gifted children from all across India. As a current member of BNA and SFN, I am deeply motivated to contribute creatively to CamBRAIN by bringing the raging topics to the fore and the Brainiacs in an arena to ‘fire together and wire together’.
Would you like to a part of the executive committee for one of the largest neuroscience communities in the UK?
Can you represent the diverse interests of neuroscience folks at the University of Cambridge and beyond?
Are you interested in organizing activities and events for over 1000 members?
The Join CamBRAIN: The Cambridge Neuroscience Society Executive Committee!
We are now recruiting to form the next executive committee for the 2017-2018 academic year, the following roles will be up for election:
- Junior Treasurer
- Social Secretaries (x2)
- Communications Coordinator
- Outreach Coordinator
- Interest Groups Coordinator
In case you have any questions, the current committee members are listed here.
If you are interested in running for a specific role, please e-mail our secretary Marino Krstulovi – firstname.lastname@example.org) a small photo of yourself and a brief manifesto (100 words maximum) outlining who you are, your relevant past experience, and why you are interested in the role, by midnight (12:00 AM) on Thursday 1st of June.
You will have to be a University of Cambridge member (undergraduate, postgraduate, post-doctoral) with a CrsID, registered on the CamBRAIN mailing list in order to run for a position and to be included in the ballot list. Please check that you have signed up with your @cam email address as you will also need it to vote.
Please join us in furthering the success of this vibrant society!
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