Neuroscience graduate program held symposium

first_imgThe Neuroscience graduate program held their annual symposium, a day-long event that featured four student speakers and 90 poster presentations from all graduate students in the program at the Radisson hotel at USC on Wednesday.The student speakers addressed USC graduate school faculty and students on topics ranging from steroid abuse, itch treatments and Alzheimer’s disease.The symposium began with various graduate student lectures. Third-year graduate student Kathryn Wallin kicked off the lecture portion of the symposium with her research on the effects of anabolic steroids on the behaviorial and functional structures within the brainWallin’s research included the study of rats to analyze effects of steroid abuse on the human brain. Wallin explained that rats treated with testosterone were more motivated to obtain food rewards than were non-treated rats when faced with the need of increased efforts. Additionally, treated rats were found to have brain damage.Matthew Ellis, a first-year graduate student, presented a summary of his research on the feasibility of monitoring and predicting Alzheimer’s progression. Ellis conducted research by peering through the human eye and observing molecular changes in the retina.Ellis discussed that studying the eye requires additional technology to measure molecular changes.“You can see into the eye with great resolution. However, if you want to see the molecular changes occurring, what we really need are probes that hint as to what might be going on,” Ellis said.The closing lecture featured Dr. Anders Dale, professor of neuroscience and radiology at University of California, San Diego. Dale is recognized by the scientific community for developing imaging techniques to understand disease. He has also developed models of the human brain and is the author of several publications.Dale presented the lecture, which included an explanation of methods for analyzing specific regions along the genome to identify gene loci that would normally be difficult to find.Dale’s method includes the use of regulatory genes to discover genetic clusters associated with polygenic traits. These polygenic traits have led to increased power to predict variants in genetic loci associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The method allows researchers to identify three times the gene loci than would be possible through standard methods.Followed by Dale’s lecture was the presentation of the student of the year award, awarded to David Clewett, a student with multiple publications.All students were required to present their work, so the symposium reflected research at various stages, ranging from under six months to four or five years. Ventura said the event presents only a “snapshot of where students are at with their research,” and students must grapple with both  public speaking fears and having “to balance getting people to understand [their work] and also being specific and very scientific.”The neuroscience department has been hosting symposiums since 2005 to afford students the opportunity to strengthen their science communication abilities, according to Judith Hirsch, associate director of the graduate program. Christopher Ventura, student speaker coordinator, said that students must overcome communication obstacles in explaining very specific research to students of different backgrounds.“Most of them come from very different backgrounds,” Ventura said. “So they kind of have to talk to a general science audience about a very specific project and have everyone understand it.”last_img read more