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  1. Neurohistory Cartoons: A scientific outreach project combining the history of neuroscience and cartoon imagery While preparing for a microteaching class on neuroscience I stumbled upon notes on a poster I attended at #SfN18 about “Neurohistory Cartoons”. To be honest this (History of Neuroscience) is one of the topics I found harder to digest when I took my first neuroscience class and I’m confident that others felt the same. As an instructor and as a learner I have seen the effectiveness of using cartoons as a tool for teaching/learning. The effectiveness of cartoons in teaching can also be found in the literature and it is used in many fields including economics, social and physical sciences [1,2]. Ok, I’ll get to the point. Neurohistory Cartoons are an online tool developed by the Neuroscience Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. While at the poster I learned from Samantha Baglot, the lead project organizer, that this project aims to share the history of neuroscience through cartoon imagery and the content is freely accessible. One of their goals for the future is to share information about scientists whose discoveries may not be as well-known and have paved the way for current research questions. Neurohistory Cartoons are shared in the form of a timeline (shown above and at the Neurohistory Cartoons website) and once you click on the image it gives you the information from the scientist highlighted in the picture (below). There are currently ten scientists listed and the list will continue to grow as the team has recently been awarded funds for the expansion of this project. I think this is a great resource for teaching about “Neurohistory” and think it should be widely shared. All of the content can be downloaded through their website. Finally, the creators are open to ideas and collaborations. If interested feel free to contact them through this form or Twitter @neurohistoons. References Van Wyk MM. (2017). The Use of Cartoons as a Teaching Tool to Enhance Student Learning in Economics Education. JSS. 117-130. Shurkin J. (2015). Science and Culture: Cartoons to Better Communicate Science. PNAS. 112 (38): 11741–11742. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez, Ph.D. Postdoctoral scholar Genome Center University of California Davis Twitter: @alexcr_1
  2. Low-cost neuroanatomy learning tools for visually impaired and blind students Did you know that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment?[1] Well if you didn’t I don’t feel as bad because this was one of the first things I learned when I visited Giovanne Diniz and Dr. Luciane Sita’s poster on “Development of low-cost tactile neuroanatomy learning tools for blind and visually impaired students”. I always try to stay updated on new tools used for inclusive instruction. That is how I learned about Giovanne and Dr. Sita’s work while attending Theme J posters at the annual meeting. Giovanne Diniz and Dr. Luciane Sita at their poster during SfN’s Annual meeting. Giovanne and Dr. Sita are scientists at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. This past year when they started teaching the neuroanatomy course they realized that there was a blind student in their class and the instructional materials were limited to teach this population. Then they began to identify tools to use on their instruction to improve teaching for blind and visually impaired students. Most anatomy courses use illustrations, medical imaging, and cadavers; although there are didactic tools available these are for sighted individuals and most of them are in English. Thus, this team decided to develop a tool to improve the teaching of neuroanatomy concepts using low-cost materials, one that could be accessible and implemented without difficulty. Among the tools they developed for teaching neuroanatomy was a fixed brain specimen which had the gyri covered with different textured fabrics and marked with pins of various sizes. This approach was also used to teach internal structures of the brain which were presented as digitally drawn brain slides. Implementation of their tools increased the engagement of the blind student attending their class. The students’ performance was similar to the sighted peers and this motivated them to increase the repertoire of structures they have developed and to provide this as a blueprint for use of by others with blind or visually impaired students. Using tactile strategies for teaching can be difficult as there are several things to consider including the students’ needs and abilities, and the tasks that will be implemented [2]. The tools developed by Giovanne and Dr. Sita, used to teach neuroanatomy core concepts, are a great strategy for inclusiveness and effective instruction for blind and visually impaired learners. Example of a digitally drawn brain section and the textures used for teaching about specific structures. References World Health Organization. (2018). Blindness and Vision Impairment. Downing JE, Chen D. (2003). Using Tactile Strategies With Students Who Are Blind and Have Severe Disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children. 36 (2):56-60. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez, Ph.D. Postdoctoral scholar Genome Center University of California Davis Twitter: alexcr_1
  3. ComSciCon is an organization by and for Grad Students Full disclosure? I'm a total science communication nerd. I’m constantly distracted from research by science twitter (Sorry Ken!) and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how scientists can help uniform the public about all the great research going on thanks to their tax dollars. All this to say, I was immediately enamored with the ComSciCon organization. I actually first learned about the organization back in 2016, when I attended one of the satellite workshops in Chicago. I learned about data visualization from a psychologist who literally studies how our brains perceive patterns in data. I heard inspiring stories of getting involved with youtube from Emily Graslie (The Brain Scoop) at the Field Museum. Not only did I listen to panels & talks, but I also got the chance to practice my own skills with ‘pop talks.’ Basically, attendees are given one minute to describe their research for a general audience & get immediate feedback via audience cue cards that are labelled “awesome” or “jargon.” So why am I bringing up a science communication conference I attended several years ago? Well one attendee from ComSciCon’s leadership, Alie Caldwell, presented a poster about the organization and how to get involved! ComSciCon-SfN18 Poster (1).jpg1333×1436 669 KB ComSciCon’s goals are to “empower early career scientists to become leaders in their field, propagating appreciation and understanding of research results to broad and diverse audiences.” The organization accepts 50 applicants each year (out of approximately 1000 applications) to it’s Flagship conference where expert science communicators like Ed Yong from the Atlantic help train young scientists on communication skills that will benefit them both inside and outside of academia. Beyond the Flagship conference, there are also 9 satellite conferences across the US (with potentially a new one starting up in Canada!). Across all the conferences, ComSciCon has trained over 1500 graduate students and postdocs! Of course, the organization is still growing & hoping to find new areas to expand and new sponsors to help fund the work. Want to learn more about getting involved with ComSciCon? You can reach out to the leadership team at info@comscicon.org PS- Seriously though, full disclosure. I am an organizing member of ComSciCon and am leading the program organization committee for the 2019 Flagship Conference. Sadie Witkowski PhD Candidate, Northwestern University
  4. Sadie_Witkowski

    Poster Highlight: We the Scientists

    Scientists get involved in Democracy After the stress of the midterms, I definitely needed a break from political news. After being inundated with polls and stats, I just wanted to know what policies candidates supported and whether those policies were supported by scientific evidence. Too bad I only discovered We the Scientists after I cast my early vote! We the Scientists is a student-led organization from Columbia University. I spoke with Macayla Donegan about what inspired her & her collaborators to start this project. She said they were “inspired by wanting fact and evidence-based policy” but not having an easy way to organize the information that’s out there. To address this gap, Donegan and her fellow graduate students created We the Scientists as a one-stop shop to learn about national representatives from across the United States and whether their positions match up with the science. Using a map, visitors to the site can look up their state representatives and compare the Rep’s voting record to primary source scientific data (with a non-jargony shorthand version also available). The organization is continuing to grow and they also include other useful frameworks for scientists like how to write an OpEd and a Late Night Science program to engage the local public and show them the research their tax dollars support. As for We the Scientist’s next steps, they’re currently chapter-izing to help spread the reach of the program. Donegan mentioned that as grad students, it’s a lot of extra work to run this program as a side project, but they think the best way to expand is through connections with other academics. “We have a pipeline,” Donegan said. “We have some code on how to implement this.” Donegan explained to me that all they need now are some partners who care about understanding scientifically supported policies and engaging in our democracy. You can find We the Scientists at their website as well as on twitter, facebook, and instagram! Sadie Witkowski PhD Candidate
  5. The Stories We Tell I love stories. As long as I can remember, stories have played an integral part in forming my love for science, and my dreams to be a scientist. It was the story about Gregor Mendel, a gardener who became the father of modern genetics. It was Dr. Har Gobind Khorana, the first Indian-born Nobel prize winner in physiology or medicine. It was Ada Lovelace, a technological visionary and the first programmer. Which is why I could not miss the second ever SFN “Telling Stories in Science” minisymposium on Sunday chaired by the incredible Wendy Suzuki! It was an afternoon full of beautiful synchrony between the scientific values we care about and the deeply human ways in which it affects our lives, either good or bad, painful or exhilarating, easy or complex. Here I share a few of the talks and personal stories that resonated deeply with me. Who speaks for Science? Dr. Monica Feliu-Mojer started off the event with aplomb. A passionate scientist and science communicator, Dr. Feliu-Mojer is the Director of Communications and Science Outreach for Ciencia Puerto Rico, as well as the Associate Director of Diversity and Communication Training. In her talk, Dr. Feliu-Mojer reminded us that stories are a powerful way of sharing science and a compelling way to connect with people. But most importantly, she asked the question: Who speaks for science? Which community is being represented? It was a question that surprised me. Not because I didn’t immediately recognize its immense value, but because I had never thought to ask that question myself. Dr. Feliu-Mojer made her stance crystal clear and one I agree with entirely: science has consistently failed to represent minority groups, and consider race as a factor in assessing and interpreting data. Which makes one thing clear: it is integral to connect culture and context with science. In addition, as scientists, we need to ask ourselves how we can leverage our individual privilege to help other communities. Monica.jpg1000×664 346 KB I was blown away by Dr. Feliu-Mojer’s erudite and succinct summaries of the issues that impregnate the scientific field. We have the power to make all voices matter, and this is a call to action with important consequences. Our Brains on Storytelling You know when you have a conversation with someone and it feels effortless? As if there is a seamless exchange of ideas? Dr. Uri Hasson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University studies that very process, which is the neurological basis of human communication and storytelling. His research using fMRI shows the intriguing phenomena that people listening to the same stories show synced or aligned brain activities. The talk was fantastic, and here is his TED talk you can watch! tedtalk.jpg1540×866 79 KB Neural Entrainment. (Courtesy: TED) Personal Stories It is difficult to summarize the personal stories. The emotional effect of these narratives came so much from the speakers’ candor, personality, and courage to share difficult memories, and it almost feels like an injustice to try and surmise them in words. rachel yehuda.jpg1000×1000 100 KB Dr. Rachel Yehuda’s story was a gripping tale about the struggle to find the scientific truth about stress, trauma, and its biological underpinnings while walking the fine line of reducing people’s traumatic experiences to their science alone. To hear her story, check out this Story Collider episode. Jean_Zarate1.jpg1000×671 87.7 KB Dr. Jean Mary Zarate, a Senior Editor at Nature Neuroscience, really pulled at my heartstrings with her deeply personal narrative. She spoke about the battle between following your dreams as a musician while pursuing her career in the sciences. Zarate’s story is many of our stories, and I saw my own fears, concerns, lows, and highs in her. As an Indian Ph.D. student who loves storytelling and has a passion for writing, I too had to find a way to create a synthesis of those two worlds. Zarate spoke with understated passion, and I am ever grateful to her for recollecting this struggle. wendy.jpeg1000×667 75.3 KB Dr. Wendy Suzuki ended the event by telling us a shatteringly beautiful story about her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, her struggle to help while being a memory researcher, and the unending power of love. Overall, the nanosymposium was an unmissable experience and an emotional rollercoaster that reminded me of the very humanness of the scientific practice. For those of you interested in more, here is a paper published by Journal of Neuroscience on storytelling and science with the speakers! Prabarna Ganguly PhD candidate Northeastern University @prabarna
  6. History and Education (Theme J) and Neural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia (Theme B) Blogger: Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez Hi Everyone! My name is Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez and I’m a postdoctoral trainee in the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis. I’m a neurotoxicologist and my research interests are focused on understanding how gene/environment (G x E) interactions can contribute to neurological disease, specifically focused on alterations in neurotransmission. I am also very interested in science communication and outreach; specifically, when used as a tool to encourage minorities to pursue careers in science. You can learn about my outreach efforts on my page: https://www.alexandracr.com/outreach.html I’m looking forward to sharing some highlights in the areas of History and Education (Theme J), and Neural Excitability, Synapses, and Glia (Theme B) on my blog posts. Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Scholar Genome Center University of California Davis Website: https://www.alexandracr.com/ Twitter: @alexcr_1 LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandracr/
  7. Cognition & History/Education Blogger: Sadie Witkowski sadieheadshots2018-144.jpeg2455×3437 2.22 MB Hi Everyone! I’m a PhD candidate in the Brain, Behavior, & Cognition area of Psychology at Northwestern University. I study sleep & memory under Dr. Ken Paller. In particular, I’m interested in how memory is processed during sleep and how the neural mechanisms differ across memory types. If you want to know more about my research, you can find me at my poster! Of course, I’m also interested in a myriad of topics beyond memory & will be blogging about them over the course of the conference. In particular, I will be reporting on poster and symposia talks about cognition & education/history. I’m especially excited to highlight some of the research on science communication within neuroscience. Who knows, maybe I’ll manage some interesting cross-pollination of the cognition & education themes. I hope you follow along on my SfN adventures! Sadie (Sarah) Witkowski PhD Candidate Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Northwestern University Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/phdrinking Website: sadiewit.com Neuronline: @Sadie_Witkowski Twitter: @SadieWit or @PhDrinking
  8. Amanda Labuza

    Amanda Labuza, SfN 2017 Blogger

    Hi Everyone! I’m Amanda Labuza, a PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. While at UMB I have helped run an outreach group for several years. I’m excited to share the latest outreach and advocacy (Theme J) news with you during the annual meeting. My research focuses on calcium regulation in muscles. I’ll be sure to also share some of what I learn on Motor Systems (Theme E) here. IMAG1360.jpg1440×2560 772 KB Follow me on SfN @labuza or on Instagram @amandaclare13
  9. My name is Dr. Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez, and I’m an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. My lab studies how the brain regulates reproduction and sexual behavior. We also value outreach, undergraduate research opportunities, science communication, and supporting women and underrepresented minorities in science. I will be covering topics related to Integrative Physiology and Behavior, as well as issues related to Diversity and Social Justice in Neuroscience. Follow my blog posts here and on Twitter at @BeccaCalisi. See you in November!
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