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Students present brainy research at San Diego conference

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Drew University - Neuroscience Conference in San Diego

Three Drew neuroscience students and their advisor flew to a conference in San Diego to present their research from Nov. 9 to the 13. Valerie Savage (’16), Sabrina La Bianca (’15) and Zach Mazur (’14) and their advisor psychology professor Graham Cousens attended Neuroscience 2013, a conference hosted by the Society for Neuroscience.

Drew University - Neuroscience Conference in San Diego

Valerie Savage (’16), Sabrina La Bianca (’15), Zach Mazur (’14) and Dr. Graham Cousens attended a San Diego conference.

The conference was held in the San Diego Convention center with exhibits and talks that lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.  Mazur stated “Overall the trip was fantastic. It was a great opportunity to get to see what the world of neuroscience has to offer after undergrad. I’m thrilled that I got this opportunity to not only attend the conference, but also present at it as well.”

The Drew students were there to present their research project “Coding of Odorant Stimuli in the Amygdaloid Complex.” Their project was focused on understanding the amygdala, which is an area of the brain that deals with emotional, motivational, social and cognitive processes. Savage explained “Understanding this area will help us understand how to properly treat disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc. This will further help us understand the circuitry of neurons”.

She explained what they do, “We focus on Odorant Presentation. We perform electrophysiological recordings where we use an electrode to record electrical impulses from the cortical medial amygdala in rats where we present odorants to an anesthetized rat in order to see if a response is elicited.”

The group was able to present their research Monday night during a poster session hosted by Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN). During this event, which was only for university groups, undergraduates in neuroscience presented their research. This was an opportunity for the Drew group to present to students and faculty from different universities around the country and around 1,000 undergraduate students were in attendance.

The conference presented many opportunities for the students and Mazur explained “Just being at the conference was amazing because this is a national conference where the ‘who’s who’ of neuroscience come together to meet, discuss and present their finding. It was also wonderful to see the keynote speech ‘The Creative Culture’ that was given by Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.”

Besides hearing Catmull’s keynote speech relating neuroscience to society, students were able to attend various talks and exhibits, and got the chance to see posters being presented by other students and researches from around the world. Savage explained, “Most of the exhibits we observed were of companies selling software, giving out free information about their products, and equipment specialists. We were able to see other types of research that were from different sectors of neuroscience which was also very interesting.”

It was not all work for the group though, Savage continued, “As well as all our hard work at the conference, we found some time to do some sightseeing in San Diego, we visited Coronado Beach, explored the historical district of San Diego, and visited Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach in Los Angeles on our way to our returning flight home.”

The students who went on this trip will continue their research the best they can. The conference left an impact on the entire group.  Savage stated “This conference was very helpful for all of us, it definitely re-sparked the interest that I’m sure we all kind of lose partially during the stress of school work and classes. It was amazing to see how many people, almost 30,000, came out for one purpose-interest in the brain and nervous system. We attended a graduate school fair which definitely helped us in thinking about our future plans and how we plan on using our education to the best potential. We hope to return to the conference next year in Washington, D.C.!”



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