The first of a series of planning meetings for the BRAIN initiative took place early this week in Arlington, VA. Officially called the NSF Workshop on the Physical Principles of Brain Structure and Function, it collected many of the nation’s most prominent neuroscientists together into a stuffy hotel conference room to Continue reading
Just got back from a whirlwind tour of the greater Washington D.C. area, where I was given my opportunity to present my work at two different institutions. My first stop was Janelia Farm, a Howard Hughes institute and one of the major drivers that are pushing the electron microscopy and computational technologies needed for large scale synapse-level connectomics work. I was invited by Albert Cardona Continue reading
On Wednesday I was at the IMP in vienna to deliver a talk about my recent paper.Manuel Zimmer, my host, put together a great schedule of people to meet with and I had a great time delivering the talk .. the audience was highly engaged and asked a lot of very good questions. I spent the rest of the day having some great discussions with members of top-notch labs Continue reading
During the last week of March, I made a trip to the good ol’ U.S.A. to attend the Neuronal Circuits meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory out on Long Island. There, I presented a talk entitled “Comparative Graph Theoretical Analysis of Networks of Identified Neurons.” During the talk, I summarized the Pristionchus connectivity project as well as introduced some of the graph theory methods I’ve been working on for asking questions of connectivity networks. For me, the meeting was outstanding. All of the talks were well presented and of a very high standard… you can count on your mind being blown at least a couple of times a day at these meetings! CSHL is an excellent (though expensive) venue for meetings, and the meeting itself was structured to allow plenty of time to talk with people. There weren’t so many worm people there, but Scott Emmons presented his connectivity dataset for the male in C. elegans, Julie Cho from Paul Sternberg’s lab presented a nice talk on her work dealing with lethargic (“sleep”) and a couple of awesome grad students from Mark Alkema’s lab had posters (Christopher Clark and Jennifer Pirri). They look at locomotion circuits, including examining how C. elegans avoids nematode trapping fungi. I’ve always been a fan of Arthrobotrys! Prior to the meeting, I went out to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to visit the labs of David Hall and Scott Emmons. Their work on the male tail is impressive, available already online (www.wormatlas.org) and should be published this year. I always like visiting David’s lab because it is kind of an electron microscopy museum, containing many of the early and important electron micrographs for C. elegans. This time around, there was a new addition: the original wooden models constructed by, I think, John White in order to investigate vulva development! Apparently, Dave saved them from being discarded. Dave is also an Avid birder and an active conservationist, so in between lab visits I had a chance to tag along to some of his birding sites. Truly an action packed trip! To see some additional photos, look at my Flickr page HERE.
This past week I was invited to speak about my work at the Institute for Neuroinformatics in Zürich, and presented a talk entitled “Comparative connectomics: Synaptic connectivity in the nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans and Pristionchus pacificus.” It was exciting for me as it as a place where there are some pretty interesting neuroscience projects going on. I talked with people doing such things as neuromorphic computing (essentially using sensors or processors that recreate vision or other senses in a similar way that our neurons do…) , large scale synaptic connectivity reconstruction and correlated LM/EM. Some of the more interesting work relates to studying the neural circuitry involved in bird song. It was also great to spend some time with my host, Albert Cardona, who works on mapping synaptic connectivity in Drosophila and is responsible for some of the software that makes what I do possible. The talk was, as far as I could tell, well received and generated a significant amount of interest… though I think maybe some of the grad students found my American accent a little humorous. It was the first time that I presented the work in essentially the way that I hope it will end up in the first paper to come out of the project… looks like I better get writing!
After a very busy meeting season, I can finally get back to getting some work done. Since the last update, I’ve attended two very different meetings. The first was an EMBO meeting on the “Structure and Function of Neural Circuits” in Heidelberg. It was in EMBO’s relatively new conference building, which has internal and external stairwells that form a double helix. The meeting was very intense.. nearly every talk presented fantastic work, and for me it was some great exposure to some of the things going on in critters besides nematodes. I was particularly blown away by some of the work going on in Drosophila right now. A very intense meeting with a very high caliber of science. The second meeting was the European Nematology meeting in Vienna. For me, this meeting was all about getting back in touch with my nematologist roots. It was also a little fun because a couple other lab members went as well (Matthias and Robbie).
Now I’m trying to gear up for the home stretch of wrapping up data collection and preparing a manuscript on pharynx connectivity… can I do it by the end of the year? With a little daughter due in February, I feel like that paper has to get done before I am too distracted.
I put a bunch of pictures from Heidelberg and Vienna on my Flickr account, and some bonus pictures of what little corn I managed to get out of the garden this year! See them HERE.