International Exchange Program Benefits Japanese, North American Trainees
For the second year, ten young scientists engaged in a scientific exchange program as part of a joint Society for Neuroscience-Japan Neuroscience Society initiative. Meant to encourage international cooperation between neuroscientists, the program sponsors five North American students and post-doctoral trainees for travel to the JNS meeting, and travel for five students from Japan to Neuroscience 2013. The JNS meeting was held in June 2013 in Kyoto.
Kelvin Kai-Wan Hui, a postdoctoral researcher at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, was one of the five students from Japan who travelled to Neuroscience 2013 in November, courtesy of JNS, to present a poster. Kai-Wan Hui said attending the SfN meeting is essential to staying abreast of current ideas in the field. “I’m in the later-half of data collection and one of the benefits of a big meeting like this is getting feedback,” Kai-Wan Hui said. He presented a poster on his team’s investigation into a link between protein misfolding and psychiatric disorders.
Another Japanese participant, Tomomi Karigo, said she takes advantage of the SfN meeting to both explore the boundaries of thinking within her own field of research — production of pituitary hormones — and to examine other fields for insights into how she might move forward in her career. Karigo is a graduate student at The University of Tokyo Graduate School of Science.
Several U.S. students also described their experiences in the program. “I think these kinds of collaborations — sharing resources and information — allow science to happen that might not otherwise be possible, and I think it should grow in that direction,” said Jason Dwyer, a fifth year doctoral student at Yale University. Dwyer said he is impressed by the collaboration at JNS among researchers not only within Japan, but also internationally. “Obviously, there are a lot of similarities with the SfN meeting, but it is smaller,” Dwyer said. “You almost can’t help but have a personal interaction with just about everyone there.” While in Japan, Dwyer learned a new technique for optical control of neuronal networks which he said will benefit his research.
Another U.S. trainee, Eugenie Suter, agreed with Dwyer’s observations, adding that the collaborations she witnessed at the Japanese meeting are worth modeling as she moves forward in her career. Suter is studying memory and training for both a medical degree and a PhD in neuroscience at Northwestern University. The Kyoto meeting was an invaluable opportunity, she said, to solicit input from researchers she had previously only read about. Suter intends to pursue collaborations with several JNS presenters she met through the JNS meeting.
Ji Hyun, a post-doctoral researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, says he learned about important animal research developments underway in Japanese neuroscience, and received feedback on his presentation on the placebo effect on patients with Parkinson’s disease. “I got good comments, interesting comments,” Hyun said. “I also met a professor whose work I frequently cited in my paper. He is quite well known in my field, so that was interesting.”
The next JNS meeting is scheduled for Sept. 11-13, 2014, in Yokohama, Japan, and SfN’s annual meeting will be Nov. 15-19 in Washington, DC. Winners of the SfN-JNS travel award are selected each spring on the merit of their abstracts, CVs, and letters of recommendation. Applications are accepted from January through March. More information about the JNS award and other travel awards is available at SfN.org.