Quinnipiac hosts 33rd annual NEURON conference

Student researchers from across the Northeast present their findings

Chatwan Mongkol, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University and the University of Connecticut co-hosted over 30 universities across New England at a day-long neuroscientific conference.

Around 350 people attended the 33rd annual Northeast Undergraduate and Graduate Research Organization for Neuroscience (NEURON) conference on Sunday, Feb. 23, occurred at the North Haven Campus Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Dr. Geofrrey Tanner, assistant professor-in-residence of physiology and neurobiology at UConn, and co-chair of NEURON local organizing committee, said this is an opportunity for undergraduate students to get a sense of how a neuroscience conference looks.

“There is a lot of opportunity for undergraduate students networking to see all sorts of different presentations including our keynote speaker,” Tanner said.

Chatwan Mongkol
Students from over 30 universities across New England presented their research at the conference.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Dana Small, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Yale University. She spoke about her study on integration of mind and metabolism.

Guneet Burman, a junior behavioral neuroscience major, said she has been attending the conference since she was a first-year student. She said she enjoyed the keynote speaker this year.

“I knew something about diet stuff that people drink, I knew it wasn’t good but I didn’t know to what extent it was bad for you,” Burman said. “But with her research, it really opened up my eyes to see the real difference and how it affects us.”

Besides the keynote speaker, there were four workshops: a careers in science panel, Data Blitz, Detectives of Undiagnosed Disease and Surgical Neurophysiology.

Renee Rotolo, a Ph.D. candidate in behavioral neuroscience at UConn and co-chair of NEURON local organizing committee, said that the Data Blitz session was one of the new workshops that people were unexpectedly more interested in. It was a panel consisting of nine speakers who spoke about their studies for three minutes each.

“This is the first year we’re trying (Data Blitz session) out, and we weren’t sure how it was going to go but it was a huge success,” Rotolo said.

One of the speakers from the session, Tommy Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in behavioral neuroscience at UConn, also said that he was impressed by how many people were interested in the panel.

“The Blitz room was completely packed, it was phenomenal,” Lee said. “They actually had to request some people to step out a little bit. I really hope it continues to grow.”

Tanner said one of the most engaging parts of the conference was the poster sessions. They were for both undergraduate and graduate students to present their research from their home labs. Students from 31 different universities participated in the poster sessions. The topics included the effects of stress, Alzheimer’s Disease, effects of alcohol, olfactory discrimination and behavioral and neurobiological sex difference.

Burman was among one of the students who presented their research from Quinnipiac.

“In my freshman year, I went to the poster sessions and I wanted to present at the poster sessions,” Burman said. “Since freshman year, I joined the research lab and I worked to get my own project which happened this past summer. And this year, it was my turn to present.”

Kristina Shkuta, a senior neuroscience major, also represented Quinnipiac when she presented her research on the effects of stress. She decided to present her work at this conference because she wanted to gain experience of presenting research and to listen to what other people think about it.

“It kind of makes you learn more about your own project,” Shkuta said. “Sometimes, we don’t think too much in depth, we don’t ask questions someone else could ask, but then when they do, you kind of like think about it from a different perspective and probably you get to know more (about) your own research.”

The NEURON conference has been going on for over 25 years. In 2010, Dr. Adrienne Betz, professor of psychology and medical sciences, and director of behavioral neuroscience, brought the conference to Quinnipiac. For the last eight years, Quinnipiac hosted the conference alone but as its interest kept growing, Betz’s colleagues at UConn jumped on board and helped co-hosting it.

Betz said that when Quinnipiac first hosted it, there were around a hundred students, but the number went over 300 this year. As this conference continues to grow, students will be able to experience what neuroscientific conference looks like before attending larger conferences in the future.

“I just think that it’s a great platform for sharing and networking about neuroscience,” Betz said.