2012 NGP Retreat Recap

Another year for the NGP means another successful retreat in the bag. This year, like the past few years, saw the retreat held at Timberline Lodge at an elevation of 6,000 feet on the slopes of Mt. Hood. While cars may struggle to get to the destination, NGP faculty, students and post-docs eagerly anticipate the event every year as a way to connect, share ideas and socialize with fellow NGP colleagues. The 2012 NGP retreat was no exception, and will most likely be remembered as one of the best retreats in history.

The event opened with the first years getting appropriately hazed, as has become the yearly tradition. This year they received "first year flair," which was made up of many NGP-specific buttons attached to a lanyard hung around their necks. They were individually brought up in front of the audience to be introduced, then competed against a panel of new faculty in NGP Trivia. The result was a consensus victory for the first years, despite the added presence of the wise John Williams on the faculty team.

The data blitz, which has grown into somewhat of a tradition at the retreat, followed the good hearted hazing. The audience was first treated to a surprise video made by the now second-years that was disguised as a data blitz (see it on YouTube to experience this for yourself), which this reporter found hilarious and spectacularly well made. Eric Gouaux was the only data blitz presenter who needed to be stopped using loud noisemakers when his five minute time limit expired, giving students a rare opportunity they are not allowed during the NEUS 624 core course. Erica Levitt, Sean Speese and Biliana Veleva-Rotse also gave excellent data blitz talks. To highlight one talk, Erica showed her new data studying the cells involved in morphine overdoses actually leading to respiratory failure, and whether or not these cells are susceptible to drug tolerance.The winner for the best student talk this year was Pierre Apostolides, a student in the Trussell Lab who talked about circuit function in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Teresa Puthussery from the Taylor Lab won the best post-doc talk for her presentation about spiking activity and voltage-gated sodium channels in retina bipolar cells. The winner for best student poster went to Chris Vaaga, a student in the Westbrook Lab who showed his work done with the GPE peptide, a potential agonist of both the glycine and glutamate binding sites of the NMDA receptor. The winner for the best post-doc poster went to Maria Borisovska, also from the Westbrook Lab, who presented data on the distinct modes of dopamine and GABA release from periglomerular neurons.

The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Leslie Vosshall from the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University. Leslie gave a remarkable after dinner talk on two distinct topics, sex pheromones in humans and why mosquitos are attracted to particular people over others. Everyone interviewed by this reporter thoroughly enjoyed Leslie's talk and was over the top enthusiastic about her research as well as her ability to give engaging and informative presentations. The NGP first years did an excellent job selecting and recruiting such a remarkable speaker for the keynote at this year's retreat.

The second day opened with a faculty keynote presentation by Dr. Daniel Marks, Director of the Oregon Child Health and Research Center. Daniel presented interesting data regarding the debilitating illness called cachexia, a component of chronic illness that leads to bodily wasting which is dramatically different from starvation. Daniel also had some good advice for the NGP students, encouraging them to be more collaborative and to seek out all possible sources of funding in their future careers.

The day ended with a panel discussion with Mary Logan, a new PI in the Jungers Center, keynote speaker Leslie Vosshall, Mark Pitzer, a Professor at the University of Portland, and Greg Scott, an NGP alum who is currently a patent attorney in Portland. The panel discussion was aimed at career transitions, and the panel was meant to incorporate a range of possible career goals, from outside academia to liberal arts professor to high profile researcher. Students and post-docs gained a lot of wisdom from this discussion, and no doubt wished that it had gone on longer.

Overall the retreat was a success this year. Many other faculty, post-docs and students presented interesting lectures and showed good data at the poster session. There was also a first-of-its-kind art show at the retreat where NGP members got to show of some of their beautiful data as art. The bonfire was fun as always, despite being slightly less well attended than in past years, but the stargazing was incredible due to the clear night and lack of a moon. After the retreat many people hung around the Mt.Hood area to enjoy the beautiful weather and to do some hiking. If you missed the 2012 NGP retreat at Timberline Lodge, you missed a once in a lifetime event, and we hope you'll be able to join us at Timberline again September 23rd& 24th, 2013! Here's to another year of fruitful research from the OHSU NGP.

Click here to see photos from the 2012 NGP Retreat