2013 NGP Retreat Recap

The Annual Neuroscience Graduate Program retreat took place at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood on Monday and Tuesday, September 23rd & 24th, 2013. Although Timberline usually provides us with great weather, this year we got fog, drizzle and even a few snowflakes, but the accommodations at Timberline and the sessions were great even if we could not see Mt. Hood! Participation by current NGP students was great with a total attendance of 95 students, postdocs and faculty. Monday sessions started with the introduction of our new 1st year students, and a Datablitz of 5 short talks of variable duration - the timing literally determined by the roll of a large dice. However, we have to get more innovative with our rules as most NGP student speakers still finished on time, thus reducing the usual blast of noisemakers at the time limit. The day's sessions featured talks by new NGP faculty including Eric Gallin (auditory psychophysics) and Kevin Wright (developmental neurobiology) as well as current NGP student Maria Purice (Logan Lab) and postdoctoral fellow Sean Slee (David Lab). Current NGP faculty member Stephen Back updated us on his studies of acute white matter injury, and following the white matter theme, Magda Petryniak presented her studies of neuroinflammation in an animal model of one of the leukodystrophies - Krabbe's disease. Stephen Smith gave a nice overview of his studies of the functional roles of spontaneous transmitter release at central synapses. After the poster session around the Timberline fireplace, the day concluded with an after-dinner talk by Morgan Sheng, our guest speaker from Genentech. Morgan presented some of his current research at Genentech, and also provided a provocative overview of his experience as an academic faculty member as compared to the environment at Genentech. A spirited discussion followed. Thanks, Morgan, for taking the time to join us.

Tuesday's session began with an invited talk by Peter-Barr Gillespie of the Oregon Hearing Research Center (and former NGP director) on the search for the transduction channel in hair cells - we did not vote on whether it has been found! Beth Habecker presented the work of her senior NGP student, Ryan Gardner, looking at sympathetic reinnervation following cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury. Ryan could not attend because he apparently was on his honeymoon in a sunny location - weak excuse, Ryan. We noticed that Alexandra Harrold (Lee Lab) was also not in attendance, leaving us to wonder if those absences were related... We also heard talks by senior students Biliana Veleva (Barnes Lab), Annie Logan (Robinson Lab), Dominic Siler (Alkayed Lab) and Karen Thiebes (Lee Lab), and NGP grad, now postdoc, Kateri Spinelli on her work in Vivek Unni's lab looking at alpha synuclein aggregation with in vivo multiphoton imaging in mice. West Campus translational neuroscientist Jodi McBride concluded the retreat with her strategies to develop gene therapy in Huntington's disease.

Thanks to Liz Lawson-Weber, the NGP administrator, for organizing the events, to the 2nd year students who organized the scientific program, and to the Vollum Institute for supporting the costs. We are looking forward to September 15 & 16, 2014 when we will be back at Timberline and hope to have a first-ever joint retreat with NGP and our sister program in the department of Behavioral Neuroscience.