31 Jul 2012

DNC2012: The best brains in neurobiology

OIST's Seaside House this month played host to the Developmental Neurobiology Course (DNC), an intensive two-week program that ended on July 30 for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from around the world.

Now in its third year, the DNC is designed to serve as a world-class advanced course, providing carefully-selected students with a comprehensive platform from which they can explore developmental biology, cutting-edge neuroscience research and different imaging technologies, through a mixture of lectures and experimental work.

The OIST laboratory capacity was doubled since last year, allowing the twenty-four students to study a variety of model organisms, from zebra fish to the tiny C. elegans. DNC 2012 co-organizer Professor David Van Vactor highlights the importance of the course's practical element. "The methodology with which you approach a problem is constantly changing. Hands-on opportunities like this help students to cross to completely new approaches."

Not only does the DNC acquaint researchers with the intricacies of neuroscience, but it also allows them to interact with others from Asia, the US and Europe. "It serves as a diplomatic mission," says Van Vactor. "We've worked hard to attract real leaders in the fields: top students, top post-docs, top faculty members. When you bring such a bright group of people together, it's going to be a fire-starter. It's going to inspire people." By including ongoing research in their talks, the lecturers this year also allowed students to follow the emerging logic of a scientific investigation, conveying the energy and excitement of the discovery process.

The feedback from DNC participants has always been overwhelmingly positive. Van Vactor is keen to emphasize that the course is evolving rapidly, however. "2013 will see us expand the content of the course, particularly around circuit level functions. We also want to develop our imaging facilities, perhaps with faculty members who can even design and build instruments alongside the students."

"OIST is a very unique environment. Its collaborative ethos means that it's one of the places in the world where a course like this can really thrive." 

By Samuel Pilgrim


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