Annual Talks 2015

Friday, January 9th, 2015

The campus recently hosted its Annual talks, aptly titled “Biology across scale”. This is that time of the year when all the researchers of the campus intermingle, enjoy and introspect. The time when everyone is found rushing towards the lecture hall and when the entire place smells of popcorn. When every corridor takes note of the experiments and every corner is a spectator of excitement.

Over four days, we witnessed a glut of talks from researchers at NCBS, inStem and beyond, on current and emerging research interests such as the biology of neuropsychiatric syndromes, a new theme on stem cells at inStem, chemical ecology and others. This event will have a considerable impact on the institute’s scientific outlook in coming years.

Interspersed between the talks were three afternoon sessions of poster displays. Titled “Sherlocked by Biology”, these posters were organized into five categories: Enabling science, Translating science, The mysteries within, The mysteries beyond and The mysteries around. (See: Photo story )

The annual talks also brought to our campus, scientific advisors for both NCBS and inStem.

Here are the views of scientific advisors and visitors about their experience during the event.

1. Were there any particular talks (outside of your immediate field of expertise), which you particularly enjoyed?
- Indeed. I enjoyed the mixture of disciplines immensely, both on their own scientific merit and in the cross-pollination effect they had across fields.  This particularly distinguishing trait of the annual talks was facilitated by the care and thought most of the speakers took to make their science understandable for a broad, rather than only a specialized audience
- I particularly enjoyed the session on metabolism and development, stem cells and fate choice. This entire area of research at the interface of classical physiology and developmental/cell biology has much to teach us about how organisms and cellular networks sense, respond and homeostatically adapt to metabolic shifts as a result of altered experience.

- Yes indeed; - while most talks were fun, the talks were uniformly interesting and informative, but I particularly enjoyed the talks by younger faculty whom I had not heard in previous visits to NCBS. Obviously both NCBS and InStem have been very successful at hiring outstanding junior faculty recently.

-The talks were fascinating and reflected the dynamics very well.

2. What are your views on emerging areas of research on the extended NCBS campus?
- The mixture of areas will likely result in unpredicted interactions that would be of great benefit in the development of an identity for inStem and the combined inStem/NCBS nexus.  I am particularly encouraged by the potential of the Chemical Ecology and the Regulation of Cell Fate initiatives. 
- NCBS has an amazing sense of vibrancy and excitement that comes from being populated by people who clearly love what they do and this can be sensed from chatting with graduate students, PIs and science administration/technical support. This culture is unique and it is worth working very hard to nurture and grow.
-I was impressed, as always, with the investigators in the Wildlife and Ecology Programmes.  The new faculties are outstanding, and the emerging interactions between NCBS and inStem have enormous potential.  
-NCBS itself has expanded its portfolio of classical life science domains in the near past and looks set to keep doing so into wonderfully unorthodox directions. A logical extension of that is the NCBS-mediated nucleation of a new kind of scientific institutional structure in inStem to foster collaborative risk-taking for looking at messy real-life situations in their actual context using rigorous molecular-cellular frameworks. Together this is the life science campus of the future! 
- It is particularly commendable that NCBS has expanded its presence in the area of ecology and evolution.

3. How did you find the poster sessions and interactions with students?
-I read close to 40 posters in all. I found the vast majority of the posters to be carefully thought out and formatted. The students were eager to share their results and to ask for input.  I only wished that I have had more time to read many more posters. 
- I very much enjoyed the posters and my informal discussions with students. The posters are a great way to get to see the people behind the science you hear at the talks and I was very happy to see that posters had a prime spot in the day and saw substantial traffic from the visitors. 
- The poster sessions and talks with students and postdocs have been the highlight of each of my visits.  The students are bright, eager to present and discuss their work, and very well informed about the background literature in their field.   
- They were vibrant and interesting and as energetically chaotic as they ought to have been :-).  - Very lively


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