ZENITH was of course strongly represented at the FENS Forum 2022 in Paris, with several members present, fantastic talks and posters! Check out our Zenith Twitter account to see what we were up to at FENS! It was really an incredible and intense experience and a great exposure to the neuroscience community.
In May 2022, I was part of the Beautiful Mind UCL Team for this year’s Pint of Science events in London. A science outreach festival that brings research to the pubs.
We have been working since November, reaching out to speakers, booking a venue, advertising and finding fun activities for the day. This has been rewarded with great success: all 3 events sold out and fascinating talks !
We heard about the science behind extremism, discussed the role of social media in shaping teenage brains and learned about morality and dementia. The public was captivated and also very competitive when playing our ‘Guess the Fruit MRI’ ! Thanks to our outstanding speakers and great team of volunteers.
Our Zenith student Alizée just completed in April 2022 a short Secondment at Filippo Del Bene's lab at the Institut de La Vision in Paris!
I did a short visit in Filippo Del Bene’s Lab to learn injections from the masters ! The goal was to gain confidence in the use of CRISPR/Cas9 mediated zebrafish Knock-In strategies. With great help from Elena Putti, I did daily injections, screening and went through the protocol to test the efficiency of my designed guides. Back at UCL, I want to setup my own injection routine in the lab and hopefully make transgenic lines with expression in the Preoptic Area or Caudal Hypothalamus.
The student retreat was an opportunity to create synergies amongst the ZENITH students and their projects and to develop creative solutions through scientific discussion. The students had the chance to discuss their progress and to share challenges, pitch ideas and propose solutions in an informal, comfortable manner.
It takes a village to raise a PhD student, they say, and my peers have indeed made this weekend of science extremely fulfiling. We learnt about each other's projects, discussed good coding practices, got new ideas for secondments, shared our emotions, & ate our fill!
The student retreat created the space for candid discussion about the progress of our projects. Despite the broad range of topics covered by ZENITH, everyone was engaged, asked interesting questions, and offered insights and ideas. Every time we get the chance to meet, it’s great to see the development of the projects, but also everyone’s growth in confidence as a researcher. I’m looking forward to seeing the continued achievements of the students in the network!
Scientific research is an adventure which can only go forward. But retreat is also a necessary component of this exciting journey. In Palermo, it was a wonderful opportunity not only to share results and ideas, but also to organize thoughts for the next step. After this retreat, I believe every one of us has confidence and clear plans to develop the project. Look forward to seeing it comes true!
Our Zenith student Tahnee engaged in a fantastic outreach activity with a talk for children aged 7-14 years from the KinderCollege der Dualen Hochschule Baden-Württemberg, Karlsruhe, in Germany, and two Master students. The title of Tahnee's talk was "Zebrafische - Farbenprächtige Modellorganismen" (in english: Zebrafish - colourful model organism).
Well done Tahnee!
Our student Verity completed a Secondment in April 2022 in the Bass Lab at the Cornell University, a recently added new partner organisation in Zenith! Verity's project is focused on the vocal motor circuit of Danionella. The Bass Lab are the world leaders in the study of vocal motor circuits in fish. They mainly use midshipman as their model organism but have recently started working with Danionella dracula.
"The main goal of my secondment was to compare the vocalisations of the Danionella dracula at the Bass Lab with that of our Danioenella cerebrum. Using a high-speed video camera, I recorded the fish while they vocalised and was able to see the movement of the swim bladder during sound production. Although they are a closely related species with similar morphology, the structure of the sounds they produce are very different. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how this reflects the similarities and differences in their vocal-motor neural circuits."
Our Zenith student Gautam successfully presented his poster "Data-driven discovery of long timescale behavioral strategies during sensory evoked navigation" at L’école doctorale Cerveau, cognition, comportement (ED3C) (Brain, cognition, behaviour Doctoral School) Scientific days, in Paris. Lots of interest and interactions with other PhD students around Gautam's data. Well done!
Our student Tahnee completed a 2-month Secondment at the end of 2021/beginning of 2022 in the Rihel lab at UCL. Tahnee also had the opportunity to work in the Zenith partner lab of Isaac Bianco and to hang out with the London-based Zenith students (Giulia in the picture)!
"During my secondment at the Rihel lab at UCL I had the opportunity to investigate zebrafish sleep-wake behavior across multiple day-night cycles. The open and welcoming atmosphere of the “fish-floor” allowed me to also work with members of the Bianco and Wilson lab – learning about different aspects of zebrafish neuroscience."
Our student Elena Putti completed a 5-week Secondment in October/November 2021 in the lab of Manuel Irimia at CRG. The main goal was to investigate the genetic identity, connectivity and mechanism of action of intertectal commissural neurons (ITNs). With the help of the local student, Tahnee Mackensen, Elena learned how to perform FACS sorting and Single Cell RNA-sequencing to study the genetic identity of these neurons.
"While in Barcelona I was trying to learn how to perform single cell RNA sequencing. In order to do so, we first have to successfully sort our neurons of interest through FACS - Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting - which is what the picture represents. Tahnee was the one who taught me how to dissociate zebrafish larvae in order to sort the cells based on their fluorescence."
The Zenith Supervisory Board annual meeting was held online on 4 February 2022. Representatives of all beneficiaries discussed several aspects concerning the implementation of the project, research and administrative activities progress, difficulties and strategy. Particular attention was given to the planning of the upcoming training workshops and the secondments.
Student representatives also joined the meeting to provide feedback on any needs or issues that the ESRs may have experienced on the first period of their projects.
Thanks everyone for such a productive gathering!