Monthly Archives: April 2014

Brain Awareness Week 2013

This past Spring, members of the NeuroGSA joined forces with the UB Brain Museum to breathe new life into Brain Awareness Week 2013.  Traditionally, the NeuroGSA has traveled to local schools, materials in-hand, to deliver interactive learning demonstrations to students within their own classrooms.  This year, with the collaboration of Brain Museum curator Dr. Christopher Cohan and the Center for Urban Studies coordinator Gavin Luter, the NeuroGSA was able to invite schools to take field trips to UB’s South Campus.  This change in venue allowed for the NeuroGSA to connect students to the Brain Museum and the anatomy laboratories of the Biomedical Education Building, while expanding their resources for scientific investigation.

Fourteen UB graduate students demonstrated various topics of neuroscience including anatomy, cellular biology, attention and perception, reflexes and nerves, and sensory systems.  Anatomy was explored using fixed human brains and cow eyes; cells were visualized by microscopy of brain and tongue sections from mouse and monkey; attention and perception were explained with video and props; nerves were investigated with reflex hammers and an electrical stimulator; auditory sensation was examined with tuning forks; olfactory and tactile sensation were tested by identification of mysterious scents and textured items.  Finally, visiting students also spent time in the Brain Museum where Dr. Cohan led a discussion about brain disease and the specimen on display.

The schools which participated in Brain Awareness Week were Futures Academy High School from downtown Buffalo and Heim Middle School from Williamsville.  The NeuroGSA members who volunteered were: Tom Covey, Lara Duffney, John Fleites, Jay Garaycochea, Sushmitha Gururaj, Mateen Haroon, Tad Kaczynski, Nived Nair, Naomi McKay, Claire Modica, Tenzin Ngodup, Kim Plyler, Tony Sacca, and Philip Whalen.  The fixed brain and eyes, brain and tongue sections, microscopes, reflex hammers, and tuning forks were provided by Dr. Cohan and the Brain Museum.  The electrical stimulator was provided by the Biological Sciences Department.  The video and visual props for attention and perception, as well as the collection of items to identify by touch and smell, were gathered and prepared by members of the NeuroGSA.  Name tags for the NeuroGSA and visiting students were provided by Dr. Ray Dannenhoffer.  Uniform t-shirts, designed by the NeuroGSA, were provided by Dr. Malcolm Slaughter and the Neuroscience Program.

In the months since March, Brain Awareness Week has elongated into a year-round relationship between the NeuroGSA and the Brain Museum.  Neuroscience graduate students have continued to participate in field trips other schools have scheduled to the Brain Museum, thereby expanding NeuroGSA’s ongoing community service and investment in local educational enrichment.

If you would like to volunteer with the NeuroGSA, or you know of a class which would like to learn about neuroscience, please email with your inquiry.

Brain Bee 2013

Members of the UB Neuroscience Graduate Student Association and the Buffalo Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience helped organize the local Brain Bee competition for the fourth consecutive year.  The Brain Bee is a competition for high school students in which the students are tested on their knowledge about the brain.   The event is led by Dr. Elizabeth Hogan, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology at Canisius College, with the help of several Neuroscience graduate students.

Prior to the Brain Bee competition, students including Sarah Hayes, Tom Covey, Erikson Neilans, Claire Modica, and Nina Kashanian conducted a review class for the competitors of the Brain Bee based on the material from the Brain Facts handbook.  Brain Facts is a free access primer published by the Society for Neuroscience covering information about the brain and nervous system and serves as the basis for the material in which the Brain Bee students are tested on.  The UB graduate students prepared presentations for each chapter in the Brain Facts book discussing a wide range of neuroscience topics including development of the nervous system, the neural basis of learning and memory, neurodegenerative diseases, and research techniques used to study the nervous system.

The Brain Bee competition was held on February 23rd, 2013 at Canisius College’s new Science Hall.  Three UB graduate students, Lara Duffney, John Fleites, and Mateen Haroon assisted in the event as judges of the competition.   During the competition, students answered multiple choice and short answer questions about the brain and nervous system and were also required to identify different parts of the brain.  Melissa Li from Williamsville East High School was the winner of this year’s Western New York Brain Bee and went on to compete in the National Brain Bee.

The continued efforts of Dr. Hogan and the UB Neuroscience graduate students has led to another successful Brain Bee, helping to continue to motivate high school students to learn about the brain and pursue careers in neuroscience.

Interdepartmental Social Event

As anyone who has ever been a graduate student can tell you, socializing with students outside your lab, much less your department, is not high on your list of priorities. Between the long hours, the distance between labs, and the normal human tendency to fall into routines, it’s rare for students from different departments to spend a great deal of time interacting. When Neuroscience GSA president Jay Garaycochea and Psychology GSA president James Mantell met to discuss how to use interdepartmental funding, they hit upon the idea of having a GSA-sponsored social where members of the clubs could get to know each other outside the usual confines of the university.

Four GSA’s took part in the event: Neuroscience, Psychology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Microbiology. A variety of ideas were considered, including a potluck dinner, a barbecue, a sporting contest, and a concert/movie, but ultimately we agreed that an evening at a bar would be the best way to get people to talk; there are few times when people are more likely to let their guard down than while eating and drinking with friends.

The social was held at the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery in downtown Buffalo. The restaurant is known for its house microbrews and vibrant atmosphere (never more so than on the night of a Sabres game). The event was held on December 18, 2012, right after classes ended, giving GSA members an opportunity to end the semester in style before winter break. Beer, pizza, chicken wings, hummus, carrots and celery, potato pancakes, and other items were provided courtesy of the GSA budget. The social officially began at 6:00 PM, with most students arriving by 7:00. Approximately fifty to sixty people showed up over the course of the night, most of whom stayed for several hours.

Click here to view the event announcement.

Neuroscience GSA Annual Invited Speaker: Dr. Alison Barth


The Neuroscience Graduate Student Association annual invited speaker for 2013 was Dr. Alison Barth, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences from Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Barth is an established scientist whose work focuses on neural activity and network connectivity in the sensory neocortex in mammals.  Her most recent accomplishment includes receiving the 2013 Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience – she was only one of four individuals in the country to receive this prestigious award.  During Dr. Barth’s visit to Buffalo, she met with faculty members and graduate students from the Neuroscience Program.  The graduate students joined Dr. Barth for lunch and dinner, giving the students an opportunity to interact with her and each other in a personal setting.  Dr. Barth gave a well-attended seminar presentation describing her current and upcoming research to a diverse audience from the school of medicine and biomedical sciences.  This event marks the 3rd speaker invited and hosted by the Neuroscience graduate student body.

The announcement for the event and an abstract of Dr. Barth’s research can be found here.

Graduate Student Panel Discussion

panelIn the fall of 2012, the Neuroscience GSA organized an academic panel discussion for the second consecutive year.  This year the theme of the discussion was “Being a graduate student in the biomedical and psychological sciences.”  A diverse panel of seven graduate students took part in an in-depth conversation about multiple aspects of their graduate experiences.  The panel tackled a wide range of topics, including the process of applying to graduate school, selecting and interacting with advisors, completing a dissertation or thesis, and the day-to-day experience of being a graduate student.

The panelists provided informed opinions, personal anecdotes, and important advice for those in attendance.  The audience included undergraduates who were interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the biomedical and/or psychological sciences as well as current graduate students.  Following the panel discussion, there was a dinner social that allowed the audience members to continue the conversation with the panelists.  Students engaged the panelists on a more individual basis and discussed specific topics in even greater detail over food and drinks.

The event was held on November 14th in 280 Park Hall, at the University at Buffalo North Campus.  The panelists included Joseph Boomer (Psychology PhD student), Tom Covey (Neuroscience PhD Student), Lara Duffney (Neuroscience PhD Student), Sarah Long (Psychology MA Student), Naomi McKay (Psychology PhD Student), and Daniel Stolzberg (Neuroscience PhD Student).  The discussion was moderated by Claire Modica (Neuroscience PhD Student).  It was co-sponsored by the UB Neuroscience Program, the Psychology, Biochemistry, and Pharmacology & Toxicology GSAs, the UB Society for Feminism, and the UB Graduate Student Association.

For a full overview of the event and a description of the panelists, view the program here.

NGSA Travel Award

The Neuroscience Club  is pleased to announce that Pete Vento is the recipient of the first ever Neuroscience Club Travel Award!  Pete is a PhD student in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychology.  He is part of Dr. Derek Daniels laboratory, which focuses on the neurobiology of ingestive behaviors.  The award will help defray the costs of attending an upcoming conference – Pete will be presenting a poster at the 20th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, in Zurich, Switzerland in July.  See below for the poster abstract:

Role of the anteroventral third ventricle region in angiotensin II-induced behavioral desensitization.

P.J. Vento & D. Daniels. Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo

Angiotensin II (AngII) acts centrally to cause increases in water and salt intake. Repeated intracerebroventricular (icv) injections of AngII, however, result in a reduction in the dipsogenic response to a subsequent AngII injection. This AngII-induced behavioral desensitization requires angiotensin type I receptors, is not the result of some broader behavioral deficit, and likely reflects changes in AngII-responsiveness at the level of the receptor, but a neuroanatomical locus for this phenomenon is unknown. The anteroventral third ventricle (AV3V) region has been shown to be important in mediating the dipsogenic effects of icv AngII and, as such, is likely involved in the effects of repeated AngII administration. Consistent with previous studies, we found that injection of AngII directly into the AV3V region stimulated water intake, using doses that do not stimulate water intake when injected icv (1 ng). To investigate the role of this brain area in AngII-induced behavioral desensitization, we made repeated injections of AngII into the AV3V region, using a dose of AngII that did not produce desensitization when delivered icv. We found that when all injections were made into the AV3V region, rats given repeated injections of AngII (100 ng) drank less water after a test injection of AngII (100 ng) compared to rats given repeated injections of vehicle (TBS) before the same AngII test injection. The results provide additional support for the AV3V region in mediating the central actions of AngII and suggest a role for this region in AngII-induced desensitization.

Brain Awareness Week 2012

On Monday, April 2nd (2012), the Neuroscience Club once again took part in Brain Awareness Week, a community outreach program initiated by the Society for Neuroscience to increase awareness about the brain and behavior.  Members of the Neuroscience Club brought fun and interactive demonstrations to two different schools.  For the morning session they visited Heim Middle School in Williamsville, NY, and for the afternoon session they visited Highgate Heights Elementary in Buffalo, NY.  These demonstrations were the first real exposure to Neuroscience for many of these students, and they were enthusiastic, curious, and engaged.

The demonstrations were organized and run by members of the Neuroscience Club, which consists of graduate students from the Neuroscience Program and the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at the University at Buffalo.  The elementary/middle school students were shown human, sheep, and rat brain specimens, viewed slides of the brain through a microscope, learned about attention and perception, and took part in interactive demonstrations that illustrated how their senses integrate information.  These demonstrations provided a fun introduction to brain anatomy and physiology, sensory perception, and behavior.  The event was very well received by the students and faculty at both Heim Middle School and Highgate Heights Elementary School.  This continues the Neuroscience Club’s proud tradition of Brain Awareness Week events and community outreach.  This is the 5th consecutive year that the Neuroscience Club has visited local elementary and/or middle schools for Brain Awareness Week, and they look to carry this tradition well into the future.

The following Neuroscience Club members provided their time and effort to make the event a success:   Jia Cheng, Tom Covey, Lara Duffney, John Fleites, Jay Garaycochea, Mateen Haroon, Sarah Hayes, Tad Kaczynski, Jason Kushner, Ginger Lasky, Yina Ma, Claire Modica, Meaghan Paganelli, Kim Plyler, Daniel Stolzberg, and Pete Vento.  In addition to the hard work of Neuroscience Club members, this event was well supported by members of the faculty at the University at Buffalo.  Dr. Malcolm Slaughter and the Neuroscience Program provided financial support for the event and provided lunch for the graduate students.  Dr. Joan Baizer provided the brain slides, Dr. Derek Daniels provided the sheep and rat brain specimens, and Dr. Michal Stachowiak provided the human brain specimens.  Dr. Ray Dannenhoffer made the name tags for all of the students.  Thanks to the support of the faculty and the hard work of the Neuroscience GSA members, this year’s Brain Awareness Week was another huge success!

See below for a few pictures from this year’s Brain Awareness Week:

Students learning about brain anatomy using a sheep brain specimen

Students being shown a human brain

Attention and perception demonstration

Students being taught about brain physiology

Student viewing microscope slides

An interactive demonstration about sensory input

Brain Bee 2012

Brain Bee Competition

On Saturday, February 11, five graduate students from the University at Buffalo Neuroscience Club gathered at Canisius College to present a review class for the annual Brain Bee.  The Brain Bee is a competition that tests high school students’ knowledge about the brain and is sponsored by the Buffalo Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.  Dr. Elizabeth Hogan, a faculty member at Canisius College, has been organizing this event for the last 3 years with the help of Neuroscience graduate student Sarah Hayes and other members of the University at Buffalo’s Neuroscience Club. Several UB Neuroscience graduate students, including Sarah Hayes, Katelyn Carr, Jason Kushner, John Fleites, and Ginger Lasky were on hand to review material from a neuroscience handbook published by the Society for Neuroscience and freely available online. Area high school students went over this material with the graduate students to prepare for the competition. Sarah Hayes described this opportunity as “[allowing the graduate students to] inspire high school students to become interested in Neuroscience.”

The Brain Bee competition itself took place on Saturday, February 25th, 2012, at 10am.  Eight high school students competed.  Four judges, Tadeusz Kaczynski, Lara Duffney, Jay Garaycochea, and Claire Modica, all graduate students in the UB Neuroscience Program, assisted in the event.

The competition consisted of three parts:  first, students were required to answer multiple choice questions; second, students were shown images of the brain and were required to name particular regions; finally, students were required to provide short answers to questions of increasing difficulty.  In order for a student to advance to part three, it was necessary to complete parts one and two with less than three wrong answers.  The students had a renewed slate at the beginning of the third part, and they took turns answering in rounds, with the end of each round bringing about elimination of students with three wrong answers.  The winner of the Brain Bee was Aman Shamaa, followed in second by Kelsey Bennett, and in third by Korey Wirth.  The winner of each local Bee is invited to compete in the National Brain Bee competition.

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Elizabeth Hogan, Sarah Hayes, and the rest of the UB Neuroscience graduate students that volunteered their time, this year’s Brain Bee was again a great experience for all involved and another success!

“Careers in Neuroscience” Panel Discussion

On December 14th, 2011, the Neuroscience GSA sponsored and hosted a “Careers in Neuroscience” Panel Discussion.  The event was co-sponsored by the University at Buffalo Neuroscience Program, the Biological Sciences GSA, the Pharmacology and Toxicology GSA, and the Psychology GSA.  A panel of faculty members and post-doctoral fellows discussed the transition from graduate school to a post-graduate position.  In attendance were graduate students from a number of departments and programs.  Topics included starting up a lab, differences between academia and industry, aspects of funding and support, and other issues facing students as they move beyond graduate school.

The panel itself consisted of faculty and post-doctoral fellows from a variety of departments.  The following individuals served as panelists:

Brian Allman, PhD (UB Faculty, Center for Hearing and Deafness)
Derek Daniels, PhD (UB Faculty, Dept of Psychology)
David Dietz, PhD (UB Faculty, Dept of Pharmacology and Toxicology)
Elizabeth Hogan, PhD (Canisius College Faculty, Dept of Biology)
Kathryn Medler, PhD (UB Faculty, Dept of Biological Sciences)
Jessica Santollo, PhD (UB Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept of Psychology)
Gail M. Seigel, PhD (UB Faculty, Center for Hearing and Deafness)

The panelists provided a thorough, informative, and engaging discussion.  They were a wealth of knowledge and experience for the graduate students in attendance, who also contributed comments and questions during the discussion.  The panel discussion provided a great way for graduate students to learn about navigating a scientific career.  The Neuroscience GSA looks to organize more panel discussion events in the future.