Second Annual SYNAPSE 2015 Brings Local Neuroscientists Together

Joan Lora, Florida Atlantic University


Local Universities and Research Institutions Collaborate for the Popular Neuroscience Networking Event

Over 200 of the brightest scientific minds in the region gathered in the sunshine-filled Alexander and Renate Dreyfoos Atrium of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) to share their research findings with the local neuroscience community. In collaboration with Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Scripps Florida, MPFI was honored to be this year’s host of the well-attended, highly popular second annual networking event that included representatives from nearby Nova Southeastern University, Torrey Pines Institute, Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and Palm Beach State College.

SYNAPSE 2015’s happy hour and poster session forum was specifically designed to fuel local scientific collaboration within a relaxed, enjoyable setting. The late afternoon session offered over 200 students, guests, faculty and neuroscientists the opportunity to enjoy more than 60 posters covering an impressive range of topics including behavioral studies, neural computations and molecular neuroscience.

“This is a great opportunity for us to see what’s going on in the Jupiter neuroscience community. We have three different institutions here tonight that are all leading key neuroscience initiatives along with representatives from many other research programs,” explained Dr. David Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director and CEO at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.

The multi-institutional committee that carefully designed the event to be interactive, informative, inclusive and highly welcoming was planned this year by MPFI’s Research Coordinator and Public Engagement Scientist Dr. Rebekah Corlew, “This really started as a way for local institutions and schools to come together in an social setting to get to know each other and start talking about science that we can do together and ways to collaborate as we strengthen our network.”

Dr. Corlew explained that the informal, laid-back venue encourages interaction since the posters are all carefully intermingled. Scientists from completely different specialty areas are strategically placed right next to each other to spark conversations. The open, relaxed submission process is designed to be grassroots in nature so that scientists and students of all levels have an equal opportunity to present their work.

“When collaboration happens at a grassroots level, students start talking and recognize common interests. Poster sessions provide a level of communication that doesn’t always happen when you are giving a presentation because of the immediate feedback you can get and the questions you can ask. At a poster session you can really explain your science at a fundamentally deep level,” shared Dr. Fitzpatrick.

For two hours scientists and guests talked excitedly and milled around the packed room, freely asking each other to share their posters. Joan Lora is a fourth year doctoral candidate at FAU’s Jupiter campus within the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience (IBAN) program. IBAN students work alongside world-renowned neuroscientists at FAU, MPFI and the Scripps Research Institute.

When asked what an event like SYNAPSE 2015 means to students, Joan Lora explained, “It’s a great opportunity for us to show our work and what we’ve been doing the last couple of years as we build relationships.” Lora was excited to share that he and another scientist had just been able to discuss another project they were both interested in and make plans to work together soon.

Dr. Brenda Claiborne, Program Director for Neuroscience at FAU’s Jupiter campus, was one of the organizers of the first annual SYNAPSE event held in 2014 and sponsored by the Palm Beach Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. “The students all go off to the national meetings which is fabulous, but when they come back and present to their peers locally it really gives them the chance to interact and show off their hard work,” shared Claiborne who was very pleased with the collaborative nature of Synapse 2015 thanks to the partnership between MPFI, Scripps and FAU.

Regarding this supportive relationship, Dr. Ron L. Davis, the Founding Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the Scripps Research Institute added, “We’re terrifically excited about the ‘Jupiter Three.’ There’s every reason for us to be complementary in our science and really work together. It’s a win for the community and a win for Palm Beach County as well. It’s an ideal situation to be a neuroscientist or a scientist student here right now in this environment,” he concluded.