A Science Driven Life

An un-edited blog about science, discovery, technology, travel and the occasional whiskey

The Annual Meeting for the Society for Neuroscience – #SFN2013

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Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 3.02.42 PMIt is that time of year again- the clocks have been set back, most deciduous trees in New England have shed their leaves, and my Siberian huskies their coats (mostly in the house), and autumn has brought us cool, crisp evenings signaling winters impending chill.

It’s also time for the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, or SfN.

Dr. Ralph Gerard, an American neurophysiologist, created the SfN in 1969.  The SfN aims to advance our understanding of the brain, serve as a professional organization for neuroscience professionals, promote public education and outreach, and maintain involvement with political organizations to promote funding of science.  The SfN is now the largest organization of neuroscientists in the world with over 40,000 members.  The organization is responsible for publishing the bi-weekly scientific journal the Journal of Neuroscience and each year the SfN spends significant time and resources on neuroscience outreach and education.

For us neuroscientists the annual meeting of the SfN is a chance to see the latest and greatest in science and technology (come see me this year at Andor’s booth #612!), meet leaders in a variety of fields, and of course to share a beer or two with friends (such as Dr. Greg “beerman” Bissonette – seen above presenting research at last years SfN – his very personal and descriptive take on SfN is here).

My first SfN was in 2003- I was actually in New Orleans to present research at the meeting for the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology (ISDP) and SfN overlapped so I joined in.  As an undergrad student, it was completely overwhelming (and frankly, it still is!).  Imagine an entire conference hall, seemingly as large as a small village, filled with posters, scientific hardware, publishers, and thousands of people who spend their lives dedicated to learning about the brain.  All in areas almost completely different than the small piece of the neuroscience puzzle you’ve spent the year(s) focused on.  My first SfN meeting was really the first time I realized the truth behind “the more you know, the more you realize you do not know.”

My first year in graduate school I didn’t attend the SfN meeting (in San Diego) and I really felt left out.  As friends were preparing posters and itineraries (which used to involve books and books of abstracts and sessions) I was in lab working on a project to hopefully get enough data to present the next year.  From 2005 to 2009 I was lucky enough to attend, and present research.

Since 2009 I have been in “industry” (aka the dark side) and aside from missing out in 2010 (again in San Diego) I have been fortunate enough to attend.  The meeting has changed in a professional sense- now I focus on learning about new technology, scoping poster and presentation sessions for new methods and applications for imaging and microscopy technology.  I spend more time in the center quadrant (where the industry camps are, first timers: be advised!) but still love the time I get to spend seeing research and hearing talks from leaders in optogenetics, optophysiology and advanced imaging, as well as my research of past (dendrites, endocannabinoids, drug abuse).  I’m happy to be presenting a talk this year during a Monday night session with Molecular Devices– I actually had to prepare a talk and have that excitement to share my work with those interested in optogentics and electrophysiology hardware!  It feels like an SfN of old (except now we don’t need books and books of abstracts, there is a nifty SfN app available to organize your itinerary).

What I have come to love the most about SfN is meeting the people.  Colleagues, customers, collaborators, competitors, and most importantly, friends.  It’s inspirational to be in a giant conference hall with 30,000 or more of the most brilliant neuroscientists in the world and stand in awe of their passion for their research, for science and for discovery.

First timers to this great meeting I have one tip for you- don’t try to do it all.  It is just impossible!  Instead, pick some topics that are relevant to your work (and importantly, a few that are far outside your comfort zone) to focus on, visit companies that you often use products from (we enjoy the interaction and aren’t always trying to sell to you and we like to learn about what you find to be important in technology and applications.  Plus, you’ll get freebies!) and be sure to walk random poster sessions, where you’re likely to learn something completely random and cool.  And don’t be afraid to reach out and make new contacts- they’ll go a long way in your personal and professional career.  Some of my closest friends are made at scientific meetings and SfN is a key contributor.

Friends and colleagues, please come by and see me- I’ll be in the Andor Technology plc booth (612) and giving a talk on Monday about Optogenetics and electrophysiology with Molecular Devices.  I look forward to seeing new science, new technology and finally being in San Diego for my first SfN in one of my favorite cities!

Cheers!   – Michael Mohammadi

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Written by Michael Mohammadi

November 6, 2013 at 20:00

One Response

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  1. […] friend Dr. Mohammadi over at A Science Driven Life just posted an article where he gives some great background about SfN, its origins, the society journal and talks about the […]


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