Jessica Ross (right) and her colleagues at UC Merced (advisor Dr. Balasubramaniam and fellow Ph.D. student Butovens Médé, serving as the test brain for the TMS system).

Jessica Ross (right) and her colleagues at UC Merced (advisor Dr. Balasubramaniam and fellow Ph.D. student Butovens Médé, serving as the test brain for the TMS system).

This past summer Ph.D. student Jessica Ross earned a spot in the Cognitive Neuroscience Summer Institute (supported by the Kavli Foundation), held at the UCSB campus in June, 2016. Her advisor, Dr. Ramesh Balasubramaniam, notes that this is a “very prestigious and highly selective summer school, run by Michael Gazzaniga, Rich Ivry and Ron Mangun, has had a long history of excellence and impact in Cognitive Neuroscience.” We asked Jessica to share her recent experiences from the summer school. Congratulations Jessica!

1) What attracted you to this summer school? 

The summer institute brings together graduate students, post-docs and new faculty working in cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, neurology, neurobiology, psychology, electrophysiology, and neuroengineering fields. It is an intensive training program with lectures each morning and hands-on lab trainings each afternoon. One goal of the program is to train new researchers to be multidimensional and competent scientists. Another is to allow for networking within and across the brain sciences, which is encouraged by group activities, topic debates, and staying together in the UCSB campus dorms.

2) What activities did you enjoy most?

The lab trainings were my favorite part of the program. They included human brain dissections– We spent 4 hours with a neurologist and pathologist dissecting a brain, disassembling and reassembling many times like a really interesting puzzle. We also spent another afternoon handling brains that had been damaged by disease or trauma and testing ourselves on expected symptoms and probable diagnoses. In another lab, we watched videos of neurology patients and learned to recognize a wide range of seizures. We discussed functional neuroimaging methods, mixing methods, transcranial magnetic stimulation, mobile imaging, and more. The lab trainings weren’t just demonstrations, but were hands-on practical trainings that were engaging, useful, and tons of fun.

3) How did these strengthen your ongoing research?

This experience strengthened my ongoing research in a number of ways. By the end of the training, I felt that I had acquired new skills, learned about current trends in neuro research, and made over 70 new close friends that are also potential future colleagues. In addition, I feel that I have a handful of new contacts who are established leaders in the brain sciences.