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"Exceptional" virtual Summer School in Brain Disorders Research reaches across the globe

15 July 2021

Screengrab of final summer school session
Students joined from Australia, India and Cuba

Between 5 - 19 July 2021 the MRC Centre in Cardiff welcomed the virtual delegates of the 11th Annual MRC CNGG Summer School in Brain Disorder Research.

Each day we were joined by more than 50 attendees to learn about groundbreaking brain disorder research with talks from some of the most respected researchers in their respective fields of psychiatry and neuroscience, including Professor Sir Mike Owen.

While we were sad to lose many of the great elements of an in-person event, we were thrilled that more than half of our audience were international, joining us from Australia, Belgium, Ghana, Cuba, Russia and Pakistan to name a few.

During the week, there were sessions on making neurons from stem cells and high-throughput sequencing, and Professor Neil Harrison provided an online tour of the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC).

Attendees were invited to take part in clinical and scientific career workshops where they had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss career paths with more experienced clinical and scientific researchers.

I didn't know how the Summer School was going to shape up in the virtual world but it worked rather well. We had participants from far away places who probably wouldn't have attended had it been in-person. It was such a success that we're going to look to introduce some elements of virtual presentations for when we return to in-person events.
Professor George Kirov Clinical Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences


We're pleased to have already received lots of positive feedback about the week.

Dr Donncha Mullin described his experience:

"As a psychiatrist working both academically and clinically, I found the Cardiff summer school to be an excellent balance of basic and clinical sciences. It was excellently organised, with four action- and information-packed talks each morning and, importantly, time between each to step away from the screen and process what had just been delivered.

"I felt rejuvenated and inspired after the week, which, coming from me, is high-praise for an online conference! I particularly enjoyed the overview talks on ‘Why now is the best time for neuroscience in psychiatry’ and ‘Big data and GWAS’, as well as the more specialist ‘Measuring risk for Alzheimer’s’ talk, which is a topic that’s close to my heart.

"It was really cool to get a look at sample-preparation equipment and high-throughput sequencing, as well as the analysis and interpretation of sequencing data. It felt like I was getting a real insight into what goes on in the lab to get the DNA from that blood, hair, or skin sample to the electronic files that can be downloaded and analysed. Highly recommended for any clinician or scientist wanting an engaging and informative introduction to the exciting world of psychiatric genetics"

Pharmaceutical science student Aditya Sarode said:

"I enjoyed the wonderful virtual Summer school offered by the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics. It gave me very detailed knowledge about neuropsychiatry and genetics. It was a fulfilling week for me to hear from renowned researchers, professors, neurosurgeons and medical related personnel.

"It would highly recommend the summer school to all who are keen to research and obtain a vivid perspective about neuroscience and genetics. Again it was a point in my academics where a summer school contributed significantly in my academic development and lead me to gaining aspects which were quite new and fascinating to me."
Kim Kendall summer school screen shot
Dr Kim Kendall speaking to attendees about research careers in medicine
Dr Clare Tweedy has kindly shared her thoughts on the week in a blog.

"I learned so much during this week and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. The topics were broad enough that there would be something of interest for everyone, with a range of clinical and non-clinical speakers. We were even joined for a talk on traumatic brain injury by Dr Zaben during his break from neurosurgery!

"I was particularly excited to hear explanations of methodologies (including high-throughput sequencing, gene editing, bio-imaging, and multi-electrode array recordings) as they highlight areas that I could potentially bring to my own research through future collaborations. The week also featured some tours of lab facilities at Cardiff University, including Professor Harrison showing us the MRI scanners in CUBRIC (we learned that a bigger magnet does not always a better image make!) and how Professor Harwood's team make neurons from patient stem cells and record from them with multi-electrode arrays.

"Finally, I could hardly believe I was getting all of this for free when we split in to two separate workshops for clinical and non-clinical attendees on the afternoon of the third day. I attended the non-clinical session, which was run fantastically well by Dr Davies. A wealth of information and advice was shared with us by Dr Davies about fellowships as a path to a permanent Lectureship, as well as advice on how to demonstrate independence from your PhD or postdoc supervisor's work.

"It is my hope that one day genetics will inform the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of brain diseases and disorders. There is an exciting future to look forward to, and it seems to me that the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University will play a pivotal role in driving this forward."

Summer School 2022

Our next summer school will take place in early July 2022. The dates and details of how to apply will be finalised later this year. If you are interested in attending, keep an eye on our MRC Summer School page in early February to apply.

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