Neuroscience researchers showcase next generation of life-changing research 

Monash University

December 17, 2020

Eighteen neuroscience graduate research students shared their projects at the inaugural Neuroscience in a Flash event this month.

The virtual competition, held over two sessions, provided the opportunity for pre and post-confirmation students to creatively present their thesis research to members of the Monash Neuroscience community – in three minutes and using a single slide.

The event was the brainchild of the Monash Neuroscience Initiative Network, a network bringing together diverse interdisciplinary expertise across medicine, engineering, pharmacy, science, design, IT and social science.

“It was conceived as a forum to showcase the talented neuroscience researchers from across Monash University, and also to provide an opportunity for these researchers from different schools, faculties and campuses to be aware of research within Monash that may offer opportunities for collaboration,” explains Professor Terry O’Brien, head of the Central Clinical School, chair of the Monash Neuroscience Network Initiative and one of the event’s judges.

Monash neuroscience staff and studentsGroup of students and staff from Monash Neuroscience

From multiple sclerosis, to ageing and injured brains, to the little brain of the gut, the presentations showcased both the breadth of neuroscience research taking place across the University, working towards a better understanding, treatment and outcomes for neurological conditions.

For the winner of the pre-confirmation round, Angela Fan, neuroscience was something she always knew she wanted to do.

“Many neurological disorders are wrongly portrayed in the media, and heavily stigmatised in society. Having personal experiences with family members suffering from said disorders, I really wanted to spend my scientific career on understanding the brain.” she explains.

Her Honours thesis focused on blindsight, a phenomenon observed in the cortically blind as the result of brain rewiring post-injury.

“Winning the competition at an early stage of my academic career has definitely helped me gain a lot of confidence in my research, and I hope to carry this into my PhD next year.”

Ting Ting Teo from Monash Malaysia’s Brain Research Institute was named the People’s Choice Award winner of the pre-confirmation round. For Ting, whose work looks at the molecular basis of neurological disorders, the win was a big confidence boost and encouragement to keep pushing forward.

“Joining meaningful events or competitions will help me see things in a new light and think bigger. I hope my research will bring awareness to all the scientists that our current knowledge about mood disorders is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Pioneering research in under-researched areas caught the attention of the judges in the post-confirmation round.

First place recipient, Georgia Fuller Symons from the Department of Neuroscience, presented on concussion in Australian collision sport. The topic has hit close to home recently, with the first-ever cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) discovered in Australian collision sport athletes in the last year. Georgia’s research aims to improve our understanding of the acute and long-term effects engaging in Australian football and sustaining a concussion has on the brain

“I am proud to have won the Neuroscience in a flash competition, particularly going up against all the other wonderful and impressive researchers in my session. It was great to have a platform, thanks to the Monash Neuroscience Initiative, to share some of the research out of my lab (Monash Trauma group). I am thankful for them, my supervisors and the department who have facilitated my science communication skills over the past few years,” she reflected.

Winnie Orchard of Monash Biomedical Imaging took home the People’s Choice Award for her work on exploring the ageing parental brain in humans.

“I hope my research will help people, particularly women, think about the brain changes of parenthood as supporting the necessary behavioural changes of parenthood, and that whilst they might be related to some short-term forgetfulness in pregnancy, that long-term, these changes might be supporting healthier brain structure and function and better cognitive ability in late-life”, Winnie explains.

Professor James Bourne congratulated the winners and participants for their efforts, and noted their contributions to ground-breaking neuroscience research.

“The Neuroscience in a Flash events were a beacon in what has been a very difficult year, especially for our talented students. Seeing the breadth of discovery through to translational research being undertaken across Monash campuses really exemplifies what incredible science is possible and why Monash is a clear world leader in this space.”

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