UW-Eau Claire: To host regional neuroscience conference Oct. 22

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is the first Wisconsin school to host the MidBrains 2022 conference on Saturday, October 22, an exciting regional conference for neuroscience students and educators.

The MidBrains Midwest Regional Neuroscience Conference has previously been hosted by private universities in Minnesota and Illinois since its inception in 2007.

“UW-Eau Claire hosted a virtual version of this conference in 2021 and we are very excited for the opportunity to now bring the in-person conference back here on our campus,” says Dr. Bradley Carter, Assistant Professor of Biology and co-organizer of the event.

More than 180 participants from 28 different institutions in seven states have registered for the day-long event, which will take place from 9am to 4:30pm in the Davies Center’s Ojibwe Ballroom. The schedule includes:

  • Keynote speech by Dr. SuJean Choi, professor of biomedical sciences and associate dean of research at Marquette University’s College of Health Sciences. Choi’s presentation is titled “Why We Eat, What We Eat, and My Journey to That Question.”
  • A series of research presentations for students, including seven poster presentations by Blugold students in biology and psychology.
  • Lectures by faculty representing a wide range of research areas and institutions.
  • A careers panel featuring Blugold alumni currently working in neuroscience-related fields, sharing their diverse career paths and advice to students pursuing careers in the field.

The MidBrains Conference is an initiative of the MidBrains Neuroscience Consortium, a network of undergraduate neuroscience faculty in the Upper Midwest. The annual event provides a forum for regional students and faculty mentors to present research, attend lectures and roundtables, and meet other students and faculty members interested in neuroscience.

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As a school that added a neuroscience major in 2018, UW-Eau Claire is particularly pleased to have been selected to host the conference.

“As UW-Eau Claire continues to build and expand our on-campus neuroscience community, we are excited to contribute to this important event, foster connections between nearby institutions, and engage our students in the impactful experiences and logistics of academic conferences,” says Carter.

“One of the key benefits of a conference like this for students is that they have an immersive learning experience about neuroscience through their interactions with peers and professionals,” says Carter. “The opportunity to learn about neuroscientific research at other locations and in potential career fields provides our students with valuable insights as they begin to develop their professional identity and consider career opportunities.”

dr David Jewett, a professor of psychology at UW-Eau Claire and a co-organizer of the event, points to another valuable finding for students attending events like the MidBrains conference.

“UW-Eau Claire students will present their collaborative undergraduate psychology research at upcoming national conferences, the Society of Neuroscience, and the annual Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience meetings,” says Jewett. “Participating in this regional event gives them important presenting experience.”

Below, the Blugold students present their research results at the conference.

  • Lindsey Friend, major in biology at Weston.
  • Julia Toenjes, junior biology/microbiology major from Woodbury, Minnesota.
  • Emily Maccoux, Junior Biochemistry/Molecular Biology major from Luxembourg.
  • Grace Thompson, a biology major in Edwards, Illinois.
  • Payton Oliver, major in biology at Altoona.
  • Gillian Davis, majoring in biology at Ellsworth.
  • Giulia Lelli, Junior Neuroscience Major from Como, Italy.
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“MidBrains will be the first research conference I’ve presented at, and I’m excited for the opportunity to share my work and be part of the scientific community,” says Friend, whose research focuses on the evolution of relative swimming behavior in zebrafish to light cycles concentrated in their surroundings.

“It’s rewarding to share a project that I’ve devoted time and dedication to, and I’m proud to present my work,” says Friend. “I think the biggest learning opportunity from attending this conference is to gain experience as a facilitator and strengthen the interpersonal skills in my field. Presenting at this conference is a milestone in my professional and academic career and I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”

As part of the alumni careers panel at the conference, Gregory Fischer, a 2011 Biochemistry/Molecular Biology graduate, will share with students his work with PreventionGenetics, a Marshfield-based company that provides patient sequencing and CNV testing for almost every clinically relevant gene.

Fischer says his connection to the campus has remained close, due in part to ongoing collaborations with UW-Eau Claire biology faculty members Dr. Derek Gingerich, Dr. Jamie Lyman-Gingerich and Dr. Julie Anderson. He appreciates the opportunity to interact with the campus in this direct way and to share some of his knowledge with the students.

“My time at UWEC was so influencing my decision to pursue a professional degree in genetics,” says Fischer. “It was the faculty that gave me so much time, passion and research experience that led to my personal success. It is now important to me that I use my skills and experience to give something back.

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“I am excited and honored to speak to current Blugolds and other regional students about my career and the power of research experience for their future careers.”

Students interested in next year’s MidBrains conference should contact faculty members in Neuroscience, Biology and Molecular Biology.

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