Looking forward to seeing our neuroscience colleagues at Neuroscience 2022!

For the first time in three years, the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is holding its annual meeting in person, convening many thousands of neuroscientists in San Diego, California, from November 12-16, 2022. Across the country and throughout world, most COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, and society is trying to get back to “normal,” after three years in which the pandemic has affected every corner of our lives. Although we have found that virtual conferences and meetings can enable stimulating discussion, generate buzz around new scientific results, and forge contacts for new collaborations, occasions to gather in person are invaluable and are among the many things I have missed during this time.

The Society for Neuroscience annual meeting is the largest scientific conference on brain and nervous system research and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the latest neuroscience advances, to catch up with colleagues and collaborators, to speak with NINDS grantees, and to meet trainees and investigators as they enter the field. And now, we will have the chance to cultivate these connections across our community through fist bumps, hallway chats, and lively conversations in real life. I could not be more thrilled and grateful.

You will find NINDS throughout the annual Neuroscience meeting. For those attending the meeting in person, please plan to visit NINDS at the National Institutes of Health booth (3301) in the Exhibit Hall. While we look forward to seeing colleagues in person, we know that many in our scientific and public communities might not be able to attend. Thus, NINDS has generated a web page that provides information about NINDS events at the meeting, as well as content and opportunities shared at the NINDS on-site exhibit. We encourage all members of the neuroscience community to use this resource to learn about NINDS programs, initiatives, funding announcements, career opportunities, and other information.

We have all felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in research, trainees have been especially affected. Ongoing challenges during scientific training, including financial struggles, mental health, work-life balance, and career uncertainty were further exacerbated by laboratory shutdowns and disruptions. Collective peer support, connection, and camaraderie – which for students can be an important boost during training – were all also interrupted during the pandemic. For many trainees, especially graduate students, this may well be the first time that they are attending the SfN annual meeting in person, and I hope the experience will provide critical scientific, career, and networking opportunities for them.

Among these opportunities are diversity-focused programming from our Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity (OPEN). Led by Michelle Jones-London, Ph.D., OPEN coordinates NINDS’s diversity activities, spanning the training pipeline from innovative neuroscience education outreach (grades K-12) to funding opportunities and important mentoring networks across critical career transition points (from undergraduate up to junior faculty). At SfN, OPEN events will include a poster session and diversity reception as well as the 12th annual meeting of the NIH Blueprint Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (ENDURE), for awardees of this program that helps prepare individuals from typically underrepresented groups in the neurosciences to enter and successfully complete neuroscience Ph.D. programs. The poster session will also feature awardees from ENDURE, as well as from the NIH Blueprint/BRAIN Diversity Specialized Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Advancement in Neuroscience (D-SPAN) program as they discuss their research and career goals.

The plethora of programming at each Neuroscience conference provides so many ways to take in science at every turn, including through special lectures on hot topics in neuroscience. This year’s plenary lectures will include talks from current and former NINDS Advisory Council members, including Dr. Gina Poe (“Sleep for Cognition, Memory, and Mental Health in Females and Males Across the Lifespan”) as well as Dr. Larry Abbott (“Expanding Horizons in Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience”). In addition, Nobel Laureate and NINDS grantee Dr. Ardem Patapoutian will give a Presidential Special Lecture on, “How Do You Feel? The Molecules That Sense Touch.”

You can also catch speakers and meet researchers and NIH staff who are part of the NIH BRAIN Initiative, including BRAIN Director Dr. John Ngai, who will chair a panel on the links between COVID-19 and Olfaction. In addition, members of the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group, which provides ongoing oversight of the long-term scientific vision of The BRAIN Initiative®, will present special lectures, including Dr. Emery Brown (“Expanding Horizons in Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience”) and Dr. Kafui Dzirasa (“Mapping and Rewiring Neural Circuits Underlying Emotions”). You will also find BRAIN Initiative toolmakers at the SfN satellite event, “Tools, Tech, & Theory: A BRAIN Initiative Alliance Social.” BRAIN Initiative Alliance partners, including IEEE, the Dana Foundation, and the Allen Institute, are also holding satellite events, and the International Brain Initiative, a coalition of the world’s major brain research projects, will hold a session on data governance and sharing across countries. For more information on BRAIN-related events at SfN, please visit the BRAIN Blog.

NINDS has recently held in-person events for our staff, reunions with colleagues we had not seen since the pandemic began and chances to meet those who joined while we worked virtually from home. I felt the excitement of seeing colleagues, familiar and new, gathered together. In many ways, Neuroscience 2022 will be a “reunion” of neuroscientists on a national and global scale. I cannot wait to see you there!