Tea Time

Tea Time was started by alum Sunbin Song as a place for students and faculty to discuss current events in Neuroscience. Come and enjoy tea, cookies, and lively discussion revolving around current topics.

The most recent topic was:

Science and the "F" Word: What does FAILURE mean to us and how can we become more accepting?

Discussion points: 
1) How do we, as scientists, define failure, and what does it mean when an experiment "fails?" Is an experiment considered a "failure" if it doesn't support your/your mentor's/an overall or established hypothesis? Is that you have failed or has the question just been reframed? 
2) Negative results: How do we feel about negative results--should they be published more often? Is there room for negative results? 
3) Failure is said to be the key to success...how can we (students, PIs, granting agencies, publishers, etc) become more tolerant of failure so that we can turn failure into success and innovation? What needs to change?

Past topics that have been discussed at recent Tea Time sessions include:

The Future of Neuroscience

Organizations such as the National Academies occasionally come up with grand engineering or scientific challenges for the next century. What if we, the IPN, were to come up with some grand challenges for neuroscience for the next century? Where would you like to see the field go 25, 50, or even 100 years from now? What are the challenges of getting to these goals? There are no wrong questions or answers here. Let's give ourselves an opportunity to think beyond the day-to-day work of science or even beyond the 5-year planning of grant writing and potentially come up with some fun new ideas for the field!

Food for thought: What new kinds of technologies or refinements to current technologies would help us study the brain better? Are there any paradigm shifts that would help us integrate information over multiple levels of the brain necessary to gain a "whole brain" understanding? How can brain research better address the major needs of society? What would be some futuristic inventions utilizing what we know about the brain. Brain research is already pretty interdisciplinary; is there advantage in becoming even more so?

A Flawed Scientific Method?

Recently, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published an article that supports the existence of ESP. Does this reflect a flaw in the peer-review process, in the scientific method, both, or perhaps neither? Additionally, we will discuss the "Decline Effect"--the tendency of "significant" results to dramatically lose power when replicated.

Recommended reading includes:

NYTimes discussion "When Science Goes Psychic"
The New Yorker's "The Truth Wears Off" by Jonah Lehrer

Discussion with Dr. Simon LeVay, author of Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation (Oxford University Press): Take this chance to talk with him about his science and ideas!

Following the Academic Career Path: Making an Informed Decision

Many students enter graduate school with the goal to get an academic position someday. But many of us question those plans or decide somewhere along the way not to pursue them. What changes our decision? Is what is turning us away based on accurate notions of the challenges, on misinformation, or on something else? We hope this discussion will not only provide students with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about staying in academia but also enlighten us all as to why so many question this career path.

Intersections between our academic and extracurricular lives

In his book "Advice for a Young Investigator" Ramon y Cajal says, "We may learn a great deal from books, but we learn much more from the contemplation of nature..." Classically, science has progressed in part by taking our field observations and testing them in the lab. Do we still do this today? In general, how do our lives outside of neuroscience affect our work as neuroscientists? Additionally, neuroscience is expanding our understanding of human nature and the brain/mind in many ways. How much of what we are learning from neuroscience do we really digest and integrate into our own lives? Do we answer these questions differently based on our areas of study within neuroscience?

We have also discussed: How and Why to Network in Science, Mentor/Mentee Communication, The neurobiology of faith/religion, From Academia to Industry: Science in the Private Sector, Balancing Career and Family as a Scientist, The Neurobiology of Evil, Neurocognitive Enhancement, Discourse between the public and the scientist, How drugs have shaped American society, Meditation and Neuroscience, Neuroscience and the Law, and Changing cultural perceptions of mental illness over the decades