Jan 7, 2021
The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time of hope and renewal, and although we continue to navigate the uncertainties of COVID-19, I hope you will join me in reflecting on how far we have come as we have weathered the challenges of this pandemic together over the past two years.
We continued to advance our research mission, even when we couldn’t be in lab; we found ways to connect despite masks, social distancing and video conferencing; we came together in cyberspace to share and learn about new neuroscience discoveries; and as campus reopened, we made our way back into our labs and shared facilities to stoke the embers of dormant experiments.
Despite our obstacles, the institute has pursued a vigorous slate of programs and activities, which you can read about in our 2020-2021 Annual Report. We have continued to promote great science with new discovery and translational research grants, and to support the next generation of neuroscientists with training awards to new classes of interdisciplinary postdoctoral scholars, graduate fellows, and undergraduate researchers.
We opened four new community laboratories focused on human neuroscience, preclinical brain imaging, virtual reality and collaborative science, and welcomed new staff directors Jieun Kim, Gordon Wang and Christoph Leuze. We also welcomed our first-ever dedicated communications manager, Nicholas Weiler, who happens to be a Stanford Neurosciences PhD alum.
In October, our tremendously successful Annual Symposium, “The Addiction Epidemic: from Neuroscience to Policy,” organized by the NeuroChoice Big Ideas in Neuroscience team, was a reminder of the social nature of our scientific enterprise. It was a particular thrill to have an in-person poster session once again to cap off the inspiring and thought-provoking day of talks: after interacting mostly through 2x2" Zoom boxes for the previous 18 months, folks stayed and stayed to talk science and enjoy being together face to face.
That we could carry out any of these programs effectively during a pandemic year is due to our dedicated staff who plan, lead and support our grant programs, student-facing activities, community labs, seminars and symposia, and fund-raising efforts. We owe so much to this wonderful team, and especially to Tanya, who continues to keep the whole ship afloat and on-course. And none of these programs would be possible without the dedicated faculty and trainee leaders who have participated in grant reviews, diversity initiatives, seminar planning and more. Thanks to you all. You ARE Wu Tsai Neuro!
Perhaps the most important lesson that I have learned from the pandemic experience is the social nature of our scientific enterprise. We have sorely missed the serendipitous moments of creativity and inspiration that come from very human encounters over coffee or lunch, in courtyards and gathering spaces, and in spontaneously solving problems together at the bench or whiteboard. As it turns out, much of the enjoyment in science lies in shared experience that is very tough to simulate on-line.
My challenge to all of us in the year to come is to dedicate ourselves to rebuilding and re-invigorating our campus-wide neuroscience community to be even stronger, more collaborative and more inclusive than before. While remaining sensitive to the ongoing pandemic, let us come together to collaborate on groundbreaking research, open our community to the historically excluded, support one another through difficult times and celebrate our collective achievements as we work to unlock the mysteries of the brain and behavior for the good of society.
I can’t wait to see you all on campus.
Vincent V.C. Woo Director, Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Professor of Neurobiology