By Julia Diaz
Scientists from around the world came to the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute to learn more about cutting-edge optical imaging technologies at the inaugural Advanced Techniques in Neuroimaging Workshop, hosted by the Neuroscience Microscopy Service (NMS), a Wu Tsai Neuro community laboratory.
The workshop, held May 8–12, 2023, intended to disseminate the latest neuroimaging techniques and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, according to NMS Director Gordon Wang, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford. Led by Wang and Yi Zuo, Professor of MCD Biology at UC Santa Cruz, the immersive five-day experience brought together international scholars with shared goals in applying neuroimaging techniques to their research.
"Our goal in organizing this workshop was to provide attendees with an intuitive understanding of the vast potential within the imaging field," explained Wang. "Sometimes, the most challenging part of the scientific process is identifying who to consult and collaborate with to bring ideas to fruition. By facilitating connections among people with shared interests in the neuroimaging field, this workshop can bridge those gaps and empower them to transform their scientific dreams into tangible realities."
Fusheng Tang gains firsthand experience at Stanford's NMS community laboratory. Photo by Julia Diaz.
“This was a well-organized and fabulous workshop," said Fusheng Tang, a post-doctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Students came from all over the world, and everyone was very brilliant, creative, and active. I made many new friends and gained a lot from this experience.”
Stanford and the Bay Area are a hub of innovation in microscopy, and the organizers aim to use these workshops to build a west coast community around these new technologies. The workshop pulled microscopy expertise from local universities, institutes and biotechs that included Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Calico and attracted participants from across the United States and as far afield as China and Uganda. Such diversity facilitated broader collaborations. Attendees included a wide range of individuals, from aspiring PhD students to seasoned professors, all eager to expand their knowledge in neuroimaging.
Michael Ajenikoko tours the Cantor Arts Center with the group between demonstrations. Photo by Bozhi Wu.
"Currently in Uganda, we are still developing advancements in neuroscience techniques. I came here to gain insight into these emerging technologies, and to eventually develop this kind of training back at my university," said Michael Ajenikoko, Assistant Lecturer at Kampala International University in Kampala, Uganda. “I enjoyed the hands-on experience and hope to establish connections with organizers of this workshop and with the Stanford neuroscience community.”
This year’s workshop was designed to be an educational, hands-on experience. Taught by experts in the neuroimaging field, attendees gained valuable insights that will help them apply techniques from the workshop to their own research.
“I do imaging on tree shrews, which have been studied for many years but have not been imaged before because there were no tools to be able to do it,” said Lu Yang, a second year in PhD student at the University of Virginia. “With these advanced techniques we learned about today, we can start performing live imaging of these species."
Next year, workshop organizers aim to implement a group project to enable attendees to delve deeper into the world of neuroimaging. By fostering collaborative projects, Wang plans to increase the team-building aspect of the workshop to grow it over time.
The Advanced Techniques in Neuroimaging Workshop aligns with the goals of the Neuroscience Microscopy Service (NMS) and the other community laboratories at the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute. Learn more about the Neuroscience Microscopy Service (NMS) Community Laboratory.
“Our Community Labs are not just a resource at Stanford, but through workshops, a resource for imaging scientists around the world,” Wang said. “There are amazing scientists at Stanford who can connect with researchers across the globe to further scientific discovery.”