Inaugural SenSyT symposium celebrates cross-disciplinary sensory research
6 July 2017
*Original news item appears on Institute of Opthalmology news. Introduction by Therese Johns, Faculty of Brain Sciences Communications.
UCL’s unique Sensory Systems, Technologies and Therapies (SenSyT) programmes unite teaching and research from the Faculty of Brain Sciences to investigate auditory and visual systems and their disorders. Hosted by the Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) on Monday 26th June 2017, the inaugural SenSyT symposium showcased UCL’s latest cross-disciplinary sensory research. PhD student Assel Kashkenbayeva and Professor Joerg Albert (UCL Ear Institute) give their perspective on the event.
The rising prevalence of neurosensory diseases, which impair our ability to sense the world around us, is one of the major threats to future human well-being. The combined MRes/PhD programme in Sensory Systems, Technologies and Therapies (SenSyT) bundles existing forces at UCL to tackle the scientific, and biomedical, challenges of human sensory health.
Of all the senses it is arguably those of vision and hearing that bear the major global burden. Our eyes and ears are not only vital components of virtually all forms of human communication but they also, crucially, provide us with a distinct sense of space, thereby directly enabling human mobility and independence. The SenSyT effort therefore nucleates around the two sensory modalities of vision and hearing and two UCL research Institutes: UCL Ear Institute (EI) and IoO. As a nucleating crystal, however, the SenSyT initiative is built to grow and to transcend the boundaries between the different senses, thereby providing an integrative and cross-disciplinary platform for the study of all sensory systems. One way to achieve its aims is the organisation of cross-disciplinary symposia across the various UCL schools and faculties that are dedicated to sensory research.
The first SenSyT symposium was held on the 26th of June 2017 at the Institute of Ophthalmology. With over 100 delegates in attendance, the symposium showcased the latest findings in UCL sensory research. The symposium upheld to the core values of the SenSyT initiative, encouraging multidisciplinary research and facilitating collaborations. The cross- disciplinary orientation was evident in talks given by UCL experts from various fields of sensory research, including the hearing, vision and pain sensation. Professor Andrew Forge gave a talk on auditory hair cell regeneration; Prof Mike Cheetham presented his translational work on small molecule therapies for inherited retinal dystrophies and Prof Maria Fitzgerald gave the keynote lecture on the latest advances in the study of the peripheral and central processing of pain.
Other talks highlighted graduate achievements with early career researchers presenting their work in sensory systems research. The symposium explicitly encouraged the participation of researchers across a wide range of academic stages and supported early stage researchers with a £400 ‘Best Talk Prize’, which was shared by Anai Gonzalez-Cordero for her talk on understanding the Ush2a syndrome using pluripotent stem cells and Soraya Dunn who presented work on theta rhythms in the ferret hippocampus. This event fostered discussion and strengthened links between varying fields in sensory systems research which will aid the advancement of basic and translational sensory research at UCL.
The conference was financially supported by Santen Pharmacutical Co Ltd and organised by a collaborated effort from current PhD students Ana Rita Pinho, Ana Carolina Estevao, Stephanie Juniat, Carla Sanchez Martinez, William Lamb, Chrishne Sivapathasuntharam, Qian Yang (all IoO) and Assel Kashkenbayeva (EI).
All photos taken by Ben Pipe Photography.