School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

IRTG: The Brain in Action

Logo: The Brain in Action

Approximately 50km North-East of Queen’s University campus on Lake Opinicon rests Queen’s University Biological Station, affectionately known as QUBS. Usually home to biology students and their supervisors for the summer, the station allowed an infiltration of nerds of a different kind: neuroscientists. For 6 days, neuroscientists from 5 different universities from Canada and Germany stayed on the grounds as part of their annual program retreat. QUBS offered an intimate, relaxed atmosphere that fostered collaborations, networking, and friendships alike. The annual CREATE International Research Training group (IRTG) Brain in Action retreat alternates between German and Canadian hosts, with labs from Queen’s, Western, and York universities, as well as labs from German Phillips Universität Marburg, and Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen on the other side of the pond. The retreat is typically held at convention centers, where several key-note speakers share their expertise and current research being conducted in their labs, as well as student progress report presentations about their on-going projects. As it was Queen’s year to host of the retreat, Psychology professor Niko Troje and the other local researchers decided to pick QUBS as a venue, showcasing Kingston’s beautiful location at the edge of the Frontenac Arc, with its beautiful nature, lakes, and forests that provide a unique ecological sanctuary for many animal and plant species. Steve Lougheed, director of QUBS, personally guided tours of the facility, its grounds, and explained the rich history of the area. He could even name any bird that was singing by its Latin name. IRTG members learned that QUBS has been in operation for almost 70 years, and that it is one of Canada’s premier scientific field stations which gladly opens its doors to other universities from all over the world, including China, to conduct leading research in fields such as ecology, evolution, conservation, geography, and environmental science in order to provide and inclusive, collaborative environment that Queen’s University prides itself on.

Since it was launched in 2013, the IRTG Brain in Action program has generated more than 50 publications. The program was designed for graduate students, Post-Doctoral fellows, and their supervisors to have the opportunity to collaborate on similar research interests and to provide the ability to learn new techniques from each other.

This year, the retreat featured a full-day workshop on motion capture technology, which was taught at Queen’s Human Mobility Research Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital. That way, members of the IRTG also had a chance to visit Kingston and explore the Queen’s campus for one day.

The program also offers its graduate students internships in related industries, writing workshops to strengthen literary skills, internet-based seminars, and external speakers from other universities to broaden the knowledge of young scientists and professors alike. It went without saying that all those who attended the retreat were coming out of the week feeling relaxed, accomplished, and with new ideas in hand.

This was my first year attending the annual retreat, as I just joined the IRTG Brain in Action program at the beginning of my PhD in Fall 2016, and as a Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies graduate student, I was proud to promote our program, town, university, and Canada to enthusiastic international visiting students. It is a privilege to be a member of such an elite group of young scientists bent on enhancing our knowledge of action and perception, and to have the opportunity to learn from a vast number of exceedingly expert professors from different backgrounds, and fields. I am positive that my studies will be significantly enhanced by this fantastic program, and that many future collaborations, and friendships will come out of this group.

Julia Morris
PhD student, Munoz Lab
Centre for Neuroscience Studies
Queen’s University

Group photo of the participants.