Brainstorming Camp

The Brainstorming camp is a Bombay International School initiative to give high school students an opportunity to conduct hands-on scientific inquiry and research under the guidance of ‘real world’ scientists. The programme is the first of its kind in India and was received with tremendous success by schools and colleges in 2013 and 2014.

This year, the event took place in Mumbai from September 12-14, 2014 in collaboration with the Sophia College for Women and with the support of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

During the three-day intensive programme, the participating students from grades 11 and 12 learned about intricacies of the human brain in a cross-disciplinary context from experts in the fields of science and cognition. Students attended inter active seminars, conducted hands-on experiments and presented their own papers. Students were sensitized to the fact that there are cross-disciplinary connections between Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology and Computer Engineering.

A large part of science education in high schools focuses on theoretical knowledge, an essential part of scientific learning but only a portion of the whole picture. The emphasis of this program was on encouraging original scientific inquiry. The programme intended to acquaint students with professional university level research, the essence of modern science. It placed students in the driver’s seat, putting them in charge of their own learning.

Participating schools had worked on an original research question and developed their ideas under the guidance of a mentor - a scientist from TIFR/ Sophia College. Students had investigated questions of neuroscience that are being professionally investigated today, for example, the biological workings of dreams and memories.

The paradigms of scientific thought are constantly changing, with new findings shaping and re-shaping our existing scientific models. The frontier of scientific knowledge can only be pushed forward by new, fresh ideas and research. This initiative was a step forward in introducing young minds to the most mysterious and fascinating frontier of science today, neuroscience. We ensured that it both enthralled, and sparked their interest and propelled them into thinking originally, alongside the opportunity to interact with a faculty of neuroscientists and research psychologists who are leaders in their fields.

Glimpses of the three day mega event:

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Linda Richards did her undergraduate degree at Monash University and obtained her BSc (Hons) and a PhD from The University of Melbourne and The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in the laboratory of Professor Perry Bartlett. Her thesis was on the determination of neuronal lineage in the developing spinal cord. She then moved to the USA to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies where she worked with Professor Dennis O’Leary on cortical development and formation of the lateral cortical projection through the internal capsule. She began her independent laboratory at The University of Maryland Medical School in 1997, in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology chaired by Professor Michael Shipley.

In 2005 she moved her laboratory to The University of Queensland and was appointed as an Associate Professor in the Queensland Brain Institute and The School of Biomedical Sciences and in 2006, she was appointed as an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. In 2010, she was promoted to Professor at The University of Queensland and promoted to NHMRC Principal Research Fellow in 2011. In addition to running her laboratory, Professor Richards is passionate about informing the public about science. In 2006 she founded the Australian Brain Bee Challenge, a program that inspires and excites high school students about science.

At QBI, Professor Linda Richards and her team are working to understand how the brain becomes wired during foetal development. Her laboratory is focussed on the development of the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for processing sensory and motor information, speech, emotions, and memory formation and storage in humans. Connecting both hemispheres of the cerebral cortex is the corpus callosum, the largest fibre tract in the brain. Defects in formation of the corpus callosum underlie a range of paediatric brain disorders that can result in mental retardation, language and learning deficits and sensory and motor deficits in children and adults. Prof. Richards is working to understand the causes of corpus callosum malformations in humans as well as to understand how changes in brain wiring affect the cognitive abilities of children and adults.

Dr.Linda Richards addressing the students at the Brainstorming Camp.

Guest Speakers:

Dr. Vidita Vaidya is an alumnus of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai from which she graduated with B.Sc Honors in Life science and Bio Chemistry. She then received her PhD from Yale and  did her post doctoral fellowships from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and from Oxford  University. Vidita is interesting in the brain circuits that regulation emotion. In particular  she is interested in understanding how individuals develop a resilience or vulnerability  to psychiatric disorders. Life experiences, especially those in early life, have a profound  influence in shaping behavior and Vidita’s laboratory asks how such experiences tune brain  circuits to alter behavior. She has been a Welcome Trust Senior fellow and a recipient of  the National Bio Scientist award in 2012. Vidita is committed to the public communication  of science and to innovative approaches that convey the excitement of neuroscience to  students.

Dr. Anindya Sinha is currently a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore and Senior Scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation  in Mysore. He studied botany in Calcutta University and earned a doctorate in  molecular biology from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, in  1993. His early research concerned the social biology of wasps, population genetics  of elephants and the classical genetics of human disease, which he pursued in  leading research institutions including the Indian Institute of Science and the  National Centre for Biological Sciences, both in Bangalore. His research interests  over the last two decades have, however, primarily been in the areas of animal  behavioural ecology, cognitive ethology, population and behavioural genetics, and  conservation biology, particularly of primates. He is also interested in the philosophy  of biology, biology education and the popularisation of science, and has lectured  extensively in a variety of educational and research institutions both within and  outside India.

Dr. Hema Ramachandran has done her MSc in Zoology from Mumbai University. She holds a Doctoral Degree from Mumbai University (Zoology). Her research interest  has been in reproductive physiology She is presently faculty at the Department of Life Sciences, Sophia College and a PhD  research guide at Mumbai University. She has been engaged in teaching Neurobiology. Her current area of research is in the Cognitive Sciences. Her other interests include creating awareness about Environmental Issues, Neuro  rehabilitation, ethics in science, besides trekking.

Sandhya Kaushika holds the positions of faculty, Department of Blological Sciences, TIFR, Mumbai, and  faculty at NCBS-TIFR, Bangalore.  She has been active in research in the area of Cellular neurobiology using C. elegans as a model. She obtained a Ph.D from Brandeis University, USA and did her post doctoral work at Washington  University School of Medicine, USA. The subject of her research for her thesis was “Identifying targets of the neuron-specific RNA binding  protein ELAV in Drosophila.”

Dr. Shraddha Shah completed her Bachelor’s in Neuroscience and then went on to pursue a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Thereafter, she worked at the Centre for Neuropsychology Studies,  K.E.M. Hospital where she wrote and presented a paper on ‘Neuropsychological Outcomes of Pediatric  Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Surgery’ at the National Epilepsy Conference in 2013. She has also co-authored  other research papers based on her work in the field of epilepsy surgery. Currently, she works as a consultant psychologist in Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre as well  as runs her private practice for neuropsychological assessments and cognitive rehabilitation. She is also visiting faculty at S.N.D.T. University for Neurocognition as part of Psychology Graduate studies.

Brainstorming Camp - Newsletter September 2014