Conference Grant Report : Taisa Vasilkova

Taisa Vasilkova was selected to receive a Conference Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. With this grant, she traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Society for Neuroscience Conference. You can read Taisa’s reflection below, read past grantee reflections here, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about all of our grant programs.


Last semester, I had the cool opportunity to attend the Society for Neuroscience Conference from November 11-14th in Washington DC, with grant funding provided by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. 

View of the poster session

Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. Their mission is to advance the understanding of the brain by bringing scientists from a variety of different fields and educational backgrounds in order to encourage translational research, and to apply this knowledge to develop improved disease treatments and cures. This organization provides professional development activities, information, and educational resources for neuroscientists at all stages of their careers, promotes public information about the nature of scientific discovery, as well as informs legislators and other policymakers about new scientific knowledge and its impact on public policy.

This year, scientists and physicians from all over the world convened at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for their annual meeting, in which they had the chance to present their research. With more than 30,300 attendees, you can imagine how overwhelming it was for me! To navigate my way around a little more easily, I downloaded the SfN Annual Meeting app, which enabled me to quickly browse the program by session type, theme, and scheduled day. For example, if I was interested in going to a symposium to learn about brain development, I would first input “Symposium,” followed by “Theme A: Development,” and that gave me a list of the day and times of all the symposiums on development. Other session types included lectures with a keynote speaker, minisymposiums, nanosymposiums, and the largest of them all, the poster sessions.

From left to right: Merina Varghese, PhD; Me ; Nadejda Tsankova MD/PhD

I was fortunate enough to be one of the presenters for an abstract that the lab that I am part of in New York at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, submitted back in March. The postdoctoral fellow in my lab, Merina Varghese, along with my Principal Investigator, Patrick Hof, were there in attendance, as well as a few collaborators. Our current project examines cellular and synaptic pathology in intractable (which, basically means ‘drug-resistant’) epilepsy from surgically resected samples from human patients. Receiving the Patricelli grant enabled me to attend and present the research that I have contributed to for the past two summers, so I was really pumped! Not only was this a great way to practice my presentation skills, but I had the opportunity to hear about really fascinating research, as well as do a little bit of networking. My favorite workshop was the symposium on maternal psychopathology, in which I got to hear about groundbreaking research on the neural basis of anxiety and depression in the mother experienced before, during or after pregnancy, and how this neural basis differs from other times in life.

Attending SfN really opened my eyes to the importance of advancing science in order to develop targeted, effective and accessible therapies to all who suffer from these debilitating neurological and psychiatric disorders, which I aspire to continue doing as part of my future career in medicine and in public health. My advice to future attendees who wish to attend conference-like experiences such as this one, and the advice that PC Director Makaela Kingsley gave me, is to go in with a goal: do you want to be a sponge and absorb knowledge, or do you want to network? For me, it was a little bit of both, but just be prepared for whatever you do! Don’t be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone.

I want to thank the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship for funding this experience.