Society for Neuroscience ’22 (SfN)

It was, indeed, a great experience for the McCullagh lab attending SfN 2022 at San Diego, CA this year. Jesse, Amita and Sabiha presented their research in SfN in person, while Andi chose the virtual platform. Their experience added a new spice, when on November 11, their flight from Stillwater to Dallas got canceled. All of them including Dr. Liz were trying their best to find out any possible solution but nothing worked out, since all flights from Tulsa and OKC to Dallas and suddenly no option was left except driving to Dallas from Stillwater and Yesss, finally they made it. 

Jesse: “I had a great time at SfN, getting to meet so many new people and learn about so much ongoing research. At first, 24,000 people seems very overwhelming, but everything is pretty-well organized based on topic and field of interest, so it’s easy to find out where you want to be and who you’d like to meet. The vendors were fun, friendly, and sent me home with so many freebies I almost couldn’t zip my suitcase! San Diego is a beautiful city I was happy to enjoy with Liz, Sabiha, and Amita. Looking forward to next year in D.C.!”

Sabiha: For me, attending the conference in person and visiting San Diego both were my first time experience, so you can feel my excitement. I met a lot of scientists, students, scholars and got astonished to see how amazing and advanced neuroscience research can be and how differently people think and learn everything. There were a lot of options for mini symposiums, professional development workshops along with poster presentation sessions, which I found really helpful too to expand my knowledge that underlies my research interest. Also,the sparkling city light and bright sunshine is still on my mind. Such a beautiful and lively city is San Diego !

Andi: SfN virtual experience was good. There were so many videos from virtual submissions it was almost too much. It made it difficult to sort through and search for research that you were particularly interested in. There were live streams of minisymposium research that you could watch, about 20 minute presentations from the authors. There were also larger presentations that were about an hour you could watch, but my preference was the mini symposiums as the research was personally more intriguing. I had it on in the background while I worked, as each minisymposium was about 4 hours long. I feel like being virtual I did miss out on a lot of different research, as only a small portion of the total conference was part of the mini symposiums that were livestreamed.

Amita: Well, it is a big conference. It was my first in-person experience there with my advisor and lab members. We all had a great time there exploring knowledge through joining various poster sessions and lectures. We all presented posters there with a huge number of audience and suggestions from them. It was accomplished with dinner and a tour on the mission beach with my advisor and lab members having spent a great time with each other.

Summer time!

We had a wonderful summer full of work related and fun travel for folks in the lab, not to mention lots of lab work being done as well. It was a really great summer to have all 5 PhD students around as well as 5 undergrads who worked in the lab for the summer. Here are some highlights:

Amita and Andi traveled 🚗 to Iowa to Dr. Samuel Young’s lab to learn neonatal rodent injection techniques. Thanks Sam for hosting and for his lab for sharing their time. I know Andi and Amita learned a lot!

Liz had lots of work-related travel ✈️ including a trip to Tuscany Italy for the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference on Fragile X Syndrome and Autism where she presented a poster and talked about the lab’s work. In addition she attended the Animal Behavior Society meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica. There were also some fun trips in there to play ultimate frisbee with her club team Hayride and grand masters team at Nationals.

Back in the lab, students were busy studying sperm, collecting wild rodents 🐁 to measure their hearing 👂, running samples through the ICP, slicing 🧠, running behavioral experiments, collecting tree frogs 🐸, and so much more! Special shout out to Madeline, Shay, Kaitlyn, Vanessa, and Tamara who spent their undergraduate summer doing work in the lab.

Casey working on sperm extractions

To top off the summer, we got some really great news on a few things:

  • Luberson, Amita, and Sabiha will be funded on RA for the next two years through a DEIA supplement to our current NIH R15 funding
  • Andi will also be funded through a diversity supplement on RA for the next two years
  • Exciting research collaboration starting with Dr. Guilia Bertolin in France 🇫🇷 over the next two years
  • A paper from Liz’s postdoc on naked-mole rat hearing across development came out in Proceedings B (which also features lab alumni Addi Gaut who helped with immunofluorescence experiments)
  • Liz became a part of the Weaving the Future of Animal Behavior (WFAB) program which helped fund her trip to Costa Rica and provides her with an awesome professional development cohort
  • Liz gave a webinar to the Hearing Health Foundation on Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)
  • Dr. Michael Reichert and Liz received funding for a new post baccalaureate program through NSF called ON-RaMP providing mentorship and training in biological sciences.
  • Liz traveled back to Colorado to film her recent paper on coherent anti-stokes raman scattering (CARS) for measuring myelin that has been published in JoVE

We are really looking forward to Fall 2022 since I have a feeling all our hard work this summer is going to lead to more good news in the future. Thanks everyone for all your support and of course to all the students working and playing in the lab!

Award Season

We have lots to celebrate in the lab this April! Here are some of the highlights:

Ph.D. student Jesse Hurd received an Honorable Mention for her NSF GRFP application, and even better (since the latter doesn’t actually give you the award) got the G-Rise NIH T32 fellowship which provides her with three years of stipend funding.

Not to be outdone, the undergrads are also getting recognized and funding for their research!

Margaret New received a second year of Wentz funding for her research on wild rodent hearing. She will also present her research findings from the last two years at the Wentz poster session on Friday.

Ishani Ray received the Purdie award to fund her research in the lab next year on Fragile X Syndrome and myelination.

Madeline Loosen received the Integrative Biology Dr. Raymond Dixon Scholarship in rural health in recognition for her pre-health ambitions and outstanding academic achievements.

Shay Nguyen presented their work at the Freshman Research Scholar poster session last week and did a great job!

Shay presenting their work at the Freshman Research Scholar symposium.

Casey Sergott, Shay Nguyen and Emmy Fowler are going to present their work on sperm characteristics of prairie voles for both the undergraduate research symposium and Karen L Smith symposium. So grateful we have so many opportunities for undergrads to present their work!

And as it goes – what’s some good news without a few disappointments:

Dr. Reichert and I did not receive our NSF grant on tree frog auditory decision making

Sabiha and Jesse did not receive Women’s Faculty Awards

We were unsuccessful with Niblack applications for undergraduate research

As always I think it’s important to recognize the set backs with the accolades to normalize rejection and share that we don’t always get everything we apply for.

I am still pretty dang proud of everything we have accomplished and grateful for these amazing folks I can call my lab mates and mentees.

Mission/DEJI statements

Dr. Reichert and I took a lab meeting for the labs to draft some DEJI statements. I think they turned out wonderful and I am so excited to work with people who are committed to these values!

Our mission is to learn more about the natural world and help others to do the same, by being supportive of each other, active in our community, and always working to make a more inclusive science for everyone.

Our mission is to make science approachable to anyone who is interested by being open and understanding of the diversity of people (in thought, interests, background, etc.)

Our mission is to include all members regardless of background and commit to working in a diverse setting. All groups should have an equal opportunity to learn and bring forward meaningful science. 

Our mission is to foster scientific opportunity within and outside academia through inclusion, equal representation, and accessibility. 

Our mission is to create an accessible and inclusive lab environment by valuing members’ varying backgrounds, experiences, and opinions.

Our mission is to cultivate scientific thinking and research for a better good beyond and to inculcate these ideas beyond cultural and linguistic boundaries 

Our mission is to perform robust scientific research by encouraging people of diverse opinions, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds to bring their whole identities to the lab.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

I love that there is a day to recognize women and girls in science. However, there is still so much to be done to increase access and acceptance of all people in the sciences. I had the opportunity to talk with Capucine Paquay about barriers to STEM fields and some advice for folks with Director of Outreach Nicole Williams from 500 Women Scientists. Check out the article here:

Women in Science: Towards an Inclusive Future?

Girl writing on a piece of paper for a backyard nature scavenger hunt

Let’s celebrate, and recognize how far we’ve come, but not lose sight of how far we still have to go. To all the current and future scientists out there, we see you and we are fighting for your future.

Lab comings and goings

First off, big congratulations 🎊 🎈 🎉 to graduating seniors Patrick Crotty and Addi Gaut!!!

Patrick was in the lab for the semester and was super helpful working with Amita to do some immunohistochemistry. He is off to medical school next year (wherever he decided to go will be lucky to have him). It was wonderful to get to know you as both my student in Principles of Neuroscience and in the lab!

Addi will be sorely missed! She is starting at University of Tulsa Law School in January and I couldn’t be more proud! Addi joined the lab as a junior and quickly took over all of the anatomical experiments. Not only was she a quick learner and independent, but she was able to bring a new technique into the lab and then teach me (RNAscope). There are several publications that will be coming out of the work she put into her time at OSU, so stay tuned. I’m not sure what we will do without her, but I know she is going to be a wonderful lawyer.

Rachael Brodsky (M.S. student) is also off to pursue new interests. She is leaving us to go to school for social work at OU. Rachael is one of the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know and I am sure she is going to thrive in her new program.

Other Updates

Undergrads Gabby Byus and Elizabeth Farmer presented their work with frogs 🐸 at the Karen L Smith Symposium hosted by the Integrative Biology Department. Both did an amazing job, and Elizabeth tied for first place for her presentation!

We had the wonderful update that former Team Frog 🐸 undergrad Molly Hood has been accepted into dental school at OU – also super proud and couldn’t be happier for her!

Lastly we had our first lab holiday party! It was really nice to wind down the semester with folks and eat, drink (sparkling cider), and be merry!

Lab updates!

It has been a whirlwind of a past few months! Here are a few quick highlights of what is going on in the lab!

People!

  1. New members joining! We have several new PhD graduate students that started this summer, Luberson Joseph and Sabiha Alam. We have our newest MS quickly-turned PhD student Jesse Hurd that joined this Fall. Welcome!
  2. New undergrads joining! Lots of new undergrads joining the lab including Madeline Loosen, Gabby Byus, Elizabeth Farmer, Casey Sergott, Patrick Crotty, and Melissa Sullivan.
  3. Welcome back to returning undergrads, Addi Gaut, Ishani Ray, Adam Ramirez, Margaret New, and Kaitlyn Welker and of course M.S. student Rachael Brodsky and Ph.D. student Amita Chawla.

*check out more info about everyone here.

Papers!

  1. In collaboration with members of 500 Women Scientists, we evaluated the gage. platform. Our results were published in September in FACETS: https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/full/10.1139/facets-2021-0033
  2. Manuscript submitted examining myelination deficits in the brainstem of Fragile X Syndrome mice. This is work that is the basis for a new NIH NICHD R15 award (see below!). Much of this work was generated by awesome technicians Shani Poleg and Alexandra Lucas while I was a postdoc in Achim Klug’s lab. Check it out on BioRxiv: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.09.08.459530v1
  3. First manuscript from the lab submitted for review! This manuscript characterizing the hearing ability of a social rodent, the monogamous prairie vole. Margaret New collected some of this data with lots of help to set up our system from Dr. Tim Lei and Ben-Zheng Li. Check it out on BioRxiv: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.10.07.463519v1

Funding!

We got our first major grant as a new lab! Thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health NICHD R15 AREA mechanism we now have funding to pursue the myelination project for which our first publication is under review right now – see above. For some more info check out this blurb on the Department of Integrative Biology’s website: https://integrativebiology.okstate.edu/news/533-mccullagh-lab-receives-nih-grant

Logo for the National Institutes of Health NICHD institute

Impossible Choices for Caretakers at Academic Institutions

So, I (Liz McCullagh), along with my 2 year old, got COVID two weeks ago right before the start of the semester. I got COVID right as I was helping to write a piece with 500 Women Scientists about the impossible choices caretakers are having to take right now without vaccine protection for our little ones and increasing COVID cases across the country due to the Delta variant – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/academic-institutions-must-do-better-to-protect-caregivers-this-fall/

I am still playing catch up from having to move my class online for the first two sessions. Thank goodness my symptoms were super mild (as were the 2 year olds – thanks vaccines and breastfeeding!). Thanks everyone for their patience over the last two weeks and over the next ???. Things don’t have to be this way – but we aren’t doing enough to support our academic communities.

Undergraduate Lab Experiences

I had the privilege to participate in research concerning frog brain anatomy and frog ABR during my senior year in Dr. McCullagh’s lab. Reaching out to my other co-mentor, Dr. Jodie Wiggins, during the summer of 2020 to ask if any research teams were available for me to join was one of the best decisions I made throughout all of my college years! In Dr. McCullagh’s lab, I joined Team Frog and was able to collaborate with and learn from graduate students. My duties in the lab consisted of slicing frog brains and staining them to try to identify key structures we believe to be associated with the binaural response frogs have to sound processing, and assisting with ABR recordings. My favorite part of my research was learning how to slice brains on the sliding microtome, because it is a hands-on technique that produces beautifully thin-sliced sections. Second to that, I had the opportunity to present our lab’s work at the Karen L. Smith undergraduate research symposium, which was a fulfilling way to end the year’s research. I will truly miss participating in the lab’s work, and the graduate and undergraduate students I met along the way. Dr. McCullagh has been a wonderful mentor and has helped to develop my appreciation of science and its process, and has provided me with a space to apply new lab techniques I had not anticipated I could excel in! (Molly Hood)

I joined Dr. McCullagh’s lab in 2020, during my junior year at Oklahoma State. I had never done research before, so I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting myself into. Been a science major allowed me to have experience in a lab setting, but to be honest I hadn’t loved most of the lab classes I’d taken. I think this was probably due to the fact that in many lab classes it feels like you get very little explanation of how to do procedures or experiments correctly, why you’re doing a particular experiment, and that you can’t make any mistakes because they will affect your grade. Fortunately, in Dr. McCullagh’s lab the experience is completely opposite. I’m actively engaged in research, not just trying to hit certain checkpoints so that I can turn in an assignment, get a grade, and move on.

I’m a part of Team Mouse, and specifically throughout the last year I have been working on a project concerning Mus spicilegus mice. I deal with the anatomy of their brains, which means slicing, staining, and analyzing them. Throughout the past year I feel like I’ve gotten to put the knowledge I’ve learned in classes to practical use. I’ve learned about antibodies and hormones multiple times over the years, but through actually understanding their practical implications in the brain and using them to stain areas of interest I have a much deeper understanding of them. I’ve also gained skills such as using a vibratome, staining techniques, and using software to measure areas of the brain that I wouldn’t have learned in my classes or labs. I feel like I can ask questions and make mistakes without fear of repercussions, and I actually have a desire to learn about what I’m doing, not just to get through it for the sake of getting a grade. Participating in research is an experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else in college, and I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months before I graduate hold! (Addi Gaut)

Here’s to your future!

It’s always bittersweet when students graduate or leave. I am so thankful for all of the contributions they have brought to the lab, including helping me set everything up and helping me learn to be a mentor.

This year brings a particularly large cohort of students who are graduating – here is some a tidbit of the projects that they worked on:

Team Frog 🐸

Molly Hood – co-advised with Dr. Jodie Wiggins

Molly hopes to go to dental school, and I have no doubt that she will get there! Molly had the daunting task of getting some of the anatomy on frogs going in the lab. She was certainly up for the challenge and learned brain slicing (on two different types of vibratomes), immunofluorescence, H & E staining, as well as a source of constant support to her fellow Team Frog cohort. She recently presented their work at the Karen L. Smith undergraduate research symposium.

Kanece Ham

Kanece just recently joined the lab, we wish we had found each other sooner! She may stick around for the summer and continue to help out with Team Frog, which we are very much looking forward to. Happy Graduation!

Courtney Byrd

Courtney has been a wonderful addition to my lab. I was so happy when she interviewed and wanted to join Dr. Michael Reichert’s lab. She has such great insight for experiments and endless ideas of future directions for work. It is clear she is also passionate about teaching, have received the Departmental M.S. Teaching Award in her first year as a graduate student. Your future students are lucky to have you and I know you are going to excel as a K-12 teacher.

Team Microscope 🔬

Alex Blackwell (OK-LSAMP)

Alex was one of the first students in my lab, and I could not be more grateful to have her working with me! Between analyzing auditory brainstem data, learning to use the epifluorescent microscope to take images, and train others in the lab, she has been a great resource. We wish you the best of luck for your senior year closer to your family.

Prekshika Patel

While Prekshika joined the lab recently, she jumped right in with both feet! She has been instrumental in keeping up with the microscope imaging that Addi and Jordyn keep pumping out. Thank you!

Team Wild Rodent 🐁

Jordyn Sisovsky

I had the pleasure of teaching Jordyn in Spring 2020 for my Behavioral Neuroendocrinology class, and I am so glad she reached out to join the lab last Fall. She has learned both auditory brainstem physiology and anatomical methods with apparent ease. Always fearless when we are out collecting wild rodents and working with animals in whatever capacity, we are surely going to miss your skills! We hope you can stick around some this summer and continue working in the lab in your spare time.

Team Mouse 🐭 (Mus spicilegus)

Bailey Hinshaw (Honors Student)

Bailey was the first student to reach out to me about research opportunities (before I even joined as faculty at OSU!). She is a constant presence in the lab and quickly took on and lead her independent Honors thesis project. In addition to being a great scientist, Bailey has been a rock for the lab and her lab mates. She is always available to help out whenever needed and happy to take on any challenge that comes her way. She is going to be an excellent doctor and I wish you the best in medical school!

Allison Lawrence

Allison was a student of mine in Fall 2020 Principles of Neuroscience. She has been super helpful in doing the dirty work of the lab including helping me renovate the animal space in preparation for the arrival of my mice. We are hoping she will be around this summer to continue with analysis help and wish her best of luck in her dreams to be a veterinarian.