As one of IBRO’s flagship funding programs, IBRO Supported Schools provide students and early-career researchers from all over the world with excellent training and educational opportunities every year. Happening in countries across the five IBRO regions, schools cover wide-ranging topics related to neuroscience research and provide unique networking opportunities among faculty and students from different parts of the globe. In 2022 alone, for instance, IBRO supported 30 schools on topics as varied as neurogenetics, neurodegeneration, and drug addiction, and provided training to 750 participants from 67 countries.

Countries of residence of IBRO Supported Schools’ attendees in 2022

IBRO supported schools are diverse and defined by the existence of a structured educational program that lasts at least a week and involves distinguished scientists with the capacity, experience, and time to teach the participants. A new call for IBRO Schools Support is launched every year, inviting proposals for Associate Training Schools, targeting national and/or regional students, and Advanced Training Schools, in which half of the students are international. 

As part of the IBRO Schools Support program, the Canadian IBRO-USCRC School of Neuroscience, an Advanced Training School, has been successfully organized since 2007. In 2023, the school was organized by a committee consisting of Dr. Melissa Vollrath, Dr. Ante Padjen, Dr. Albert Aguayo, Dr. David Ragsdale, Dr. Arjun Krishnaswamy, Dr. Michael Hendrick, and Dr. Ellis Cooper (chair), who are all affiliated with McGill University. The current chair of the organizing committee shared his experience of planning and conducting the school:

What are the aims of the school?

The school targets promising senior graduate students and postdoctoral trainees from Latin America and Africa. The primary objectives are to expose students to the latest methodological approaches and experimental techniques in neuroscience research and to foster interactions between these students and Canadian neuroscientists. 

What does the school offer students?

Every year, the school brings 12-14 young neuroscientists to Canada for 2-3 weeks, where they participate in interactive discussions with researchers, visit labs, and observe live experiments. In addition, the students present their research at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience and receive feedback on their work. They also have the opportunity to interact with prominent neuroscientists, including keynote lecturers, some of whom were Nobel prize recipients. 

As a consequence of the pandemic, the school has been using a hybrid format that includes virtual sessions of pre-recorded lectures and interactive discussions with professors over video calls, culminating in a 2-week stay in Canada. The students and the organizing committee viewed this hybrid model (a surprisingly positive outcome of the pandemic) as significantly superior to the traditional in-person-only school. Given this, the organizing committee has decided to continue with this hybrid format in the future.

2023 attendees of the Canadian IBRO-USCRC School of Neuroscience together with Dr. Ellis Cooper (upper row, third from the right to the left) in Montreal, Canada

 

What kind of feedback have you received from the students?

The students have been very appreciative of the school. They remarked that it was an enriching experience that exposed them to a wide array of conceptual ideas, new methodologies, and cutting-edge experimental techniques. Many felt that it would be influential in their future careers. An additional benefit they noted is the long-lasting friendships that have been formed during the program.

How has the IBRO grant been helping the school?

Support from IBRO is vital to the school’s success. All funds from the grant provided by IBRO are used solely for the students: the grant paid for the participants‘ return travel from their home countries, as well as for their accommodation and meals while in Canada. Local partners helped fund other school initiatives. 

Moreover, IBRO is instrumental in publicizing the Call for Applications and in collecting applications. Applications were reviewed by the school’s organizing committee with help from the Chairs of IBRO’s regional committees from Africa and Latin America. The whole process has been running smoothly.

Did you encounter any challenges in organizing the school?

One limitation the school encountered recently was related to the immigration process: many students experienced long delays in obtaining their visas to Canada, and for the first time several students from Africa could not attend because their visas did not arrive in time. In the future, we will work to ensure that participants have sufficient time to obtain their visas.

 

Join Dr. Ellis Cooper: submit your School Proposal for 2024 by 30 June 2023.

………………..

If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact IBRO Communications Manager, Carolina Araujo Sousa, at communications@ibro.org.