I think we can all agree that things are looking better with 2020 in the rearview mirror. Despite the obvious obstacles to pretty much everything we do–courses; advising; rotations; thesis proposals, defenses and committee meetings; socializing; admissions…. etc….  the Program is strong and resilient. Nevertheless, we must also not lose sight that many of our students (and staff and faculty!) suffered from the shutdown in ways big and small, obvious and not so obvious. As course instructors, rotation mentors, thesis advisors, committee members, and all around good people and responsible faculty, we must be patient, allow a little more time, relax the deadlines, lower the temperature. Things will return to normal soon, I’m certain of it. And there were a few positive things, enacted because of the isolation, that we will continue with.  Our “Coffee Chat” series–an open and unscripted dialogue between first-year students and faculty/senior students–comes to mind.

Admissions this year was a big challenge. Nevertheless, while the overall numbers of applications were down this year in comparison with last year, the Neuroscience applications were strong and represented broad interests and diverse backgrounds. At the time of this writing, it is too early to know final decisions on the part of all of the applicants, but from those that have already accepted, I can report that we will have another outstanding, diverse, multi-talented class of the highest caliber. As always, I am grateful for the efforts by faculty and students to make the Admissions process so successful. I especially want to acknowledge the tireless work by the Neuro ad hoc screening committee of Mark Baxter, Ming-Hu Han, Vanna Zachariou, Daniela Schiller, Nan Yang, Betsy Cropper and Steve Salton. And my go-to students Nick Upright, Alie Fink, Ivan Soler, Amanda Leitheid, Collin Spencer, Kelsey Lucerne, Chris Guevara, Angelica Minier-Toribio and many others who I know I’m forgetting and for which I apologize–all who helped immensely in organizing Admissions events.  And while we’re welcoming a new class on the one hand, we also say adios to some extremely talented students–now colleagues– on the other. In 2020, five Neuroscience students successfully defended their thesis work (Eva Xia, Sahil Agrawal, Casey Lardner, Lucy Bicks, Sandhya Chandrasekaran) and several successfully obtained their F30/F31 grants or their K99/R00 career transition awards–congratulations to all! 

This past year also saw the successful renewals of two T32 Training Grants–one from NIMH supporting year 1-2 students, and one from NIA supporting more senior (year 2-5) students. The number of training slots for both grants was increased from 4 to 6. Fingers are crossed on the submission of a new one to NIMH. We need more. Please write them, I can help you do it.

There will be some slight adjustments in the curriculum coming up in this next academic year. We learned this spring from our first-year students that the work load of adding (yet another) new Biostatistics course to an already packed, interleaved Core 3 and 4 schedule, was too much. Next spring, we are going to return to our original sequence, where each of our Core courses proceeds serially, with Core 4 finishing probably sometime by mid-/end of May (instead of the current mid-April). And speaking of stats…… we’re actively planning a Neuroscience-run statistics sequence starting with an introductory course in year 1 and continuing with Mark’s and Erin’s year 2 course. Stay tuned.

George W Huntley