Inspiring, encouraging and enlightening were some of the words used by students and professionals to express their experience at the sixth annual Neuroscience Day hosted by the Neuroscience Research Group and Continuing Education at University of Pretoria Trust (CE at UP) in 2015.

The event brought together researchers from different disciplines to share their research findings and future aspirations within in the field of neurosciences at the Groenkloof Campus in Pretoria, where more than 300 students and professionals could share in all the latest research and industry developments related to their respective fields.

Established through the Neuroscience Research Group, as part of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, the annual Neuroscience Day conference is devoted to a better understanding of the intricate network that controls our senses, cognition and behaviours.

Professor Michael Pepper, Director of the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Pretoria, commented on the successful turnout of the conference’s proceedings, stating that it was very successful and well-attended by students and fellow researchers alike.

“Not only do the students learn more about interesting aspects in the field, but they also get to network with professionals who are working in the area,” Prof Pepper added.

Over the past six years, Neuroscience Day has evolved into a truly regional initiative, with a lot of interest from neighbouring institutions as well as the private sector. It therefore not only provides a platform for showcasing neuroscience research at the University of Pretoria, but also encourages collaboration among different research groups within the University itself and even beyond.

Professor Alan St Clair Gibson, Head of the School of Medicine at the University of Free State, was amongst those professionals from neighbouring universities and schools of medicine who have partaken in the conference.

Speaking on the importance of the occasion, Prof St Clair Gibson emphasised the importance of students particularly being more involved in such events so they can open their minds to learn more.

“The most important thing is the science. It is important to bring scientists together to learn,” he added, and that having the students there is “even better, because they are the next generation [of researchers].”

“I think these occasions should be done for more than one field, should be done for everything from finances to genetics and so on, to benefit the students.”

Freedom Thamaga, a third-year BSc Chemistry student, said that she benefitted and learned a lot from the conference. “It gave me an idea of what I am going into in neurosciences. I was inspired hearing from professionals in the field,” she added on the various paths that can be taken in neurosciences.

“I would recommend this to more students. You realise how broad science is and how complex our bodies are. You learn more about yourself and your brain and find out about ways to be healthier,” Ms Thamaga encouraged.

Guest speakers at the event included Dr Michael Knott, specialising in Phytochemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Namibia, Dr Ben Loos from the Department of Physiological Sciences at Stellenbosch University and Dr André Vermeulen, CEO and founder of Neuro-Link.

As the neurosciences start moving towards centre stage because of rapidly evolving developments in cellular and molecular medicine, researchers at the University of Pretoria – through their involvement in several facets of the neurosciences from both a basic research and a clinical perspective – continue to ensure that work in this exciting and highly relevant area is well represented at the University. For more information on Neuroscience Day and the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine, click here.

Above: Mr Derick Brumer (left) describes his own personal journey living with a cognitive–communication disorder during Neuroscience Day 2015. Raising issues around the obstacles that people like him face every day, his inspiring story highlighted the resilience of the human spirit in the face of disability and all its challenges in a largely uninformed society.