Project Encephalon: A Phe-neuro-menal Journey



Introduction

Project Encephalon (PE) is an international community and a non-profit based in India, that aims to create an online platform for neuroscience enthusiasts to discuss and learn neuroscience.


We aid students to get exposed to the myriads of realms in this interdisciplinary field, inspiring a holistic approach to brain sciences and allied disciplines and motivating them to become future leaders. We began our journey with a simple ‘Hi’ in the chatbox of the 'Monsoon Brain Meet', and today that gesture has turned into a global venture with 1000+ members representing 40 countries in less than 1 year amidst the pandemic.


Community



Although we comprise individuals from the broad expanse of neuroscience and allied fields like psychology, psychiatry, neurology, bioinformatics, engineering, and computer science, the one synapse that connects us all is our passion to learn about different facets of neuroscience. This multitude of backgrounds propel us to explore topics from a wide range of perspectives and as a result, boosts our understanding of Neuroscience. We host a diverse member base, including high schoolers, undergraduates, graduates, and early career researchers, in addition to a plethora of other professions. We aim to develop an organization that is accessible to everyone regardless of their socioeconomic background. As a result, we do not charge any membership fee, and all our endeavors are free of cost! To enhance unity and ensure a safe space among all nationalities, religions, sexualities, gender identities and expressions, races, castes, ethnicities, and economic and academic backgrounds, we abide by a strict code of conduct and a comprehensive constitution.


Our Work


Journal Club



To promote the academic endeavors of its members, we conduct monthly Journal Clubs, where amateurs and experts from all over the world deliver talks about their research or present peer-reviewed research articles. We have successfully completed eight Journal Clubs and aim to draw more such informative discussions from the confines of a lab and provide a globally inclusive platform for disseminating neuroscientific knowledge. We have even introduced Spotlight Journal Club which is a tri-monthly event where renowned researchers from different disciplines of neuroscience are invited to present a talk and, in the process, inspire the new generation to make it big in the field.


Paper Club



Another initiative that serves to further the academic purpose of PE is the Paper Club. We try to involve our extensive memberbase in an informal discussion on a paper or research article of their choice. The paper is selected from one of the various servers on the Discord channel that hosts this memberbase catering to the varied disciplines in Neuroscience such as Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience, Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience, Psychology, Clinical and Translational Neuroscience, Neurotechnology, and Developmental Neuroscience. In the Paper Club, members are invited to discuss various aspects of the selected paper such as the introduction, experimental procedure, and the future direction of the field involved. Through this we try to help amateurs learn more about the advances in a particular field and provide a platform for professionals to discuss their research interests with a relevant audience. Furthermore, we also give students interested in research a basic idea about the process of reading a research paper which is imperative for a career in research.


NeuroNovember Convention 2020



NeuroNovember was a collaborative youth-led initiative, co-organized by PE, to delve deeper into the fascinating field of neuroscience via a 4-day Convention, which spanned across the last two weekends of November. It was essentially aimed at raising awareness about the issues and topics that neuroscience entails. This unique event featured 23 invited talks, a lab tour, 4-panel discussions, competitions for school and university students, as well as, opportunities to engage and network with leading speakers, organizations, and ventures to benefit the 800+ registered participants.


Blog: We run two mutually exclusive blog series- Sapiens in Neuroscience and NeuroNotes-

Sapiens in Neuroscience: Apart from promoting research in neuroscience, we also deem it necessary to recognize untold stories of people actively shaping the future of Neuroscience and bring them into the spotlight. In light of this, we run an interview series called Sapiens in Neuroscience, where we highlight people contributing to neuroscience, one story at a time!


NeuroNotes: NeuroNotes is our new blog initiative that aims to create awareness on neuroscientific research writing by accepting submissions in all allied arenas of the field. Through this, we aim to provide a holistic perspective on neuroscience to our readers as well as give an opportunity to understand how peer review may work and help finesse writing skills.


Podcast


We are proud to announce that we will be launching our very own podcast series in the following months! We aim to reach out to and connect with the myriad of fantastic neuroscientists around the globe and invite them to talk about their research, their allied fields of interest, some behind-the-scenes which doesn't make it onto their publications, and, their journey so far. It will be really interesting to see how the answers to these questions vary across the different sub-disciplines, ages, and experiences of our guests. So far, we mostly get to interact with our favorite scientists on a sheet of paper, or through recorded seminars and talks; but we aim to bridge that gap with some candor, zest, and delightful conversation, and we want to kick off this venture with all of you! It’s about time that neuroscience conversation became ASMR.


Cajal Week



On May 1, 1852, a legend was born. A legend who radically changed the face of neuroscience forever with his Neuron Doctrine- Santiago Ramón y Cajal. As a tribute to this neuroscience grandmaster, PE organized a week-long event from May 1 to May 7, 2021, to celebrate his 169th birth anniversary. The event itinerary kicked off with a walk down memory lane to recount Cajal’s unparalleled legacy, followed by invited talks, panel discussions, and a host of exciting debates motivated by the intersection of art and neuroscience.


Networking



We run an online platform on Discord where members interact, discuss, and share resources related to neuroscience. PE members are offered an assortment of sub-areas to choose from, based on their specific interests. Owing to the diverse gamut of research-oriented members, one can connect and communicate with other like-minded individuals and exchange ideas critical to individual progress and cogent science.


Guidance



We have an excellent cohort of knowledgeable mentors as our Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) each of whom is a role model in their respective niches. They have been chosen to help bridge the gap between a neuroenthusiast and a neuroscientist. We have planned exclusive mentoring sessions with these esteemed scientists as a part of the ‘Ask SAC’ event, wherein members would have a chance to interact with the SAC, ask questions about their journey in neuroscience, their research interests, career advice, and almost all things pertaining to Neuroscience relevant to the mentor.


Future Goals

In the future, we wish to include a surfeit of new activities like mental health symposia, science communication newsletters and comic series, a mobile application to provide neuroscience-related facts at the user’s fingertips, and a scientific journal. In the long run, we aspire to fund students’ research and provide internship stipends.


We dream of a world where knowledge is not bound by the chains of socio-economic status or any other impediment but is freely available for those who cast around for it. This motto has been instrumental in shaping PE into what it has become today and continues to motivate us to work towards manifesting such a dream into reality in the near future with our combined efforts.



Author: Pranjal Garg, Amartya Pradhan, Anushree Krishnamurthy, Shreshth Shekhar, Meghana Janardhanan, Mohit Kumar Jaiswal





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