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Apr 14
2020

Symposium’s poster session highlights the next generation of ALS research

Newest event at the Packard Center’s annual symposium showcases the work of future investigators.

One of the highlights of the 20th annual Packard Center ALS Research Symposium was the addition of a poster session, which allowed young investigators to prepare and present their research to meeting attendees including senior ALS investigators from across the country.  Fellow scientists can provide insight and feedback on both the written results in the poster and on the presentation itself. The Packard Center’s first annual event featured the scientific work of 25 promising young researchers, all of whom traveled to Baltimore for the symposium.

Attendees had the opportunity to view all the posters, listen to the presenters, and ask questions about their research. “This poster session was a great way for us to invest in and engage our young investigators in the scientific process,” noted Jeff Rothstein, Packard Center founder and director. “It allowed our primary investigators and scientific advisors to learn about new and up-and-coming research and it allowed these graduate students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to network and gain valuable feedback on their work.”

A committee of Packard investigators, led by Chris Donnelly, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, judged the posters using a pre-determined scoring criteria, including poster organization, strength of the scientific hypothesis, clarity of figures and tables, quality of results, and the presenter’s communication skills. First place and a runner up prize were awarded and the two presenters were recognized the annual keynote dinner the following evening.

Kevin Guttenplan, a PhD student at Stanford University was award first place for his poster entitled: Reactive astrocytes in neurodegenerative disease focused on dialing down they hyperreactivity of certain types of brain cells in a mouse model of ALS, which extended the life span of these animals. Because brain samples taken from human ALS patients show similar signs of hyperreactivity, Guttenplan hopes that this work may provide a potential therapeutic strategy.

“As a newcomer to the ALS community, my primary motivation to present at this conference was to garner the feedback on our attempts to explore the role of reactive astrocytes in this disease,” he noted. “Winning the poster session was immensely validating of our approach and gave our team a huge spike of motivation to get this study out into the world to hopefully, one day, lead to more beneficial treatments for patients.”

Dongeun Heo, a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University was awarded the runner-up prize for her poster entitled: Stage-specific control of oligodendrocyte survival and morphogenesis by TDP-43. 

For Rothstein, all the submissions were impressive and he is looking to expand the event to include even more presenters next year. “For 20 years, the Packard Center has led the way in ALS collaboration. The addition of the poster session, highlighting these promising students, was a great way to celebrate the Center’s milestone and pave the way for the next generation of scientists,” he noted.

  • Symposium guests were able to mingle throughout the evening and view the work of 25 up-and-coming ALS researchers.

  • Kevin Guttenplan, a PhD candidate from Stanford University (second from left), won first prize at the first annual event.

  • Dongeun Heo, a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University (right), was awarded the runner-up prize for her poster entitled: Stage-specific control of oligodendrocyte survival and morphogenesis by TDP-43. 

  • Nathan Pomper, a PhD candidate from Washington University in St. Louis, explains his poster to two Packard Center board members, Jeff Terkowitz and Ralph Terkowitz.