International Pain Summer School

 

 

Scientists of SFB1158 teamed up with faculty from the Canadian Pain Network as well as leading pain scientists in Germany to organize a summer school with a sharp focus on interrogating, discussing and debating on structure-function properties of neural circuits of key importance to acute and chronic pain as well as their reorganisation over pain chronicity.

Funded generously by the Volkswagen Foundation, this was a stimulating and highly rewarding experience for the SFB1158 trainees as well as international participants (USA, Canada, & Brazil amongst several European countries), who constituted about 50% each of the trainee population.

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The relaxed atmosphere enabled faculty and trainees to interact on a personal level

The mood of the 5 day-long summer school was vibrant, interactive and scientifically demanding while being relaxing at the personal level and marked by high quality science interspersed with highly enjoyable faculty-trainee interactions.

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Richard Carr and Walter Magerl demonstrating QST in their methods workshop

The school was structured into many distinct units, including refresher core courses, special research lectures, trainee data-blitz talks, methods-oriented workshops, debates and project defence. The gender-balanced German and international faculty comprised of highly acclaimed scientists from clinical and basic domains, representing not only multiple facets of pain but also other relevant disciplines, such as fear & anxiety, depression, synaptic plasticity, immunology and imaging.

A very well-received feature of the summer school were the special method workshops on novel technologies, both on rodents and humans, organised in small groups by young scientists and junior faculty from SFB1158. Another highly popular feature were the student debates about controversial topics of high relevance for the pain community

Disguised as a ‘fun’ feature, it was evident that the debates encouraged trainees to think independently, discuss controversial issues, crystallize key arguments for and against scientifically disputed issues, and, importantly, consider and respect different points of view.

Postdoctoral trainees on the brink of starting their own research groups were particularly excited about a project defence workshop, in which trainees developed and defended a virtual project proposal from scratch. Postdoctoral trainees could recruit their own team from the participant trainee pool and plan a virtual laboratory. Experienced international faculty judged proposed projects on account of originality, coherence and feasibility and gave personal, detailed feedback to participating teams.

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The direct exchange during the debates greatly enriched the experience

In candid feedback, all trainees lauded the school program strongly, but also expressed a wish to have a less intense program, more time for debate preparation and more personal time with the faculty, which we duly note and will act upon in the future.

We are very pleased that this scientifically intense and personally enjoyable experience was seen as a career landmark by SFB1158 trainees, which also brought them in close contact with their international counterparts. That they bonded very well, personally and scientifically, is evidenced by the Facebook page they independently founded for the International Pain Summer School.

The organisers are very grateful towards the trainees and the faculty for making it a major success and all eyes are now turned to 2018 for the next event!

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