Among many interesting talks on topics ranging from autism to cancer detection to artificial intelligence in imaging, this year’s recipients of QBIN training abroad scholarships, Jérémie Fouquet and Shu Xing, gave presentations about their experiences in Jena (Germany) and Nashville (USA) respectively.

In the afternoon, 44 students had the opportunity to present their research results via poster presentations. Despite a rather unconventional format due to poster board being delivered to the wrong location, the poster session was very successful thanks to the resourcefulness of scientists, and seven prizes were awarded to the best posters. Many of the presented posters are available for download here.

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Former QBIN director Julien Doyon (center) pitches in a helping hand during the unconventional poster session

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New QBIN director, Martin Lepage (far right) and this year’s poster prize winners

During the general meeting of the network, the QBIN directorship was officially handed over to Dr. Martin Lepage and co-director Dr. Christine Tardif by founding former director Dr. Julien Doyon. In his inaugural speech, Dr Lepage, who has served as co-director of QBIN for the past 8 years, highlighted Dr. Doyon’s exceptional leadership and lasting contributions to the network. As a thank you gift, the network offered him a painting by artist, scientist, and QBIN member, AmanPreet Badhwar.

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New QBIN director, Martin Lepage (right) presents a gift of a painting by AmanPreet Badhwar (left) to former director Julien Doyon (middle)

Finally, the 13th William Feindel NeuroImaging Lecture was given by Dr. Cheryl Grady of the University of Toronto on the topic of age differences in the dynamic range of brain activity and the implications for cognition.

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Former director Julien Doyon (left) and William Feindel NeuroImaging Lecture presenter, Cheryl Grady (right)

To learn more about her research and highly successful career, QBIN Communications Officer, Estrid Jakobsen, conducted a brief and informal interview with Cheryl Grady, who offered some advice and inspiration for current students and aspiring scientists. The following has been edited for length and clarity:

What made you want to become a scientist?
I’ve always been very curious and I like solving puzzles, and somewhere along the way I decided that science was a good way to scratch that itch. By the time I finished high school I knew I wanted to be a scientist.

What do you want to achieve with your research?
This is not going to happen in my remaining time in research, but I would like to understand how older brains are different. If we can use that knowledge to improve people's’ quality of life as they get older, that would be the main goal. I’d like us to be able to help people when and where they need help, and importantly, avoid helping them where they don’t need help!

Can you talk about a turning point or a particular defining moment in your research?
Starting relatively early in my career, I was very excited about functional connectivity. Before the invention of MRI we were studying functional connectivity using PET scans. With this method we were computing correlations across individuals in static PET images, as opposed to correlations across time within individuals. This was very exciting and new at the time, and I still think connectivity and network structure is what we should be working on, rather than looking at the functions of individual brain regions independently from others.

What is your favorite thing about your work?
I have two favorite things! The first is playing with data, and the second is mentoring my trainees. I’m still in touch with most of my old students, and I find it very gratifying to watch them grow up and start their own careers successfully.

What would you change about academia/the way science works if you could?
The way it’s funded. What happens in the current system is that PIs spend an awful lot of time writing and rewriting grants rather than actually doing science. Things like foundation grants are supposed to change that by freeing up time, but I wish there could be more salary stability for young researchers. I’m nearing the end of my career and I hope to retire in a few years, but I can see it’s becoming more and more difficult for young scientists and the funding success rates are very low. Nevertheless, even if you choose not to stay in academia, I certainly don’t think it’s a waste of time getting a PhD!