OXFORD, Miss. – If public peer acknowledgement of genius is every researcher’s dream, then the third annual University of Mississippi-University of Mississippi Medical Center Research Day was a scientist’s dream come true.
More than 200 participants were on hand to present their work and explore collaborations through a series of lectures and posters Thursday (April 13) in the Inn at Ole Miss Ballroom. Alternating each year between the Oxford and Jackson campuses, Research Day is meant to facilitate communication and collaboration between the campuses through a series of lectures, breakout sessions, and posters.
The theme of this year’s event was “Nurturing Collaboration.”
“Research Day provides a great opportunity to bring our researchers together to increase awareness and build synergies,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in opening remarks. “Collaboration across the university helps us build upon our R1 Carnegie ‘highest research activity’ designation by accelerating and inspiring solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges.”
Research Day has been a successful tool for fostering increased interactions between the Oxford and Medical Center campuses, said Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC.
“It has allowed our investigators to learn more about each other’s work and find areas for potential collaboration,” Summers said. “By strengthening this connection, we increase the potential for scientific discoveries and advancements that improve human health and society.”
During the morning session, Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde, professor of neuroscience at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, presented a keynote lecture on “Keeping an Eye Out for Collaboration.” Her discussion combined her main research on eye movements with her research into the neural bases of magic.
In her primary research, Martinez-Conde and her team use a combination of techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological recording from single neurons, psychophysical measurements and computational models of visual function.
“Our research focuses on understanding the neural bases of our visual experience,” Martinez-Conde said.
Research such as Martinez-Conde’s contributes to the “cycle of innovation” that Vitter describes as important to attracting the best and brightest faculty and students to Mississippi.
Research Day is “a great event for UM researchers to explore connections that will help solve some of society’s grand challenges,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. New elements were introduced this year to foster more individual and small interest group conversations such as speed networking, breakout sessions and extended breaks.
Another focus of Research Day were the Flagship Constellation Talks, which emanate from the Flagship Constellations Initiative that Vitter announced during his investiture speech in November.
The purpose of the initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges where no one discipline has all the answers and collaboration is key. It will involve the formation of innovative, multidisciplinary research and creative achievement clusters of faculty, staff, students, alumni and external partners.
Afternoon breakout sessions focused on resilience, sustainability, ecology, health and diseases, “STEM and Big Data” and “The South: History and Future.”
Exemplifying the spirit of collaboration, the afternoon keynote was co-delivered by Walt Chambliss, UM director of technology management; Soumyajit Majumdar, associate professor of pharmacology; and Daniel Riche, associate professor of pharmacy practice. The trio addressed “Beside to Bench: An Accelerated Pharmaceutical Development Program.”
The entire event was a tremendous success, Gladden said.
“We’ve had a lot of energy in the room throughout the day,” he said in his closing remarks. “There were 200 registrants and even more people dropping by to view posters and listen to presentations.
“Our keynote speakers inspired everyone with their great messages about the importance of sharing and teamwork. I believe that we expect even greater collaborations between the researchers on all our campuses following this.”