Young Neuroscientists Conference - HuNDoC 2023

Monday, 6 March, 2023
Tags: News

The MITT/ANA, a joint conference of the Hungarian and Austrian neuroscience societies, was preceded by a separate but related event.  This was HuNDoC, a national conference for young researchers organized independently by young researchers. It was the sixth in a row.



Going to a conference is usually a good thing, and it is not at all uncommon to meet enthusiastic and talented young researchers who have already achieved great success, or university student researchers, at scientific events on other continents.  Usually, they present their results on posters, but the most interested and confident ones not only ask excellent questions during the posters but also after the presentations of renowned scientists, revealing their deep knowledge of the subject.
But the courage of young researchers can be even greater. They can also organize a national conference for themselves, which is a challenge in terms of organizing a demanding program and securing funding. 

One such conference is the HuNDoC, the Hungarian Neuroscience Doctoral Conference, organized for the sixth time this year for doctoral students working in Hungary. 

It was an independently organized but thematically related event, preceding the joint conference of the Hungarian and Austrian Neuroscience Societies (MITT/ANA).  

The link is shown by the fact that several HuNDoC participants presented their results at the MITT/ANA conference.


The invitation on the HuNDoC website encourages participants of the same age as the organizers - Emilia Bősz, Christina Miskolczi, and Paula Mut Arbona (a Marie Curie fellowship recipient from Spain) - to present their nearly completed work in progress in the relaxed environment of the event, away from their supervisors and without the pressure of compliance. They will also have the opportunity to present their work in progress, in its early stages, projects, and to participate in workshops that will help them to maximize their existing skills while taking care of their mental health, and to hear ideas and examples of how to rethink and refine their career goals.


The organizers have delivered on their promise.

I know this first-hand from three participants from Szeged, whom I had not met before, and with whom I had a conversation in a relaxed environment, away from distractions (such as theme leaders), during lunch at the MITT/ANA conference at the Academy.

I also asked the organizers.


- Congratulations! Organizing a conference with almost a hundred participants, and putting together a full-day program with 17 presentations and over seventy posters, was a great achievement! But why is - can such an event be necessary?



- I think networking is the most important thing. To enable young neuroscientists working in Hungary to get to know each other and each other's work, and to give students the opportunity to practice presenting their results in a tutor- and professor-free environment.


- A relaxed, safe atmosphere helps a lot in networking, but also in learning from each other. For example, how to present their results. It also helps them to actively participate in discussions and debates. There were plenty of opportunities to do this. 

The fact that the event preceded the MITT/ANA meeting also underlines its importance. 


- My first conference was an IBRO conference and I was a bit intimidated by the more experienced participants. Being surrounded by peers who are in the same boat as you, where you can be proud of your hard work and show it to others, and where you can discuss your ideas and experiences with your peers, can be an uplifting, motivating experience. We wanted students to have this opportunity.


- I think most early career researchers would agree. Was there anything else that made this conference different from the "big" conferences?



- A very significant difference is that this conference is free for all participants, so there should be no financial barrier to attending.

It is also special that we do not consider it a disadvantage to present and participate in the conference even if the thesis or dissertation is not yet finished.


- In addition to the 8-minute presentations and the 3-minute elevator speeches, which were a different kind of challenge due to their brevity, the conference featured mini-posters of the young participants' work, which were discussed in the middle of the day. But there was also an invited speaker, and two "workshops" on seemingly unrelated topics. 



- Our invited speaker was Éva Mikics, who spoke about the prefrontal mechanisms of transmitting the behavioral consequences of social adversity in early life, a topic that unfortunately affects more and more people today. The translational research approach is also a good reminder that the ultimate goal is to improve the understanding and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders. It was a great presentation, I am very grateful that you accepted our invitation.


- How were the two workshops?



- The speakers at the career forum (Márton Mayer, Zoltán Varga, Viktor Kis, and Balázs Hangya) all represented different research careers and life stages, so each student could find someone whose goals and motivations matched their own.


- The fact that we had speakers from different fields at this "career forum" was also a good way to have a wide range of answers to questions from those who can't decide whether to stay in academia or go into industry.


- The other workshop had only one speaker!



- We thought it was important to include mental health, as this is a challenging career. That's why we chose a session on the importance of adaptability and resilience, the ability to switch easily, known in professional circles as resilience after its English equivalent. 


- Little Viktor because, as a mental health professional, he wrote his thesis on the subject under the apt title "What makes you bulletproof? 


- This topic is usually underestimated at conferences, but we think it is important to learn about how to develop strategies to cope with stress. **


- What was the best part of the whole exercise for you, what did you feel was the biggest success?



- I enjoyed the conference day the most. I especially liked the frank discussion about career opportunities between the scientific presentations and the great presentation by Viktor Kis. And the smiling attendees and positive feedback about the usefulness of the conference confirmed from the outside that it was a success.


- I also consider it a success that the invitees were as engaged in the discussions and discussions as the other participants.


- There were only three of us organizers, so it took a lot of effort to make everything come together smoothly. But at the end of the day we knew, we had really done it, it worked! It was a moment of success for sure.


- Three of the participants of your conference I spoke to were very satisfied not only with the program, the company, but even the venue and the catering they received. The latter two definitely cost money and a lot of it. Who deserves thanks for that?


- The MITT board and the Buzsáki Foundation. After winning the Brain Prize, the Buzsáki Foundation, which was endowed by György Buzsáki to support Hungarian neuroscience, has now supported us. Thank you!


Speaking of the conference, we should also mention that prizes were awarded.

The Best Lecturer Award and a book voucher accompanying the diploma went to Teadora Tyler (SE) for her presentation "Single cell composition and signaling in the human caudate nucleus - focus on the opioid pathway", while Petra Kovács (BME) received the diploma and a book voucher for the Best Elevator Speech for her presentation "Speech processing in multi-talker situations: the role of speaker similarity". 



**The video of the mental health talk is available here.

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