The EC Review

By Brittany Copp & Dan Manvich, Executive Committee Student Rep

Originally published February 2008.

The executive committee recently had the great pleasure of sitting down with the newly appointed director of both the Neuroscience Initiative and the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, Dr. Dennis Choi. Dr. Choi describes the Neuroscience Initiative as “one of several university-wide initiatives designed to leverage resources, enhance interdisciplinary collaborations, and provide cohesive foci for academic investment. Opportunities for compelling inquiry often arise at the borders of established disciplines.
One can see this happening in the neurosciences, as we begin to learn enough about the human mind – its abilities, limitations, and propensities — to gain useful insights into other areas of intellectual endeavor, including the social sciences and humanities.” The
committee was able to offer input that ultimately resulted in the following mission statement for the initiative:

Through inquiry and broad integration of disciplines, the Emory Neurosciences Initiative seeks to contribute to an understanding of the mind: its emergence from the brain, its nature, and its social interfaces. The Initiative also seeks to apply this understanding to the benefit of society, including the promotion of nervous system health, and the teaching of others so that they will carry on this mission.    

The Comprehensive Neuroscience Center is designed to address the health-related parts of the Initiative. “The CNC seeks to promote nervous system health through premier clinical care, translational neuroscience research, and education; it specifically aims to develop new ways of integrating care delivery – both preventative and reactive –around patients.” Dr. Choi brings years of experience to the Emory neuroscience community, including time spent as a neuroscience researcher, head of Neurology and Director of two research Centers at Washington University (the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience and the Center for the Study of Nervous System Injury), and as executive
vice president for neurosciences at Merck Research Labs. He did his PhD training at Harvard in the lab of Dr. Gerry Fischbach.

When asked what role he saw the neuroscience program playing in these organizations
and how these organizations would affect the NS program, Dr. Choi had this to say:       “The Neuroscience Graduate Program clearly played a key role in the development of Emory’s neuroscience effort – long-time faculty have told me that the Program was very much the “glue” that brought faculty from different departments together around shared interests. I see it continuing to play a key role in the Neurosciences Initiative and CNC moving forward, as the Program is inherently cross-cutting and aligned with goals. I hope that conversely the Neurosciences Initiative and the CNC will contribute to the continued success of Emory’s Neuroscience Graduate Program, and moreover, to the continued success of the Graduate School. Indeed, further growth in Emory’s large neuroscience research effort (currently responsible for more than a third of Emory’s NIH funding) will necessitate consideration of increasing the size of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.”

Dan Manvich
Dan Manvich

Keep your eyes and ears open for announcements regarding NI and CNC seminars and mixers to come in the near future.
The EC would also like to introduce the most recent additions as full training faculty to the NS program, Lih-Shen Chin (Pharmacology), Thaddeus Pace (Psychiatry), Gretchen Neigh
(Psychiatry), Nicholas Boulis (Neurosurgery), Subhabrata Sanyal (Cell Biology), Joseph Manns (Psychology), and Ranjita Betarbet (Neurology). They each bring active research programs and expertise to the neuroscience program. Be sure to check them out on the neuroscience website A huge round of applause goes out to the entire Admissions Committee (Shawn Hochman-Chair, Beth Buffalo, Ping Chen, Tim Duong, Art English, Andrew Escayg, Don Rainnie, Pete Wenner, and student reps Mike Kelly and Becky Seaman) for reviewing all of this year’s applications and making the difficult decisions regarding who to invite for interviews.
This year over 40 of the best and brightest students are going to visit the Emory neuroscience program over the course of two recruitment weekends, February
14th-16th and February 28th-March 1st. If you would like to know how you
can help please contact Mike Kelly ( or Becky Seaman (

Brittany Copp
Brittany Copp

This past year, the Neuroscience Program initiated a special seminar series targeted to advanced graduate students (4th-year and higher). This seminar was initially designed as a way to allow students to present their research findings in preparation for their thesis
defense. Recently, many students met with Yoland Smith (program director) and Larry Young (co-director of graduate studies) to further develop the seminar format. The seminars will now take on more of a “journal club” feel, where students are not limited to presenting their own dissertation research, but instead are able to discuss any topic of
interest, such as a recent publication, exciting results from a pilot study, etc. Final decisions about the specifics of the seminar series will be made in February.


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