Young PNS

A space for young neuroscientists, members and fans of PNS.

Young PNS is a group of students, young scientists and disseminators of knowledge. We help spread information about what is happening in the world of neuroscience, here and now.

Thanks to close collaboration with PNS members, students and young scientists can see what is means to “be a scientist” and what scientific research looks like “behind the scenes”. Young PNS is involved in projects such as: the UJOT TV science program, interviews conducted for Neurotalks (with students from University of Warsaw) as well as our society’s social media. Young neuroscientists have the opportunity to share their stories of early adventures on their scientific career path, often leading to work in scientific institutes abroad. You can read our first interviews below.

Young PNS will be involved in organising and running the 16th international PNS conference in Toruń.

We encourage all those fascinated with the mysteries of the nervous system to contact us. We especially welcome collaboration with science clubs and societies from other universities.

Currently, Young PNS mainly consists of Jagiellonian University Students affiliated with the Neuronus Science Club.

Neuronus Science Club spreads neuroscience knowledge and collaborates with scientists from all over Poland. The members spread their time between studying and activity within the club, creating the NeuronuSound podcast (available on Spotify), organising scientific conferences, participating in Polish events such as Biologists’ Night, Brain Week and BrainBee. Workshops, interviews, thematic panels, open lectures and science projects, in which students of different departments and universities participate, are only a fraction of what goes on in the full-of-live city of Krakow. With globalization we are unstoppable – all in order to share our passion for science.

Interviews and meetings with neuroscientists:

Intwerviews and meetingsOther
Interview with Maciej KaniaNeuronus 2022 – report
Professor Richard Frąckowiak’s Lecture
Interview with Magdalena Chrószcz

Interview with Maciej Kania

Another interview from our #beyondborders series! If you want to find out about the internship program Erasmus+ and bilateral exchange, we encourage you to read our conversation with Maciej Kania.

#beyondborders: Maciej Kania – Klosterneuburg – Austria – Montreal – Canada

I met with Maciek – a third year neurobiology student at Jagiellonian University to hear about his fascinating adventures abroad and his passion for science.

JK: Hi, I’m so happy we were able to meet.

MK: Hi, it’s nice to meet you. It’s great seeing someone from school in real life and not on a computer screen (laughs).

JK: Oh definitely (laughs). Maybe we should start from the beginning. Where did you first travel and how did it come about?

MK: First I left for a bilateral exchange to Montreal University in Quebec, Canada. A semester of their Neuroscience program. The recruitment process was simple – I received an email announcing this contest and I responded (laughs).

Of course, as always, it didn’t play out without any challenges. It was an addition recruitment in the summer between my first and second year. All because of the pandemic. During that time I had officially finished my first year and was signed up for my second year, and it turned out that second year students weren’t able to apply for the exchange. I had no idea about this, so I applied anyway. I got in, went through the entire recruitment process until finally I arrived at the office to receive some documents and the worker their asked me: What year are you in at the moment. I responded: My second. To which she said: Oh, well then actually you can’t go (laughs).

So I went through the entire procedure all the way to my nomination for the trip and it turned out I can’t go. Because of COVID they closed everything again, and there were no exchanges. Theoretically I could have had a spot on the exchange, but I had to deliver a couple of documents to be apply again for my third year: average grades, extra curricular activities etc. I can consider myself very lucky – there aren’t a lot of applicants for French, whereas I love it. I have a confirmed C1+ level.

JK: What did the university program look like in Canada?

MK: In the beginning, before I left, I had to select my courses with the program directors in Canada and Poland. I chose some subjects, but encountered a problem – the syllabuses weren’t available. It doesn’t work the same way as here. You get access to the syllabus at the beginning of the course. In the end, I found out which subjects I actually took once the semester started, which was problematic. I had to choose 4 to 5 courses , each for 6 ECTS points. The lectures lasted 3 hours. Usually there were 10 minute breaks each our, or a longer break in the middle. I liked how it was organised because classes were either from 9-12 or 1-4, which made it really easy to organise the day. It’s not all over the place like here. Also, the exams were decided from the beginning. During the very first classes the lecturers gave us the time, place and type of exam – this really helped plan out the whole semester.

JK: Despite the pandemic did you have any in-person classes?

MK: Yes, all of the lectures were in person. Apart from that I had one computer lab. It was very interesting and had to do with the work I’m involved in. We simulated two neurons in MatLAB. I could manipulate different parameters ad see how it changed their response and interactions.

The classes weren’t all lead by one person. Different researchers conducted the lectures depending on what their expertise was. For example we had a lecture on methods used in neuroscience and there was a lot of information of the use of monkeys in research. The class was conducted by Quebec based researchers, who actually conduct these types of studies, so we got the information “right from the source” so to speak. They told us what’s it’s like to work with these animals, what it looks like, how you obtain permission for these studies etc. I liked that the lecturers were very open and invited the students into their laboratories to see what their work looks like. You could go up to them after the class. It was helpful for the local students, because they then had the opportunity to apply for internships and had an idea of where the research that they were most interested in was conducted. I think this is missing in Poland. Students have to blindly choose their internship institutes and even supervisors.

JK: did you experience a language barrier?

MK: The language aspect was funny. Officially it’s a French language university. In practice it was varied. Most lectures were in French – they were sometimes difficult to understand, because of the Quebec accent. Part of them were in English, because it was easier that way for some of the lecturers, who don’t speak French on a daily basis. Like I mentioned, the accent in Quebec is very particular and sometimes hard to understand. For this reason I struggled to keep up with the classes, but ultimately I managed (laughs).

JK: Apart from the bilateral exchange you also did an internship in Austria. Could you talk about that a little bit?

MK: Sure. After my adventures in Canada I applied through Erasmus+ for an internship in Austria’s Institute of Science and Technology. The laboratory that I joined worked on neuron dynamics, modeling their behaviour with programming tools, neural networks and neuroplasticity. I was accepted, so I got packed, bought a ticket and off I went. The first week was a little bit weird – a new place, new people. Everyone was busy. The internship began with me reading articles and books. After that I got some assignments from PhD students. Together with my supervisor we planned a project, which I included in my bachelor’s thesis. Work on the project was very intense. I usually spent the day reading, programming and simulating neurons. I wanted to finish everything before going back. The atmosphere was nice – open and friendly. During that time there were a lot of Covid restrictions. There weren’t many people in the lab and everyone had to wear masks and get a PCR covid test twice a week. In terms of the work itself I really liked how much knowledge I was able to gain, and I felt like I could ask about everything – I wasn’t left to fend for myself, I could always get help when I had a problem.

JK: Could you tell me a some more details?

MK: Of course! (laughs). I was part of Professor Tim Vogel’s group, which dealt with Computational Neuroscience and Neurotheory. I mainly worked on inhibitory synaptic plasticity in neural networks. The biggest part of my work was studying the subject (laughs). I read everything I could about modeling networks and rules in plasticity, especially STDP.

In the first part of my internship I tried to reproduce the model and results of prof. Vogels, prof. Sprekeler and other researchers. I simulated one cell, which received certain stimuli from plastic inhibitory connections to this neuron. Next, I simulated a network of 10 thousand neurons like this. After that I tried changing different factors, for example I used a different type of connection between neurons. I checked what happens – what the neuron activation looks like and how the frequency of generated action potentials changes in the network. Finally I implemented memory patterns (similar to engrams).

The modeling and simulating required writing code and mathematical equations describing the state of the neuron, it’s connections and changes to weight.

JK: Sounds impressive! You must have put a lot of heart and hard work into it.

MK: Yes, but this is something that I’m very passionate about, so the workload didn’t bother me too much. I could even say it was enjoyable (laughs).

JK: For sure (laughs). Thank you so much for the interview and good luck on your future research!

MK: Thank you.

The interview with Maciej Kania was conducted by Julia Kołodziejak.

Neuronus 2022 – report

From 15-17.10.2022 the 12th Neuronus Neuroscience Forum Conference took place in Jagiellonian University’s Auditorium Maximum. It is the largest international neuroscience conference taking place in Poland, organised biannually by Jagiellonian University students.🧠🧪

With help from the UJOTTV editors, a short report from this extraordinary event was prepared, which you can see here.

Professor Richard Frąckowiak’s Lecture

On 19.10.2022 in the UJOT TV studio we hosted prof. Richard Frąckowiak, who lead a lecture titled “The Future of Human Brain Science.” The meeting was organized by members of the student PTBUN group from Jagiellonian University’s Neuronus Club. The professor’s appearance was a moderated conversation, including a discussion with the audience both in person and online. Participants could ask our guest about topics related to general neuroscience, his career, academic achievement etc. The events was livestreamed on the Young PTBUN website and on Facebook, and is now available on our YouTube channel. You can watch it here.

About the speaker:

Prof. Richard Frąckowiak is a British doctor, scientist, neurologist and neurobiologist of Polish origin. He was a professor of cognitive neurology at University College London, where he founded the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging. He ran the medical platform “The Human Brain Project”. He’s one of the authors of the highly cited articles on structural changes in the hippocampi of taxi drivers. He is an honorary professor of Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the American Neurological Association. He is widely cited (Google H-index of 209) and is the winner of many awards.

Interview with Magdalena Chrószcz:

If you’ve ever thought about studying abroad, but weren’t sure if it’s a good idea, definitely read our interview with Magdalena Chrószcz, a 5th year neurobiology student at Jagiellonian University! After completing an internship in Germany she decided to share her experience and show us that crossing borders is worth it. We warmly invite you for the interview.

#beyondborders: Magdalena Chrószcz – Mannheim – Germany

We were sitting across from each other in a small café. There was music playing in the background and you could here the faint hiss of a coffee machine. There were many people inside – everyone had escaped the January cold. The topic of our conversation complemented the atmosphere of this place. We were surrounded by foreigners, bent over laptops, notebooks and coffee, speaking in different languages. We had met to talk about Magda’s internship, which she had completed in 2021.

JK: Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. I think a lot of people would like to find out about your trip. Could you first say a few words about the place you travelled to?

MC: Of course. In September of 2021 I travelled to Germany, to Mannheim for a scientific internship. Specifically – to the Institute for Pharmacology of the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim.

JK: How did you end up there?

MC: During the last Neuronus conference I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Hansen. My supervisor at the time was the hosting the conference and had invited this scientist. I really enjoyed her talk and I wanted to find out more about her research. I had been thinking about travelling for some time and the idea of combining a trip abroad with developing my scientific interests was a dream come true for me. I decided to write to Dr. Hansen to inquire, if such an internship was possible. Of course there were many unknowns – the pandemic did not help with such ventures. Ultimately I received a positive response and I could begin working on completing all the formalities and organising my trip. My supervisor was a big help in this. With his support I was able to make it through this crazy process. In fact, he was the one to suggest that the Mannheim institute would be a great place for an internship.

JK: What year were you in at this point?

MC: I was in my fourth year, so the first year of my master’s degree. Due to the situation in the world at this time everything was uncertain and despite the fact that I had contacted Dr. Hansen in December, right until I left I wasn’t sure if my trip would happen. Dr. Hansen couldn’t give me a certain answer, because the decision to allow students to work in the institute didn’t come until the spring. It was quite amusing, that during the Erasmus recruitment I still didn’t know if I would make the trip. Ultimately I left in September and was in Germany until December 2021.

JK: What was it like to find an apartment and support yourself financially once you were there?

MC: Thanks to the Erasmus scholarship, which was about 550 euros, I didn’t feel too much of a difference between Poland and Germany, although it was not enough money to fully support me. The room I rented I had found on my own accord. Of course, it was probably possible to find something cheaper, but once you’re there searching for an apartment is not so easy (laughs). I believe there are institutions that help with accommodation, but I didn’t use them. What’s interesting is that once I was there I found out I needed proof of having gotten the measles vaccine. In Germany they require this document in health institutes (the institute that I was attending was connected to a psychiatric hospital). That meant I had to call my doctor in Poland to ask if he had this certificate somewhere in the archives and if he could send me a scan (laughs). There was a little commotion, but in the end everything worked out and I could begin working.

JK: What exactly did your work involve?

MC: The institute mostly deals with alcohol addiction and their scientists work on mouse models of this addiction. The topic of my internship was habitual behaviours and how they’re related to addiction. I really enjoyed this topic – it was incredibly interesting and the research was very well designed. I was lucky in that I arrived at the beginning of the project, so I had time to find my footing and slowly join the team. There hadn’t been many results by this stage so it was relatively easy to grasp everything. I was mostly involved in running behavioural tests and stereotactic operations, but of course I also did other things – office work like filling out reports, recording results, preparing documents for upcoming experiments… The most interesting moment was when I was performing an operation with some other students. We injected constructs with a protein – an ion channel blocker – to the dorsomedial striatum. We were looking at this structure’s role in addiction. We did this in a small room without windows – sometimes we would sit there for many hours at a time. After coming out we would all be shocked – reality, light, it exists! (laughs). The things that we do for science…

JK: Was every day rather similar or was your time there an adventure from start to finish?

MC: (Laughs) The latter. There wasn’t something like a “typical day”. Everything depended on what stage we were at in the experiments and “what there was to do”. However, if I had to describe an average day, I’d usually arrive at the laboratory by 9 or 10. In the morning I dealt with office work and later we’d run experiments. At the end we would record our results. It sounds tedious and boring, but when you’re there in the moment, you don’t feel the routine of it or passing of time. It really was interesting. On top of that the atmosphere in the lab was great. I worked mostly with PhD students and other students so we got along very well.

JK: How was the social side of it – despite the heavy workload did you have find free-time for fun activities?

MC: It’s definitely true that we worked a lot. That’s the thing that struck me the most after my return, is that in Germany they work much more. With that also comes a greater need to unwind (laughs). I met many wonderful people and we had a lot of fun in our down-time. I was even able to sightsee a little bit. Mannheim is very well connected with other parts of the country – you can get pretty much anywhere by train. I was in Heideberg, where I had the enormous pleasure to attend a Frans de Waal lecture, whose books I devoured long before the trip. The university in Heideberg is a thriving research center and at any time of year there’s always something going on there. There’s a huge variety of events for people fascinated with science. I was also in Strasburg. There’s really a lot of possibilities.

JK: Would you recommend it to other students?

MC: Of course! Setting aside the possibility to develop yourself as a scientist that an internship provides, living in a place completely unfamiliar to me caused me to get to know myself better and become much more confident. I think it’s a extraordinary adventure and definitely worth it.

JK: Thank you so much for this conversation, I appreciate your time. I hope we see each other soon on campus.

MC: See you!

The interview with Magdalena Chrószcz was conducted by Julia Kołodziejak.

Currently, Young PNS is supervised by Dr. Hab. Anna Błasiak and Dr. Hab. Ewelina Knapska.

Young PNS Team Members:

Agata Machaczka – president
Gabriela Stopka – secretary

Student Televison:
Karolina Nowalińska
Emilia Goszczyńska
Aurelia Pogoda
Gabriela Czerniak
Artur Iwo Ryś 

Gabriela Stopka
Gabriela Czerniak

Social Media:
Julia Garstka
Aurelia Pogoda
Julia Kołodziejak

Website + YT:
Dawid Kozłowski
Artur Iwo Ryś 

Translation to English:
Natasha Adamus

Julia Kołodziejak

Statute of Young PNS