The Volen National Center for Complex Systems Scientific Retreat 2020

2020 was a challenging year to say the least. The immense success of the Volen Retreat in 2019, when a large group of students, postdocs and faculty went to West Dennis to spend time talking about science and building social ties impelled us to plan a similar off-site retreat for 2020. That plan, however, had to be scrapped in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic and the resultant shut-downs left the Brandeis community hungry for both science and social interactions and it was clear that we needed to try to do something to bring people together. To fill the gap left after the fall cancellation, we designed a one-day virtual retreat and to widen the circle of participants we decided to have the Volen retreat as a joint endeavor with the Molecular and Cellular Biology program.

The virtual retreat, on September 25, 2020 was kicked off by a keynote talk from Dr. Daniel Kronauer of Rockefeller University. Dr. Kronauer described the amazing and sophisticated studies of the genetic underpinnings of complex social behaviors in ants. This talk greatly appealed to our very broad audience of 186 students, postdocs, staff members and faculty. The keynote was followed by a panel discussion on COVID-19. The panel consisted of Brandeis scientists who had actively pivoted their research programs to grapple with the pandemic and was fueled by questions submitted from the audience. The next talk was from Dr. Maria Madison who challenged the audience to think about the social issues that history and recent events have brought to the fore. The rest of the day was devoted to hearing from our wonderful trainees in both long talk and data blitz format.

The retreat, while not what we had planned, was critical as a check-in and morale-lifter for the Volen community. We are still doing science, we are still engaged and eager. Hopefully next year will allow us to actually meet in person.

The Volen National Center for Complex Systems Scientific Retreat Schedule

September 25, 2020

10:00 AM

Dr. Daniel Kronauer (Keynote)
"Differentiation, Communication, and Emergence in Ant Societies"

11:00 AM

COVID19 Research Panel

12:00 PM

Break for Lunch

1:30 PM

Dr. Maria Madison (Special Seminar)
"Bias in Science: Race, Origin, & Impact from Dubois (1906) to Venter (21st century).
The legacy of Enlightenment."

2:30 PM

Data Blitz Talks:

3:10 PM

Postdoc Talks