On Thursday, Sept. 17, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney gave a lecture beginning a yearlong celebration of neuroscience within the Trinity community. Overseeing the festivities was neuroscience department chair Prof. Sarah Raskin. Students, faculty, and the Hartford community packed the Washington room last Thursday to listen to the president discuss her years of research on Rett Syndrome, a form of autism exclusive to girls.
The president’s lecture was segmented in two parts: The first, a general overview of Rett Syndrome, and the second being an in-depth accounting of the known genetic causes and possible treatments. Much of her research has been focused on trying to establish possible treatments for the condition as well as to recreate and test the work of others to help assess the validity of their research.
Throughout her talk, the president shared many personal anecdotes and continuously stressed persistence. She realated her experience of trying to gain the attention of a famed neuroscience researcher, which took her many phone calls. The President also playfully recounted an experience where her lab rats were sent from a colleague’s lab in Boston to her lab at Wellesley College via taxicab. On a more serious note, her research has revealed several causes of Rett Syndrome and identified several treatments. In her research, Dr. Berger-Sweeny has tested the effectiveness of her colleague’s treatments, though in several regrettable cases she found them to be ineffective. Fortunately, her joint research with a fellow colleague has produced and patented a compound they hope might be a viable treatment.
President Berger-Sweeney concluded her talk with some advice to budding young scientists; persist, ask questions, and ensure you have a strong support group. The president thanked her family for their tireless support of her as well as thanking her many colleagues in the scientific community, as well as her many undergraduate research assistants. President Berger-Sweeney’s lecture set the stage for a year which will feature a divers array of neuroscience related events, ranging from art and music, to scientific symposiums and guest lectures.