International Research Center for Neurointelligence (IRCN) at the University of Tokyo

Ellen Underwood

Hongo Campus Sanshiro Pond

This summer has been an absolutely incredible experience so far! For the first part of my research internship, I have been based in Tokyo, studying at the International Research Center for Neurointelligence (IRCN) at the University of Tokyo with Dr. Yoko Yazaki-Sugiyama. I first had the opportunity to work with Dr. Yazaki-Sugiyama last summer at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and was fortunate enough to be able to return to work with her again this summer. My research has been primarily focused on the song-learning process in zebra finches and I have been studying a tissue clearing and imaging method called CLARITY to visualize molecular factors in the brain at a more global scale. This process has been fascinating, and outside of my own project, it is extremely exciting to be a part of the newly established IRCN and to be immersed in an environment of such diverse and collaborative research. We have had amazing opportunities to participate in workshops and seminars on a wide variety of subjects, as well as visit the other campuses of University of Tokyo. Hearing about other types of work that are ongoing here in Japan has been very inspirational.

Okinawa Beach

Even more fortunately for me, I had the chance to return to Okinawa to study at OIST for a short time period in the middle of my internship. There, I was able to use a state-of-the-art lightsheet microscope to image some of the samples that I prepared in Tokyo. Additionally, I gained familiarity using advanced imaging processing software to analyze the vast amounts of data generated by these images. Finally seeing the results of my efforts rendered in three dimensions was immensely rewarding. And getting to spend time studying on the beautiful island of Okinawa was an additional plus—I was overjoyed to reunite with some of the lab members and students that I had met at OIST last year and pleasantly surprised to realize the strength of connections that I have already been able to forge around the world. I hope and plan to maintain these ties, as well as new connections that I have had the chance to build in Tokyo this summer, well into the future.

IRCN with Atsuko