Global scholars

April 23, 2010

About 20 Peoria researchers and Bradley faculty members attended a brain symposium in Rome, Italy, on Friday morning.  They did so without ever buying a plane ticket.

Using the technology of the teleconference room in Bradley’s Caterpillar Global Communications Center, the Central Illinois audience was able to listen to a number of presentations by neuroscientists from around the world who had gathered in Rome for the international brain forum.

More than 50 universities and research centers around the world were streaming the symposium live, submitting questions via social mediums to the event’s panelists after each presentation.  Bradley was the only university that was streamed live into the conference and allowed to address the symposium and discuss its new Center for Collaborative Brain Research (CCBR), which was established last month.

“Our center is a combination of researchers from OSF St. Francis Medical Center, Bradley University, Illinois Neurological Institute and the University of Illinois College of Medicine,” Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin, director of the CCBR, told the conference.  “We are really excited because we think we can combine our resources and the expertise of our faculties and create some very cutting-edge research.  We’re interested in how we might connect more with this European faction.”

Bradley’s involvement in the event was organized by Peoria businessman Alexis Khazzam, whose mother was the forum’s coordinator in Rome.

“Three weeks ago, I read in the Journal Star that Bradley had started a brain research center,” Khazzam said.  “So I thought, ‘Perfect, let’s see if Bradley wants to participate in this forum.’  And it’s been great for the University and the conference because Bradley has gotten a lot of international press out of it and the forum gets to have even more of an international presence.”

In addition to insightful presentations by on-hand researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Milan University, the forum also presented a streamed lecture by MIT professor Ed Boyden, who was grounded in Massachusetts because of the Icelandic volcanic eruption last week.  Boyden’s research explained how light has been used to analyze and engineer brain circuits.

“If you would have told me that we could manipulate how the brain works using light, I would have said it was science fiction,” one panelist said after Boyden delivered his presentation. “But Ed Boyden just showed us that it’s science.  I have no doubt this is worthy of a Nobel Prize.”