UAB in Norway: Celebrating my mentor

"The whole evening reminded me why I am pursuing science."

remy meir leknes partyMy friend Ria and me at the celebratory dinner for Dr. Leknes.Editor’s Note: For the 2018-2019 academic year, UAB had a record number of students and alumni selected for the prestigious Fulbright Student Program, the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Four of the six award recipients are from the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, including Remy Meir. An Auburn, Alabama, native, Meir has been awarded the Fulbright Study/Research grant to conduct research at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway. Meir graduated from UAB Honors College in Spring 2018 with a bachelor's degree in neuroscienceHer research project will focus on stress as a potential risk factor for addiction. 

We’re excited to feature monthly posts from Remy as she chronicles her Fulbright experience, which began in August at the University of Oslo.

By Remy Meir

Wine, speeches, dancing, and oh yeah, lots of science. This describes one of my favorite evenings I have had since arriving in Oslo as a Fulbright Scholar.

My research mentor at the University of Oslo, Dr. Siri Leknes, received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford under the guidance of one of the biggest names in pain research, Dr. Irene Tracey. However, Dr. Leknes was a bit disappointed when she found out that in Oxford people do not have big professorial dinners to celebrate the completion of their doctoral degrees. In Scandinavian countries, when one successfully defends their dissertation and earns their Ph.D., it is truly a celebration. Dr. Leknes would talk about grand dinners with intermittent speeches followed by a lively party.

Since Dr. Leknes did not have a professorial dinner after earning her Ph.D., she decided to host one in celebration of becoming a full professor at the University of Oslo. She started off the day by hosting an Affective Neuroscience Symposium in which some of her closest colleagues came to speak about their current research. The lectures started with Dr. Irene Tracey giving a talk titled "All Pain and No Pleasure," and ended with a talk by Dr. Marie Eikemo and Guro Løseth, who discussed the current projects in the Leknes Affective Brain Lab, where I've also been conducting my research project through the Fulbright Fellowship. It was exciting to see the people that Dr. Leknes has been able to work with throughout the years, from her Ph.D. supervisor to her post-doc advisor, all the way to the people she now mentors in her own lab. It was exciting for me to see all the different paths you can take with your research. Just because you start in one lab with one particular focus, it does not mean you cannot grow to fit the focus of other labs and then develop a focus for your own lab.

Dr. Siri LeknesMy research mentor, Dr. Siri Leknes, giving her toast about getting full professorship.Dr. Leknes has one of those infectious personalities that is equally great for getting students excited about a lecture and for hosting grand parties. In the evening, we had a lavish three-course dinner at the National Museum and, as is typical in Scandinavian celebrations, there were a number of speeches given by her past mentors and current mentees. Each person talked about how innovative, intelligent, and inspired Dr. Leknes was as a researcher and a person. After dinner, I was able to speak with the people who helped her along her path. I never thought I would have the chance to speak with the likes of Dr. Irene Tracey, but there I was with her in the museum gift shop discussing my past research projects and societal implications of the data.

The whole evening reminded me why I am pursuing science. I love being surrounded by people who encourage me to see the world in different ways and to ask interesting questions. I left that dinner filled with good wine, great food, and high spirits. I was reminded that science does not always have involve sitting in a room surrounded by mice or struggling with statistics. Sometimes it is just about coming together with your peers and sharing ideas, and sometimes that happens at the best party of the year.

Pictured below: I did a lot of hiking this month outside the city of Stavanger in Western Norway. Two hikes were to Preikestolen and Kjerag: Preikestolen is the flat sheer cliff and Kjerag is the rock that is wedged between two cliffs.

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