The Disadvantage of Long-Distance Relationships

August 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

Despite advanced communication technologies that enable distance collaboration, working side-by-side can generate true synergy – an extra bounce that carries a project beyond the initial design, says Dr. Mei Zhen, Senior Investigator at Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.

Dr. Zhen returned in early August from working with her collaborators at Harvard University on their comprehensive neuronal map of the juvenile C. elegans, the pin-head sized nematode worm. “When we started working face-to-face, we realized that we had underappreciated both capacity and challenges on each side. The project turns out to be much harder than we had envisioned. By working together on-site we not only solved existing problems, but – also unexpectedly – took the project design to the next level,” she says. She extended her stay at Harvard from nine months to almost a year.

Her collaborator Dr. Aravi Samuel adds, “There’s a reason that no one has tried to reconstruct whole worms at electron-microscope resolution in almost 30 years: It’s the Mount Everest of structural neurobiology. Only with worms can we dream of using large numbers of connectomes of worms that have key differences, whether caused by development, genetics, or even learning, to uncover how circuits encode behavior.”

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