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News from the VRC

February 2012

From David Brainard:

Dear Penn Vision Colleagues,

i) General meeting.  Thanks to all who attended the VRC general meeting and made suggestions.  We are proceeding to implement some of the ideas immediately (e.g., seed grants) and are working on some of the others (e.g., vision research dinners.)
ii) VRC seed grants.   We are pleased to announce the availability of funds to help vision investigators obtain preliminary data for grant proposals.  We expect to award 4-5 grants of approximately $15,000 each this year. Possible items include support for sequencing, creation of a necessary mouse line, staff time, etc.  If a grant of this size would help you leverage current resources to get a project off and running, please prepare a ~2 page application. This should contain a short description of the project, how it will lead to a grant proposal if successful (i.e. where will you submit and via what mechanism), and an itemized budget with short justification.  Also include CV and current support for all investigators involved with the project.  Email materials as a single PDF to David Brainard (   Deadline for the initial round of seed grants is March 31, 2012.
Applications will be reviewed by the VRC Executive Committee.

ii) Summer undergraduate interns.  We have funds to support summer undergraduate research internships for work in vision labs - $3500 per student with a $1500 co-pay from investigators.  We will use some of the funds to support interns who come to Penn through established programs (e.g. Computation Neuroscience Summer Internships), but can also interns outside of any formal program.  If you have identified an undergraduate who would like to work in your lab, please email David Brainard, with the particulars.  If you would like to find a summer undergraduate intern but don't know where to look, again email Brainard with a short description of the research project and we will work with you to post your opportunity at some standard outlets.  The undergraduate need not be a Penn

iii) Interested in  2-photon microscopy and uncaging?  Micheal Freed has some interest in obtaining an upgrade to our live-imaging 2-photon scope that would allow uncaging (photolyzation) of "caged" compounds.  He writes: "By uncaging glutamate or other transmitters, one can mimic transmitter released by a neuron at a synapse. Also, one can uncage calcium inside cells. The usefulness of the upgrade can be understood by considering what is required to map glutamate sensitivity across a neuron's dendritic arbor.  Thus, the upgrade includes software for steering the laser beam randomly from point to point in an array of points, and box that takes in the the neuron's electrical signals from an electrometer/patch amp, and software or making a map of the amplitude of the electrical signal as a function of position in the array. Of course there are other uses for this upgrade, but the main point is that the current software can scan the laser beam back and and forth scan across the specimen (although in any arbitrary region of interest), but this upgrade goes quickly between any series of arbitrarily positioned points."  We would like to gauge the interest of the community in obtaining such an upgrade.  If you would have interest in making use of this capability, please email Michael Freed ( and let him know.  In addition to your interest, we would like to know whether you would be able to chip in towards the cost
of the upgrade (total cost approximately $30,000).

iv) Know about visual phosphenes?  Manzar Ashtari ( is looking for a colleague knowledgeable about  visual phosphenes, in order to help interpret some data she has collected.  If you know about this subject, or know someone who is, please email Manzar.

v) Return of illustration services (repeated from November's news).  We have decided to resume support of some illustration services, through Penn Biomedical Art and Design (  The VRC will subvene 50% of costs for illustration services  related to figure preparation for resentations/grants/publications.  We will not support poster preparation or printing.  Web design will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Please contact David Brainard ( with questions.

vi) VRC core modules.  As always, information on VRC core facilities and how to access them is available at

vii) Vision science seminar.  The VRC is a co-sponsor of Penn's vision science seminar.  Full schedule available at   If you would like to be added to an email list to receive notices, contact Noga Vardi (  We will also try to send notices for Ophthalmology Grand Rounds  to the same email list.

viii) VRC investigator list.  We do our best to maintain an up-to-date list of Penn vision investigators, available at  But sometimes we miss arrivals and departures.  If you know of someone who should be on the list but shouldn't, or who is on  the list but no longer at Penn, please email David Brainard, with the details.

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