Welcome to Projects!

Dear NMA Participants,

We’re so happy to have received 368 project proposals as the result of your hard thinking! We look forward to seeing how these develop from ideas into presentations over the next two weeks. We’d like to share a few thoughts to help you.

The main goal of Projects is to learn to work together to think like scientists. This means a lot of critical thinking, respectful debating, brainstorming, questioning, analyzing, calculating, trial and error, plotting, debugging, interpreting, and more questioning. If your group produces a paper or makes an amazing discovery along the way, that’s great! But in two weeks most of us probably won’t, and that’s okay too: The final product is not the primary goal — it’s the learning process.

Science is hard, so be kind. In computational neuroscience we make progress by working together: no one has all the knowledge to complete most projects. Working effectively in a team is essential for moving science forward, and connecting with diverse team members is another benefit of the Projects. Please remember that we’re all learning, so we should be patient and kind to ourselves and each other when (not if!) things don’t work out as we hope.

Expectations for Mentors. For guidance in both science and collaboration, we have also connected you to scientific mentors — people who have experience thinking scientifically. These mentors have generously volunteered their time to meet you four times for a half-hour each meeting. Some mentors may even offer you extra time out of their busy schedules. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our matching programmers, not every team will find a perfect content match with your assigned mentor. Nonetheless, our mentors are experts in scientific thinking, and that does generalize across topics or data types, so they can help you improve your analysis approaches, point you to relevant literature, and offer constructive criticisms. Regardless, please be gracious and respectful to your mentors who are volunteering to share their time and experience.

Dealing with problems. Over the next two weeks, expect to have periods of both frustration and clarity. If you have concerns about how your team is working together, train your ‘collaborator skills’ by trying to work through it with your group as calmly and respectfully as you can. If someone else in your group directs a concern to you, it can be helpful to first restate that concern in your own words, without judgment, and confirm that your understanding is correct before responding. If there is a problem you just can’t resolve together, please speak with your TA. If your TA can’t help you resolve the issue, or if there are violations of our Code of Conduct, please reach out to your lead TAs or NMA organizers; if you want to report anything formally — including doing it anonymously — you can also fill out our Code of Conduct reporting form.

Science is fun! Despite all of its frustrations, science is fun, rewarding, and important. Doing Projects can teach you many new things you can’t learn from tutorials. In your final presentation, we hope you can share your journey, including where you began, what you tried, what you found, and what would be good to try next. We’ll give you more guidance about that later.

We’re excited to help you in your Projects. Enjoy!

—Xaq, Athena, Marius, Eric, Patrick, Gunnar, Paul, and the whole NMA team


Hello NMA’ers,

We hope you’re having a good time with Projects so far.

Don’t worry about the outcome: we don’t expect amazing breakthroughs in two weeks! We mainly want you learn about the process of doing scientific projects.

To set your minds at ease: your final presentation will be a short video (a few min) about your project experience. You don’t even have to report any scientific findings, unless you want to. Tell us what you learned, even if it’s just about how hard it is to look at large multidimensional data. This final presentation is an opportunity to practice communicating efficiently, a crucial component of science. More information about presentations will be coming soon.

Keep up the great work. So much learning going on!

-xaq and the Projects team