On Saturday the 7th of November 2015, it finally happened: our very own Brain and Cognitive Sciences Alumni Network was founded. After an inspiring talk by Gerdi Verbeet, who argued for a stronger civil society as a defense against radicalism and inequality, three new alumni circles were introduced on stage. “Because we had a really good time during the last year’s alumni symposium and dinner,” board member Berno Brucker responded when he was asked why we took the initiative to form an alumni circle for the research master Brain and Cognitive Sciences. While humorous, his answer was also spot-on, as the motto of our circle is wire together. That is not just because we needed a neurosciency catchphrase, but also because we believe that great things happen once you bring different people together. In fact, such connecting is arguably the central idea behind interdisciplinary programmes such as Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
The talk of Simon van Gaal, organized by the MBCS alumni circle, proved to be an excellent kickoff to our mission. In his one-hour talk, he showed how cognitive neuroscience has made great progress in elucidating the brain mechanisms behind conscious – and unconscious – perception. While Simon had little time to reflect on what this meant for the theme of the day; freedom (hint: we do not feel in control of cognitive processes that occur outside of our consciousness, but they do affect our decision-making), the audience was inspired nonetheless, as shown by the numerous questions asked during the talk and those posed during the drinks after the lecture. The unconscious proved to be a great conversation piece, and we met many interesting alumni from other circles while discussing it.
Our Alumni Network will not just be about shared events, but also about bringing people to new collaborations. We hope to bring disparate researchers to collaborate or share ideas, connect scientists to entrepreneurs, and match graduates to postgraduates. We also hope it will become a platform that shows the interesting ideas, projects and visions of our alumni. As a start, we would like to encourage our alumni to get connected on our brand new MBCS UvA alumni network LinkedIn page. In addition, we are preparing for an MBCS alumni symposium and dinner, which will be held in 2016, at the end of this academic year. More details will follow in the new year, but we can already reveal that it will be an informative, fun and interactive event, relevant for both current students and alumni.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to become an official member of the MBCS alumni network. Why now? Because we have great plans for 2016, as mentioned above, and participation will be cheaper for members that signed up before 31st of December 2015! If you have any questions about the MBCS alumni circle or about the membership, feel free to contact us by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. For now, we wish you a great end of 2015, and we hope to wire with many of you in the new year!