2016 School of Medicine Campus Perspective

Written by Jacob Blum, Stanford Neurosciences Graduate Student

Discovery Walk - The main artery of the medical campus

A collaborative campus

The Stanford Neurosciences Graduate Program is interdisciplinary, meaning it includes faculty from a wide range of departments within the Stanford School of Medicine. This is an asset for obvious reasons—accessibility to faculty from any department within the Biosciences umbrella program and broad ability to meet and interact with scientists of different backgrounds—but it also begs the uestion: Is the program able to maintain a cohesive community?

The answer is overwhelmingly positive!

There is a pervasive sense of close collaboration among our unique network of outgoing and open-minded affiliated faculty, a feeling which is augmented by the close proximity of School of Medicine laboratories.

A stroll down Discovery Walk

The core of the Stanford School of Medicine is compact and extremely walkable.  The main walkway— known as ‘Discovery Walk’ due to its engraved plaques highlighting scientific breakthroughs that took place at Stanford and beyond—is the main artery of the medical campus. It runs from the modern and architecturally unique Clark Center (Clark) to the Center for Clinical Sciences Research (CCSR) and the Lokey Stem Cell Building (Lokey). On the way, you will surely pass scientists transporting samples between collaborating laboratories in ice buckets, regardless of the season. If it is around lunchtime, you will see graduate students, postdocs, technicians, and faculty eating lunch together on the benches or sitting in the grass in search of shade from the California sun. If it is a Friday around 5 pm, the lawn will be further littered by individual labs, programs, and departments holding ‘Happy Hours’ outside. These gatherings foster a sense of community across the school of medicine—and take advantage of the annually beautiful weather!

Discovery walk is full of discoveries... literally! Discoveries by Stanford scientists are etched into marble blocks lining the walkway.

Location, location, location

This close proximity among labs from different departments naturally breeds an air of collaboration and community. It means that as a graduate student you can expect to run into your classmates, instructors, and mentors frequently. The temperate climate means that people want to be outdoors—further increasing that likelihood. These characteristics can combat some of the negative stereotypes associated with graduate student life. You can find privavy too without worrying about being sequestered away in lab and disconnected from the community of peers that first attracted you to Stanford. While programs at other schools have an array of seminar series and lectures, the Stanford Neuroscience community make it a priority to attend these lectures on a frequent basis. When they take place so close to lab, it is hard to make excuses!

There are exceptions to this rule of close lab proximity as some labs extend beyond the campus borders. Stanford Neurosciences-affiliated labs can also be found at on Arastradero Road, the Veterans Affairs Hospital (such as the Stanford/VA Alzheimer's Center), and Porter Drive (such as the Stanford Center of Sleep Sciences and Medicine). Despite the separation, the main campus allows students whose labs are further from campus to quickly reconnect with the Stanford Neurosciences community. For instance, students return to campus for Journal Club during the first three years, and many meetings with faculty members and collaborators happen throughout the graduate student lifecycle. With almost every visit to the campus, students will run into friends and classmates; a clear advantage for belonging to such a dense scientific community.

Stanford Neurosciences Institute Seminar Series

Each Thursday at 12 pm during the academic year there is a Stanford Neuroscience Institute (SNI) seminar series lecture featuring top researchers invited by a panel of faculty and students. Each speaker is hosted by a member of an SNI-affiliated laboratory, and any Neuroscience graduate student can volunteer to be part of the group that takes the speaker out to lunch after the noon lecture!  Having participated in these lunches myself, I can attest to their usefulness to both student and professor. Being able to discuss science with inspirational investigators from other institutions can broaden networking connections and provide a low-stress environment to float ideas and possible collaborations. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary backgrounds of Neurosciences graduate students almost guarantees a diverse, interesting, and insightful conversation!