eLife and COVID-19: Keeping communications open with online research talks

eLife hosts online seminars to support early-career researchers to present their research online instead of in person.

With many conferences and in-person meetings cancelled or postponed in support of public health guidance for the COVID-19 pandemic, we wish to make sure early-career researchers (ECRs) can continue to communicate their latest work to their peers.

Starting on March 26, eLife will host an online seminar twice a week (for four weeks, initially). Each seminar will be chaired by an eLife editor and will feature three ECR speakers presenting their recent work with time for questions afterwards.

The line-up is listed below and will be updated as speakers confirm.

These are open webinars. Anyone is welcome to join the webinars and share questions and comments for the speakers.

We invited ECRs to sign up for talk slots, to present a 10-minute talk with five minutes for questions afterwards. All speaker slots are now full. We invite you to register interest to speak in future talks (subject to demand) if you are an ECR in the life sciences or biomedicine and either of the following situations apply to you:

  • You had been accepted to present a talk at a conference that has been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19 with no virtual talk offered as a replacement
  • You are not able (for any reason) to present your work at a conference this year even if it is still going ahead

This work is inspired by the eLife Early-Career Advisory Group, who recently issued a statement about the impact of COVID-19 conference cancellations on ECRs.

Your participation counts

We welcome all participants to work with us to make this virtual science platform a success. By working together, we hope to facilitate you to make connections and share your science.

As a speaker, please invite your peers to join the webinar and hear your talk.

As an ECR, please invite your colleagues and peers to attend any talks that may be of interest to them.

Join us for eLife Online Research Talks, March–April 2020

You can view all webinars in the public Google calendar (to subscribe, click the ‘+’ button at the bottom of the linked webpage. You can adjust your calendar settings to receive email notifications for events and any updates to this public calendar).

Please join using the register link below for each webinar. Once we’re at capacity on Zoom (1000 attendees), we invite you to view the YouTube livestream (view-only, no chat functionality). The livestream will only appear during each webinar.

  1. View livestream (Youtube)

Past webinars:

Webinar 1: Thursday, March 26, 5–6pm GMT

Chaired by Anna Akhmanova, Deputy Editor of eLife, Utrecht University, Netherlands

AANAT1 functions in astrocytes to regulate sleep homeostasis presented by Sejal Davla, Advanced Science Research Center, United States

Sejal describes their talk:
Astrocytes in the fruit fly brain use an enzyme AANAT1 that catabolizes monoamines such as dopamine and serotonin to control the amount of recovery sleep after prolonged sleep deprivation.

RNA isoform screens reveal the essentiality and tumor suppressor activity of ultraconserved poison exons presented by James Thomas, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States

James describes their talk:
RNA alternative splicing is essential for normal tissue development and homeostasis but, when misregulated, drives pathogenesis in dozens of human disorders. While RNA-seq provides a means to comprehensively catalog the expression of individual RNA isoforms, no correspondingly high-throughput methodology exists to functionally interrogate each of these. To address this, we developed pgFARM (paired guide RNAs for alternative exon removal) - a CRISPR/Cas9-based method to manipulate alternative splicing independent of gene inactivation.

Probe-Seq enables transcriptional profiling of specific cell types from heterogeneous tissue by RNA-based isolation presented by Ryoji Amamoto, Harvard Medical School

Ryoji describes their talk:
Probe-Seq is a novel method that allows for RNA sequencing of potentially any cell type from potentially any organism. It leverages FISH labeling of RNA markers that are specific to certain cell types to FACS isolate and downstream transcriptional profiling. We showed that it can be used in human, mouse, chick, and Drosophila cells, suggesting that it may be of interest to a broad audience.

  1. Watch BACK on Youtube

Webinar 2: Tuesday, March 31, 9-10am BST

Chaired by Detlef Weigel, Deputy Editor of eLife, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

This webinar is a partnership with neuromatch, an unconference in computational neuroscience taking place online on March 30 and 31.

Striatal function and its role in goal directed action: a (learning) update presented by Dr Miriam Matamales, University of New South Wales

Miriam describes their talk:
"One of the most intriguing characteristics of the striatum is the random spatial distribution and high degree of intermingling between its D1-(direct) and D2-(indirect) spiny projection neurons (SPNs). The anatomical organisation of these two principal neuronal populations is actively promoted during development and has been highly conserved throughout evolution for over 500 million years, and yet its relationship to function is still not fully understood. In our recent study, by mapping a dopamine-dependent transcriptional activation marker in large ensembles of D1- or D2-SPNs in mice, we demonstrated an extensive and dynamic D2- to D1-SPN transmodulation across the striatum that is necessary for updating previous goal-directed learning."

Perception and encoding of temporally fluctuating odour stimulus in mice presented by Debanjan Dasgupta, The Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom

Debanjan describes their talk:
"The field of olfaction has largely been dominated by the notion of being a temporally slow sense and hence temporal structure in odour had not been accounted for a long time. Here, we show that mice can understand correlation in temporal patterns in odour stimulus at frequencies > 40Hz. Further, we observe neurons in the olfactory bulb that can follow frequency upto 20 Hz suggesting the presence of vital neuronal machinery to use naturally occurring temporal patterns in odour stimulus."

Interneurons intelligent operations: It's a matter of nonlinear dendrites presented by Alexandra Tzilivaki, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany

Alexandra will present “Our recent modelling predictions, where we challenge the hypothesis that interneurons act simply as linear, widespread inhibitory, blankets across neuronal circuits. Along with supporting experimental evidence that I would briefly highlight, we demonstrate that a major interneuron subtype in CA3 and mPFC - the Fast Spiking Basket cells- contain two types of nonlinear dendrites that support learning and memory functions and are better described by a nonlinear Artificial Neural Network similar to pyramidal neurons. The below proposition raises questions for further studies in order to understand whether interneurons are assistants of leaders in memory formation.”

  1. Watch back on Youtube

Webinar 3: Thursday, April 2, 5-6pm BST

Chaired by Tim Behrens, Deputy Editor of eLife, University of Oxford, UK

Internal state configures olfactory behavior and early sensory processing in Drosophila larva presented by Katrin Vogt, Harvard University, United States

Katrin describes their talk:
“We discovered that an early olfactory processing center, the antennal lobe, is a bona fide decision making circuit for innate olfactory behavior. Well-fed animals are repelled by certain odors, however food-deprived animals are attracted to the same odors. Combining connectomics, behavioral experiments and functional imaging in genetically modified animals, and computational modeling, we have discovered how this state-dependent decision to assign positive or negative valence to an odor is computed by serotonergic modulation in the antennal lobe.”

Ventral pallidal neurons modulate accumbal activity to amplify reward value presented by Meaghan Creed, Washington University, St. Louis, United States

Meaghan describes their talk:
Decades of research has shown (and we confirm) that inhibition of the nucleus accumbens is necessary for reward consumption; however the neural substrate of this inhibitor is not understood. Ventral pallidum neurons encode reward value, but the VP is considered an output on the NAc in classic models of the basal ganglia. Challenging this classical model, we show that non-canonical VP neurons signal reward value to the NAc by potently inhibiting their activity to promote reward consumption on fast time scales.

Hippocampal and Prefrontal Theta-Band Mechanisms Underpin Implicit Spatial Context Learning presented by Eelke Spaak, Donders Institute, Radboud University, Netherlands

Eelke describes their talk:
Humans are very good at learning where to expect certain items, given their spatial context; but how is this contextual structure learned, and how is this knowledge exploited? Using magneto-encephalography (MEG) and computational modelling of search behaviour, we show that learning is transient and depends on the hippocampal theta rhythm, whereas exploitation is sustained and depends on theta activity in the prefrontal cortex. Interestingly, the amount of explicit knowledge observers were able to form about spatial regularities in the task was *inversely* related to the behavioural benefit, thus demonstrating that this effect is implicit in nature.”

  1. Watch back on youtube

Webinar 4: Tuesday, April 7, 9-10am BST

Chaired by Anna Akhmanova, Deputy Editor of eLife, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Stemness regulation by an oncogenic PIK3CA activity threshold presented by Ralitsa Madsen, University College London, United Kingdom

Ralitsa describes their talk as:
"A systems biology approach demonstrates that high oncogenic PI3K pathway activation is strongly linked to stabilisation of a stemness transcriptional network in human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). Using an allelic series of CRISPR-engineered hPSCs, we demonstrate a near-binary phenotypic ‘switch' in homozygous PIK3CA-H1047R hPSCs - which ultimately becomes refractory to targeted PI3K inhibition. The stabilised stemness state is instead maintained by self-sustained TGFbeta/NODAL pathway activation. This mechanism has implications for understanding the dose-dependent effects of oncogenic PIK3CA in the context of human cancer."

An evolutionarily conserved truncated PD-L1 variant functions as a soluble receptor antagonist presented by Kevin Ng, The Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom

Kevin describes their talk:
The PD-1-PD-L1 axis restrains immune responses and is a major therapeutic target across a variety of cancer types. In our recent eLife paper, we described a truncated PD-L1 variant that functions as a receptor antagonist and attenuates the immunosuppressive capacity of transmembrane PD-L1. I will describe our follow-up work on this molecule, focusing on the function of soluble PD-L1 in cancer and autoimmune disease.”

Synteny-based analyses indicate that sequence divergence is not the main source of orphan genes presented by Dr. Nikolaos Vakirlis, Alexander Fleming Biomedical Sciences Research Center, Greece

Nikolaos describes their talk:
Homology information implicit in regions of conserved synteny allows to quantify gene origination by complete sequence divergence, revealing a larger-than-expected role for other mechanisms of origin, including de novo origination”

  1. watch back on youtube

Webinar 5: Thursday, April 9, 5-6pm BST

Chaired by Detlef Weigel, Deputy Editor of eLife, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

Expandable and reversible copy number amplifications drive rapid adaptation to antifungal drugs presented by Robert Todd, Creighton University, United States

Robert describes their talk:
"In the primary human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, copy number variations (CNVs) amplify genes that are both necessary and sufficient to confer antifungal drug resistance. Here, we describe the rapid and recurrent acquisition of novel, complex CNVs during adaptation to azole antifungal drugs. These findings support a novel mechanism for the rapid acquisition of antifungal drug resistance and provide new genomic evidence for the phenotypic heterogeneity and antifungal drug tolerance frequently observed in clinical settings."

Generating multi-scale predictive networks of Northern Corn Leaf Blight resistance presented by Natalie Clark, Iowa State University, United States

Natalie describes their talk:
"Northern Corn Leaf Blight (NLB) is one of the most significant corn diseases, causing the largest crop loss of any disease in the Northern United States from 2012-2015. Understanding how gene expression correlates with specific disease phenotypes is critical for developing disease-resistant crops that enhance global food security and limit economic losses. In my talk, I will describe how we have integrated transcriptome and proteome measurements with disease phenotyping and computational modeling to build predictive regulatory networks of NLB resistance."

SARS-CoV-2 infected host cell proteomics reveal potential therapy targets presented by Dr. Christian Münch, Goethe University, Frankfurt

Christian describes their talk:
"I will present a human cell line model for SARS-CoV-2 infection in which we characterized the host cell proteome and translatome response. We uncovered a number of host pathways modified by the virus. Using drugs inhibiting these pathways, we found that these efficiently block SARS-CoV-2 replication."

You can read about Christian's research (which is currently published as a preprint) here.

  1. watch back on youtube

Webinar 6: Tuesday, April 14, 9-10am BST

Chaired by Tim Behrens, Deputy Editor of eLife, University of Oxford, UK

Neuroscience of volition for decisions that matter presented by Uri Maoz, Chapman University, United States

Uri describes their talk:
"Well-known results in neuroscience suggest that consciousness may not be part of the causal chain leading to action in humans, providing evidence against free will. However, those results focus on arbitrary, meaningless decisions (e.g., raising your left/right hand for no reason or purpose) while the free-will debate focuses on deliberate decisions (e.g., selecting a charity to donate). We show that there might be different neural mechanisms for deliberate and arbitrary decisions, and thus that these famous results may not generalize from arbitrary to deliberate decisions challenging their applicability to the free-will debate."

Categorical representation from sound and sight in the ventral occipito-temporal cortex of sighted and blind presented by Stefania Mattioni, UCLouvain, Belgium

Stefania describes their talk:
"The world is full of rich and dynamic visual information. To avoid information overload, the human brain groups inputs into categories such as faces, houses, or tools. A part of the brain called the ventral occipito-temporal cortex (VOTC) helps categorize visual information. However, it is not clear how the VOTC characterizes information. In our study we investigate the nature of categorical representation and functional organization of VOTC presenting different categories in visual and auditory format, in sighted and in early blind individuals."

Role of RhoJ in fibronectin fibrillogenesis during angiogenesis presented by Ananthalakshmy Sundararaman, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Ananthalakshmy describes their talk:
"Angiogenesis requires endothelial cells to remodel the extracellular matrix. RhoJ regulates active integrin trafficking to negatively regulate fibrillogenesis. RhoJ competes with its ancestral protein Cdc42 for shared effectors to regulate fibronectin fibrillogenesis in opposing directions."

  1. watch back on youtube

Webinar 7: Thursday, April 16, 5-6pm BST

Chaired by Detlef Weigel, Deputy Editor of eLife, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

Multiscale analysis of liver tissue organization presented by Hernán Andrés Morales-Navarrete, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador

Hernán decribes their talk:
"We studied the structural organization of liver tissue by combining confocal microscopy, digital image reconstruction and soft-condensed-matter-physics concepts. Liver tissue follows of a hierarchical multiscale order that emerges from local cellular self-organization."

Probing Myelin in First Episode of Psychosis with MRI: A Framework to Understand Negative Symptoms and Verbal Memory presented by Carolina Makowski, University of California San Diego, United States

Carolina describes their talk:
"When one speaks of psychotic disorders, positive symptoms (e.g. hallucinations, delusions) often come to mind; however, negative symptoms (e.g. amotivation, flattened affect) and verbal memory deficits are also core features of these disorders with no known treatments. My talk will focus on neuroanatomical features measured with MRI, with an emphasis on putative myelin markers, which may underlie negative symptoms and verbal memory deficits after a first episode of psychosis. I will show evidence that hippocampal connectivity may play a large role in shaping these symptom constructs, and propose that treatments targeting the hippocampus may have an impact on clinical outcomes in psychosis."

The proteome landscape of pediatric leukemia in patients and xenograft models presented by Dr. Philipp Lange, University of British Columbia, Canada

Philipp describes their talk:
"Patient derived xenograft models are a powerful tool to interrogate cancer biology, however it is not well understood what aspects of the proteome are accurately recapitulated by the model. Based on integration of the genomic, proteomic and PTM data we show that the proteome landscape of primary pediatric acute leukemias is largely recapitulated in murine patient derived xenografts. We also present data showing that select pathways differ between primary and xenograft cells and that the host environment has greater impact on post translational modifications than protein abundance."

  1. Watch back on Youtube

Diversity and inclusion

Many researchers are regularly unable to present their work at in-person gatherings for geopolitical and financial reasons not related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While we have less work to do now to support in-person events than we would normally have, we are taking this opportunity to learn what works well when hosting research talks online. The intention is to consider future opportunities to improve inclusion in science once in-person gatherings resume.

We are using Zoom to run this webinar series. We invite prospective viewers and speakers who are unable to access these webinars due to our technology choice to please share feedback and suggestions directly with us by email to events@elifesciences.org.

Subject to demand when confirming talk slots, we have operated on a first-come first-served basis, and adjusted to improve gender, geography and subject area balance in relation to eLife’s audience as well as prioritising eLife authors, recent eLife travel grant recipients who are now unable to attend the meeting where they had planned to present their work, and ECRs who contribute to the eLife Community Ambassadors programme or as part of our ECR reviewer pool. ECRs who signed up and have not been offered a slot are waitlisted for any future opportunities.


We welcome comments, questions and feedback. Please contact us at events [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

Interested in finding out more about opportunities, events and issues that are important for early-career researchers? Sign up to the eLife Early-Career Community newsletter or follow @eLifeCommunity on Twitter.

This page was updated on March 25 to present the schedule, registration and viewing links, and change from inviting prospective speakers to sign up for slots to register interest in any future slots.