While widespread use of these powerful model organisms for research is common in the United States and Europe, their adoption in Latin America has been relatively slow. Part of the difficulty has been the lack of local expertise and limited exposure to the utility of these systems. Small Brain Big Ideas emerged by the vision of that need and activated three Chilean neurobiologists (Yuly, Jimena and John) doing research both in Chile and the US. The first plan was to organize and international workshop to promote invertebrate research in Latin-America. With the support of their organizations (Universidad de Chile, Universidad de Valparaíso and The Neurobiology Department and The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Massachusetts Medical School) this idea became real.
The first edition of Small Brains, Big Ideas took place in Santiago, Chile, October 25th -30th, 2010. This workshop successfully trained 28 Latin-American students on recent advances and modern techniques in neurosciences, primarily focusing on Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, and the use of these animal models both in basic neuroscience and biomedical research. The course covered areas ranging from genetic approaches to the study of the nervous system, brain development, and cellular and molecular neuroscience, to analysis of brain circuits and behavior. Students attended lectures detailing current techniques and recent scientific advances, as well as participated in laboratory exercises. Instructors included faculty members from the above-mentioned institutions as well as renowned scientists in each field from around the world. SBBI not only allowed students to gain firsthand experience with approaches in these model systems, but also provided the opportunity for students to interact and network with leaders in biomedical research.
Given the success of the first course, SBBI’s second edition was also held in Chile (October 29th to November 7th, 2012), but this time not only in Santiago but also in Valparaíso. In addition, in the second version SBBI expanded the animal models covered in the course and this time included the lovely butterfly and the amazing bee! Another 27 students from different countries of Latin-American were successfully trained and interacted with world-class scientists.With our spirit for expansion, in the future SBBI, would like to broaden the scope of the program to cover the use of invertebrates in other topics in biomedical sciences such as cancer biology and immunology.