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  1. pizbicki

    PhD to MD Advice

    I am still strongly considering the MD route once I finish my PhD (approximately two years). Does any have any words of wisdom and/or experience that has gone down this route or knows someone that did?
  2. She’s holding back tears while thanking all the people who have supported her. And I am tearing up too learning about all her struggles. Imagine every two hours having to go find a private space where you need to sit for 30-60 minutes and repeating this all day. Now imagine trying to get work done through this. That is exactly what many women are dealing with while working and breastfeeding. This was one of the many stories discussed at the panel "Fixing the Leaky Pipeline for Women in Science: Addressing Issues Facing New Moms” at the annual meeting this past November. The panel not only told their stories, but gave advice to new mothers. It all mostly echoed one sentiment: be kind to yourself because you can’t do it all alone. Denise Cai @denisecai discussed her paralyzing and conflicting guilt. At work she’d be guilty for not being with her kids, and while with her kids she was guilty she wasn’t working enough. Her advice to others mothers was to “choose to not be guilty”. Jessica Barson @jbarson echoed that idea in her talk as she reminded us “you don’t have to be all things to all people.” You don’t need to be a perfect parent, you need to be a “good enough parent.” Striving for more is impossible. “Realize your limitations” Lauren Drogos @lldrogos reminds us. This seems like good advice for all parents, but I can see it is particularly important for mothers who have extra pressures on them. I now have a whole new respect for new mothers in science. I never realized how challenging it is for them. According to Anahita Hamidi @hamidi_anahita, married mothers have 27% lower odds to get tenure than married fathers with children. Rebecca Rodriquez discussed how mothers spend 4-8 hours a day breastfeeding. It is so much work that puts you against the odds of success. I suddenly realize I owe an apology to all the new mothers I met in grad school. Your hard work is amazing and I did not do enough to support you through this struggle. You are super heroes.
  3. Amanda Labuza

    Is there a best time to have kids?

    I’m curious if anyone out there has advice about the “best” time to have kids in your career. Particularly for Americans who don’t get much maternity leave? I am fully aware that everyone takes their own path and a working woman should be allowed to have kids whenever she chooses to. I’m not trying to diminish that. That being said, is there a time that is (relatively) easier to take maternity leave than others? Does anyone have any helpful advice for young women choosing this time-demanding career?
  4. Kimberly Raab-Graham

    Transitioning from technician to PhD student

    As I sit on many departmental admissions committees, I realize the value of having a “gap year” or a few years as a tech prior to entering into graduate school. However, sometimes that transition from “technician” to PhD student is difficult. All of sudden you are in charge of the direction and the success of your project. For those who have made the transition or PIs who have advice on how to successfully make the transition please add your sage advice below.
  5. Writing is an important part of any scientist’s career, and it’s particularly critical for academic scientists whose promotion depends on solid writing. Writing and publishing papers is “currency” of scholarship – peer-reviewed papers demonstrate our productivity, expertise, and contributions to our field. No one gets promoted without publications. Moreover, for those of us who write grants to get funding for our research – guess what? No one gets grants without the track record of publications. If writing is so critical, why do so many scientists spend more time on teaching and service than on writing and scholarship? Why do we put it off, waiting for a big chunk of time that we can devote to writing (that may never arrive)? Why do we complain about it so much? Moreover, when I poll groups of graduate students, postdocs and faculty, a sizeable portion claim to dislike writing – it’s tough to dislike something that is so vital to our success! So let’s learn to love writing, especially since we have to do so much of it. This open thread is a place where we can discuss the ins and outs of writing – sharing tips, encouragement and hard-won lessons. Ask questions, post writing hacks. And happy writing!
  6. James Geddes is the vice dean for research at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Here, he shares what his transition from pre-tenure to post-tenure was like, including responsibility and institutional culture shifts. In your experience, how would you describe the transition from pre-tenure to post-tenure? I should say that the transition upon receiving tenure is much less difficult than the transition for someone who does not receive tenure. While there is a lot of worry in the pre-tenure phase, receiving tenure was, at least for me, a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. At my institution and many others, the goal during the pre-tenure period is to help faculty succeed with their research — getting grants and being the senior author on publications — which is often a critical component of the tenure dossier and decision. Faculty are also somewhat protected from other responsibilities, such as major committee work. At least in my institution during the pre-tenure period, faculty are not assigned to a committee that has a fairly heavy workload, such as the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee (IACUC), Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects, or Biosafety Committees. Almost immediately after I received tenure, however, I was assigned to the IACUC. Teaching commitments may also be less prior to tenure. There are some major changes, though, that occur post-tenure. Faculty do more committee work and possibly more instruction activities. You have more opportunities to become involved in professional societies such as SfN. There is also a change in mindset. For example, you have more freedom to pursue projects that might have greater risk and to pursue collaborations. Did anything surprise you while you went through the tenure process? The big surprise was how long the process takes. It’s often a year, or close to it, from when you first initiate the process, and every institution has their own mechanisms. At my institution, the tenure dossier goes through a departmental committee, college committee, campus-wide committee, the provost, the president, and the board of trustees. How did you cope with that lengthy process? Do you have any advice for others currently going through it? I was kept largely in the dark as my dossier passed through the various stages. I was only told at the very end that it looked good and not to worry. Of course, in the absence of information, sometimes you think the worst. However, if there were a negative decision or problems at any step, know that you would be notified. Use your support network — family, friends, colleagues — as you’re going through this process. Talk about it with other faculty who have recently gone through the tenure process. Know when to expect decisions. If you submitted your dossier in the fall and you won’t get an answer until the spring, then try to focus on your research, teaching, and service responsibilities because it’s ouprovidesur hands at that point. As with anything, it’s important to have some work-life balance. Find activities outside of work that provide a relief from the tension and stress. What else do you think faculty should know about the process? Tenure decisions can be appealed for a number of reasons. Some reasons include the faculty member not receiving appropriate guidance or feedback during their pre-tenure period and circumstances that prevented them from conducting the research that they needed to accomplish. Fortunately, I did not have to go through that. It’s also important for faculty to focus on the areas that are the most heavily weighted at their institution. For example, the tenure decision for a research-intensive faculty position will largely be based on research productivity and grant funding. While many faculty want to be complete with service, teaching, and instruction components in their dossier, a weak service record will rarely impact the tenure decision, whereas a weak research component will almost certainly impact the tenure decision. How might institutional culture change for an individual post-tenure? The institution becomes a less intimidating place. It becomes more “your” university than “their” university. It’s up to you how much you want to embrace that. You also have some security to more vocally voice your opinion. You don’t want to overdo it, but if there’s something that you think needs to be fixed, then it’s appropriate to bring it up. I think many faculty are reluctant to be critical pre-tenure because they don’t want to rock the boat or have that somehow weigh on their tenure decision. You become more part of the institutional decision-making process. You’ll be asked to evaluate and mentor the junior faculty. Depending how active you are on committees, that may get recognized, and you may be tasked with taking on additional administrative or leadership roles. Can you speak a little bit more about how people awarded tenure can advance leadership-wise within an institution? This may be oversimplification, but a large factor is the faculty member’s level of engagement in the committees they sit on at a fairly early stage, and maintaining that level of commitment as they progress. I have often observed that committees have two types of participants. One kind is there because they have to be there, and they will contribute a minimal amount of effort and engagement. The other kind participates more fully. It does not take long for that thoughtful engagement to be noticed. When leadership is looking for individuals to become members on other committees that would involve more decision making, those individuals that have been more fully engaged are likely the ones that will be called upon. Besides providing committee participation opportunities, do universities facilitate other ways to build leadership skills? It depends on the institution. Many will provide leadership training opportunities with a nomination and selection process. If you’re interested, the first step is to apply or ask someone to nominate you. There will also often be opportunities through career development seminars or workshops. It’s up to you to take advantage of them, and just signifying that you’re interested in developing in this area can make a huge difference. Overall, during your time in academia, have you seen the tenure process change in any way? In my experience, I have seen one cultural change and one procedural change. First, receiving tenure has become tougher. There is a general recognition that tenure is a major and possibly life-long commitment on behalf of the institution. Institutions want to be comfortable that they’re making the right decision, so it’s become harder to obtain tenure if it’s not a slam dunk case. Salaries have also increased and in general, budgets are very tight. Previously, institutions might have given someone the benefit of the doubt if they thought they were not quite meeting the standards but had the potential. At my institution, there’s been one major process change. Previously, tenure could be blocked at any step at the department, college, or institutional committee level. Now, every faculty member is entitled to one full routing of a dossier that cannot be blocked, so it will go through the full tenure process regardless of the decision at any level. One committee may have a negative decision, but that could potentially be overturned by the next committee. It’s a technical detail, but I think it’s important that faculty have that opportunity to have their dossier reviewed through the full process. Lastly, what advice you would give people who just received tenure? Recognize, enjoy, and celebrate the accomplishment. It is truly a major achievement. With that said, the post-tenure period is not a time to relax and to rest on your laurels. Like many careers, what you get out of academia is what you put into it. Continue to be productive, participate more in instruction and service, and take some greater risks with your research. Follow your interests and continue your hard work to grow as a faculty member, investigator, and instructor. What advice do you have to navigate the tenure process? Share with your colleagues below. Jim Geddes, PhD Jim Geddes is the vice dean for research at the College of Medicine, director of the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, and professor in the department of neuroscience at the University of Kentucky. His research interests focus on mechanisms of neurodegeneration following acute central nervous system injury and neurodegenerative disorders, and his specialties are cell biology, neurochemistry, and systems neuroscience. Previously, Geddes was an assistant professor in residence, neurosurgery at the University of California, Irvine. He received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan. Link back to full article
  7. On March 30 at 2 p.m. EDT, Maria Neimark Geffen, PhD, will answer your questions about how to advance in your academic career and excel in neuroscience. An assistant professor of otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Neimark Geffen has built up her first laboratory over the past five years. By learning new skills and approaches, she has managed to balance her professional and personal priorities. She discussed her story at Neuroscience 2015 during the Celebration of Women in Neuroscience luncheon, which you can watch here. In this Q&A, you’ll have the opportunity to seek advice on what can help you, too, achieve your goals. So get your questions ready and post them here on March 30 at 2 p.m. to take part in this members-only chat! If you can’t join, post your questions now and check back after for an answer.
  8. I see that young scientists are leaving their home cities and country to work under different labs around the world and one thing, which they encounter, is diversified culture. I would like to share my tools. I focused on 2 main categories when I was living in Germany. Emotional Intelligence: Understanding ones emotion and being aware of the situations. Further, respecting the emotions of others and accepting ours helps an individual not only in surviving in the lab but it helps to work efficiently. I tried to mingle with other foreign scientist and started to reflect on my emotions when I was meeting other scientist. Social Intelligence: Understanding one’s social cognition helps an individual to learn different society and its social context. It is important that foreign individuals study the city or country in which they are going to join the lab. I am from India so when I joined the lab in Germany it was very different for me. So to understand the German culture I took an initiative and invited my fellow colleagues for cooking and shared my culinary skills. I also did some social works such as I joined old-age home and I also joined a Scottish dance group. I travelled across German and Europe, which helped me to learn some social cues, related to these societies. I listed these factors because I focused on these two, however I am sure people might be having some more ideas related to it so I welcome their ideas.
  9. Continuing the discussion from Culture Shock: Neuroscience Experiences Around the World: Hello! I was wondering if anyone who has done graduate or postdoc training or is faculty in the Australian research and academic system would be willing to share their experiences with me? I am considering an academic post in Australia. Thank you!
  10. Have you considered working or training abroad? Approaching your research and professional development while immersed in a different culture can open your mind to new ways of thinking about your neuroscience questions and other personal and professional goals. However, before you set out there are important considerations to keep in mind. Link back to full video
  11. Today I am inspired by something pretty sad that has just happened to me. Let me start by saying that I’ve moved many times throughout my career. I have also started a field shift over the past years because something happened in my life that made me feel very strong I had to push towards my vision and establish my own lab rather than keep working as a post-doc (or research associate) on someone else ideas (yes, I’m very creative and I feel the urgent need of unleashing my creativity!). A few years ago I was a post-doc and at some point I became very sick. Needless to say, I was not entitled to sick leave. Hence, my job contract was terminated. It was an endless, painful year of career break trying to keep a hold of my life, during which I never thought of quitting Science: Science was keeping me alive! I kept applying for grants and positions, trying to give the best of my self as good as I could be or feel in that moment. My illness gave me the time to reflect on what I was doing and what I actually wanted to do. So I decided to take up the challenge of a field shift to dive myself into a totally different world. Eventually, at the end of my illness, I relocated for a new position in another country within just 1 week. That was the first lab where I could thrive in a complementary discipline and embrace a different perspective about the scientific challenge I was undertaking. Eventually, I was also awarded a very prestigious fellowship that marked the official beginning of ‘the new me’. Today, I’m heading towards the end of my project and of course I need to secure my next position. I feel it’s time for me to guide my own team and move again to another country for good. I decided I would apply for a grant to start my own lab. I have found the dream place and the dream funding scheme. I was very inspired and I was already writing… Of course, every funding scheme has eligibility restrictions and I have found that I’m just a few months too old to apply. However, an eligibility extension clause would entitle me to compete. And here it goes: according to the funding agency, any leave (parental or due to sickness) should be formal, i.e., it should be documented by the employer as a reduction of working hours (up to 100%). Of course I don’t have such a pre-requisite (because I had lost my job). According to the funding agency, since I had no job contract, I was just unemployed. Too bad that policies on career breaks are not global: some funding agencies consider the precarious position of the (poor) post-doc and understand that he/she might not be entitled to take time off and pause the job contract due to inability to work. Very sad, this would have been my last chance to apply for this very attractive funding scheme and, once more, I will probably have to post-pone my personal scientific mission and apply for another (the 4th!) post-doctoral appointment. This time, however, I will chose carefully. No benefits? No post-doc! So who is to blame at the end of the story? A) Your employer - for not fostering your career development as a post-doc offering a ‘more obligations than rights’ job contract B) The funding agency – for hiring policy makers who establish policies before walking in the (poor) post-doc’s shoes C) Your no-other-choice decision – you should have kept working even if you were dying!!! D) Your lack of wisdom – You should have refused a no-benefits positions at the cost of an unjustifiable career break E) All of the above: “Publish or Perish” There is no right answer… The bottom line is …only the funding agency policy makers will tell. Meanwhile, you’d better off applying for a position with ‘equal rights and obligations’. Have a story to share? Let your voice be heard here!
  12. Here is an interesting article I read on Science Careers that mirrors a lot of my own concerns and concerns of graduate students I know. However, it seems like in academia it is not a topic that is openly discussed (for whatever reason). Science – 30 Jun 17 Extraordinary and poor Ever since I was in high school, I have dreamed of becoming a neuroscientist. Now a postdoc in a cutting-edge neuroimaging lab, I am proud of the work I have done so far and excited that I am very close to making that dream career a reality. Yet,... Please let me know your thoughts and comments.
  13. As I near the end of my time in graduate school, I am contemplating my options for the future. In addition to academia and industry, I am considering alternative routes such as IP law and technology transfer. I am interested to know your plans after you graduate. Have you decided yet? -Grace Student Neuronline Contributor
  14. If you plan to pursue a graduate degree, consider the ways you can differentiate yourself, as suggested by neuroscience program faculty. David Talmage, PhD Stony Brook University “Do homework about the program where you will be interviewing. If you don’t seem to know who you’re interacting with — if you haven’t looked at the faculty list — it’s a big turnoff. Also be able to speak intelligently about your experience. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, and you don’t have to be published, but showing that you’ve engaged intellectually in your research project really sets you apart. One of the key elements of the interview and application process is your ability to communicate that you understand what research is, why you’re going to graduate school, and why it excites you.” Thomas Naselaris, PhD Medical University of South Carolina “Have a passion for neuroscience and research, and some technical training to match your passion for studying the brain.” Richard Bodnar, PhD City University of New York “Some degree of experience working in a laboratory setting to give you the abilities and skills to engage in and understand collaborative research.” Phil Quirk, PhD Colorado State University “Quantitative skills are most important, particularly if you want to do cognitive neuroscience.” What skills and qualities do you look for in an incoming graduate student? *Comments adapted from interviews conducted at Neuroscience 2016. Link back to full article
  15. I’ve been interested in science, literature, and writing — creative writing especially — since I was young. I ended up studying science (biochemistry), literature, and creative writing in college and faced a tough career decision when I graduated. I chose science and thought my writing career had ended. But later, when I started considering careers away from the bench I realized that I could combine my writing and literature interests with my science interests. That inspired me to move to the journal editing field where I evaluated papers and manuscripts in many fields of science. Now, I serve as the Director of Research Administration at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, where I focus on science communication and writing in the context of research development and global engagement. While I’ve come full circle, switching from bench research to science writing wasn’t an easy transition, and, in fact, I struggled with the decision for many years. As a researcher, it was a challenge for me to focus on a narrow question because I was continually drawn to the bird’s eye view. I also felt a stronger need to express myself intellectually through writing than I did through working at the bench. When those two realizations clicked for me, I knew that I needed to explore other career paths. I was inspired to become a journal editor where I could incorporate my writing skills and learn to read and evaluate manuscripts from many areas of science. Eventually, I became a Senior Editor at Neuron. In this role, I gained valuable insights into the peer review and publishing processes. When I started working at the journal, all I knew about peer review was what authors see on the other side of the manuscript submission portal: You submit your paper, get three reviews, try to address them the best you can, and then receive a rejection or acceptance letter. Managing peer review, however, showed me that the process is a deeply human enterprise. It’s all done voluntarily by reviewers who agree to adhere to an ethical system while they evaluate other people’s work. As a journal editor, creating a fair peer review process through carefully selecting reviewers with diverse expertise, balancing competing interests between authors and reviewers, and managing differences between reviewers was the core of what I did every day. Peer review is not a perfect process, but it’s the best one we have so far to evaluate quality and priority in research. Now, I apply my knowledge of science evaluation, peer review and publishing at RIKEN, where I help to oversee research development and output, global communication, collaboration, and outreach. My job is fluid, diverse, and dynamic. Every day is different, which is fun. I help to facilitate the institute’s research output, but I also serve as a consultant to researchers at all stages of their projects and careers, guiding them on how to productively move their research forward to publication. Research is hard. You could spend years on a project collecting data but not be skilled at writing a paper that accurately and positively represents your discovery. I try to fill that gap by working one-on-one with researchers to shape solid paper narratives and by teaching writing and publishing workshops. My path has led me to a place where I’m able to bring unique value to the scientific community by drawing on my experiences as a researcher, writer and journal editor. If you’re a trainee who also has diverse interests or skills, my advice is to spend as much time as you can learning how to conduct research while in parallel exploring the way you most enjoy doing science. We tend to want to be like our role models and mentors — and there’s value to that — but we each have our own path. Constantly self-evaluate and think about what type of research you’d like to conduct and whether or not you want to pursue research at the bench. Careers involving science writing and communication, advocacy, policy, administration, or other fields should be kept on the table. Science is a huge enterprise and not everyone needs to be specialized for research in a particular field. There’s a lot you can do within science that’s interesting, valuable, and worthwhile. Link back to full article Charles Yokoyama, PhD Charles Yokoyama is the director of research administration at RIKEN Brain Science Institute.
  16. As an undergraduate, the best way you can decide if you want to go to grad school is to sample some of the laboratory environments (for a couple of months, not years) that you think might be interesting. Link back to full article
  17. Halfway through my second year in a neuroscience graduate program this winter, I encountered a new challenge in the lab. Unlike last year, when I endured the pressure of exams, the monotony of daily classes, and a feeling of not belonging, this year I experienced something else: failure.It is frequently said that to be a scientist is to fail. That’s easy to say and understand in theory — until you go through it yourself. Link back to full article
  18. Here is an interesting perspective on how working life and priorities as a scientist change throughout significant moments in life: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6323/426 Happy reading!
  19. neuronline_admin

    Join This Discussion on Career Success

    What does career success mean to you?“Career success shouldn’t be a competition; it should be satisfaction. To me, it should be a relief when you sit back and replay your research area, what you have been able to contribute to society, and what society has been able to gain from you.”-Aminat Imamfulani, University of Ilorin Link back to full article
  20. Setbacks are inevitable. While they may feel catastrophic in the moment, with the right outlook, challenges can be the key to learning, improving, and moving forward. Here, peers and colleagues share ways they adapt in the face of missteps large and small. Consider how their experiences can help reshape your perspective and navigate your own path onward, even when the bigger picture seems out of reach. What are your tactics for staying resilient in a demanding, rigorous field? Don’t give failure the last word — join the conversation below. Link back to full article
  21. I’m having trouble understanding what this field is. Specifically, how do “cognitive” type studies fit into this field? What are some hallmark studies that have come out of human factors/ergonomics recently? If you are in this field, what do YOU study?
  22. With different opportunities and environments in academia, industry, and government, how can neuroscientists determine the right career path for them? Understanding what to expect in each field can help you make informed choices that lead to satisfaction and success whether you are just starting out or transitioning later in your career. Join SfN tomorrow at 3pm EST for a webinar titled Making the Switch: Tips for Successfully Transitioning Between Academia, Industry, and Government, in which various speakers will showcase the unique characteristics of each workplace and share advice on what to consider when contemplating a career move based on their own transitions. Right after the panel discussion, a special live chat with the webinar speakers will happen right here in the Neuronline community so they can take your career path questions. Click here to post your questions in advance.This webinar and live chat are open to all SfN members. Not a member? Join or renew your membership today. Link back to webinar
  23. Are you interested in a career in science policy? Whether you are just beginning to explore your options or looking for ways to enhance your resume in anticipation of your job search, here are six tips for preparing for a science policy career. Link back to full article
  24. Applying to graduate school can be an organizational challenge. You have to keep track of various program requirements and deadlines, and also coordinate with your undergraduate institution, recommendation letter writers, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to make sure you submit all of your application materials on time. Link back to full article
  25. All postdoctoral experiences are unique. Still, I hope that my personal account of doing a postdoctoral position in the United States has some useful takeaways for others. Here’s what I think you should know. Link back to full article
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