Author: lingmwong

“Thinking Outside the Lab,” a webinar on non-research careers

I’m a firm believer that a PhD in Neuroscience opens many doors in your life, even secret doors you never knew existed.  However, while navigating the academic track is straightforward, the “alternative” careers in science are much more disorienting.  We all know the keys to success on the academic track — publications, lab skills, and a good network.  But how can you use your scientific skills off the tenure-track?  How do you identify, get on, and succeed in those career paths?

AAAS saves the day by hosting: “Thinking Outside the Lab,” a webinar on non-research careers (April 8th @ 1PM).  Behold, an introduction to “leaving the bench” for those who refuse to “leave science”.

Panelists include:

  • Marcia McNutt, Science Editor-in-Chief
  • Lori Conlan, Director for the NIH Office of Postdoctoral Studies
  • Anish Goel, former AAAS S&T Policy Fellow and Director of Market Analysis and Geopolitical Affairs at Boeing

Straight from the website:

  • Wondering where can a Ph.D. take you today? Is there life beyond the bench? Absolutely! There are now more non-research jobs for STEM professionals than ever before—in private industry, public policy, government, nonprofit, journalism, grants management, analytics, and a host of emerging career paths.
  • Learn what mix of skills, experience and preparation you need to leap from the lab into a satisfying non-research career.
  • Take this opportunity to learn firsthand from accomplished Ph.D.s who have successfully navigated a career outside of the research realm. They’ll talk about their own experiences, examine a range of career options open to STEM professionals across different sectors, and discuss the analytic, communication and teamworking skills needed for these kinds of roles.

Find out more about the panelists here.  Tweet your questions to #AAASWebinar.  If you can’t make the webinar, watch it afterward when it gets posted to their archive.

Then, once your mind is blown by all the science careers that are out there, head over to  This website is something I highly recommend to every scientist I know. You go through a survey answering questions about your interests, skills, and values. They compare those answers to those of scientists in all sorts of fields who enjoy their jobs. Then, they show you what career paths are a best match for you. Bonus that they point you to all sorts of resources (books, blogs, websites) so you can get a sense of what it’s like to work in that field, how to prepare for those types of jobs, etc. It’s an amazing starting point for anyone wondering what people can do with a (neuro)science PhD.

Happy career-hunting!


Congratulations, Dr. Andrew Watrous!

Andrew in Yosemite

Today a friend and classmate presented his exit seminar, titled “The role of theta oscillations in episodic memory: insights from human intracranial recordings”. Synchronous activity between key brain regions in audience members helped consolidate this memorable event.

Andrew, we wish you the best in Germany!

Congratulations, Dr. Heather Shapiro!


Today a dear friend presented a portion of her dissertation work in her exit seminar titled: “The Development of Cognitive Control in Children with Chromosome 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome” Please join me in congratulating a member of our community, who, among other activities, has contributed to our group by planning a Retreat and helping admit the impressive current cohort of first-years.  We wish you all the best!

Pasko Rakic gives First Annual E. G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture

Dr. Pasko RakicToday a world-renowned neuroscientist, Pasko Rakic., M.D., Ph.D., spoke at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni Center on the “Development and Evolution of the Cerebral Cortex.”  His talk marked the First Annual E. G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture.

Earlier in the day, students met with him for lunch, during which he shared his perspective on topics such as his successful career trajectory, the Brain Activity Map project, and possible reasons for the slowing pace of drug discovery.  His easy sense of humor kept the mood light even while discussing more serious topics.

One of the main points of Rakic’s lecture is that although animal models such as rodents can offer exceptional insight into how our brains develop (“I wrote a book on it!”), we must understand that the conclusions we can extrapolate into humans are limited.  During lunch he illustrated this idea, explaining that if you want to understand how birds fly, you don’t study the mouse, because the mouse doesn’t fly.  Similarly, if we want to understand prefrontal cortex function in humans, we can’t study the mouse, because the mouse doesn’t have prefrontal cortex.   “We are so excited about the similarities that we neglect the differences.”  Highlighting the fact that molecules sometimes play different roles from one species to the next, he shared his surprise when learning that NEDD, which is involved in human cortical development, stood for “Not Expressed During Development” in Drosophila.

Rakic also addressed the seemingly age-old Genes vs. Environment (Nature vs. Nuture) controversy, which he exemplified in a debate he had with Colin Blakemore.  Each debater began by siding with either genes or environment, believing that only one mattered in development.  After two hours and several glasses of wine, they came to an agreement —  they were asking the wrong question!  Instead of debating whether genes or environment mattered, they should have been asking “Which is primary and which is secondary?”  This thoughtful interpretation of the issue is sure to become more prominent as we learn more about epigenetics, risk factors, and environmental triggers.

Finally, Rakic was not ashamed to poke fun at himself.  While displaying a list of some of his lab’s publications, he noted, “They are in good journals; that means they are true!”  A double lesson in modesty and the importance of judging science by its quality and reproducibility, and not just by the title.

White House responds to petition on open access


Today Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, responded to an online petition regarding open access.

Over 65,000 people petitioned the administration to “require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.”  Dr. Holdren agreed that if Americans are paying for research, they should have easy access to the results.

In response, he “issued a memorandum today to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication”  Read his full response here.

Did you know an official forum was created to petition the government?  You can create your own, or add your name to existing petitions.  If the number of signatures reaches a certain threshold, the White House promises to issue a response.

As the scale of modern research shifts to requiring “big data” approaches, it is increasingly important that federally-funded data be more accessible.  If data and results are easier to access, the information can be more readily communicated and used, which benefits everyone.  Dr. Holdren’s response represents the White House’s commitment to maximizing the implications of our hard-earned work.  Cheers to that!

Brain Awareness Week teacher blogs at Huffington Post about education

Volunteers for UC Davis’s annual Brain Awareness Week high school outreach may remember Andrew Frishman, our teacher contact at the MET Sacramento.  Incidentally, he is also the husband of Leigh Needleman, who was a post-doc in Kim McAllister’s lab.  Andrew and Leigh (and their two children) now reside happily in Cambridge.

From there, Andrew writes:

I wanted to share a pair of OpEds that I wrote collaboratively with a former student of mine from the Met Sacramento High School named Justin Frago. These are the first pieces that I’ve had published in the Huffington Post and I’ve been excited by the reactions and conversations that have started.

Here is Justin’s piece “How High School Helped Me See Asperger Syndrome as One of My Greatest Strengths” (which I cowrote with him)

and here is my piece “Finding a Way to Reach All Students” (which he collaborated on with me)

Thank you for your time and support and I am eager to read your responses and comments!

The pieces offer an interesting reflection on how a stimulating educational setting benefits students, particularly those with special needs.  Because Andrew introduced me to Neuroscience in my own high school, I would wholeheartedly agree.

-Ling Wong

Which open-access journals get you the most citations for you buck?

Thinking of bucking the traditional paywall system and publishing your next manuscript in an open-access journal?  Wondering which of these (relatively) new journals are most worth precious grant money?  Nature news posted an article indicating that “Price doesn’t always buy prestige in open access.”  The interactive tool lets you refine the graph for different fields, so check out which open-access Neuroscience journals might be best for you!

Updated Student Publications page

As the year draws to a close, we can reflect and rejoice that our graduate group has been so successful this year — 2012 already boasts 43 publications (articles and book chapters) featuring our Neuroscience grad students!  That’s an average of one every 8.5 days!  Be sure to check out the Student Publications page and see what your classmates and colleagues have been working on.