Beyond Academia: Engineering & Scientific Consulting

Are you interested in consulting? Learn about a career in engineering and scientific consulting at an info session at UC Berkeley. (This event is being run by the Beyond Academia conference) Register here!

When: October 15, 5:30pm – 7pm

Where: UC Berkeley


Barbara Chapman Research Symposium

Barbara influenced so many here at Davis through her passion for science and education. Tomorrow we will celebrate that influence.
Barbara Chapman poster

Talks start at 9 am, lunch at 1pm, and current and past students present starting at 2pm. The Keynote is at 4 pm by Michael Stryker from UCSF with a wine reception to follow. Please attend as many presentations as possible.

“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!


Happy Brain Awareness Week!

Happy Brain Awareness Week!

This week is Brain Awareness Week, described by the Dana Foundation as a “campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.” UC Davis students participate in a farmer’s market booth (pictured) and run workshops at local high schools and elementary schools to tell the public a little about the brain.
Awesome job everyone!

Center for Neuroscience’s 20th Anniversary

20th AnniversaryThe UC Davis Center for Neuroscience (CNS)  celebrated two decades of innovation and discovery on Friday, February 28, 2014.

Representing 13 academic departments and 5 Schools and Colleges, CNS faculty are one of the most interdisciplinary and internationally recognized teams of neuroscientists. Faculty seek to understand the fundamental basis of brain function, from molecular mechanisms to neuronal circuits and cognitive processing. Prestigious awards for their seminal contributions include the John D. and Catherine D. MacArthur Award, more than six Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship Awards, two U.S. Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, and several Early Career and Lifetime Career Awards in international societies.

Founded in the early 1990s under the direction of Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, Robert D. Grey and a small cadre of ambitious faculty neurobiologists, the Center for Neuroscience has enjoyed three distinct phases of growth under the directorships of Drs. Michael Gazzaniga, Leo Chalupa, and Edward Jones. Specific advances of Center for Neuroscience faculty in recent years include new insights into electrical and biochemical signaling, synaptic development, sensory processing, and memory, and how these processes sometimes break down.

Things I wrote down at Beyond Academia

This week Beth and I attended the Beyond Academia conference at UC Berkeley.

@mshybut, Mikel Shybut

@mshybut, Mikel Shybut

Organized by grad students and postdocs at Berkeley, they brought in speakers from a range of “non-academic” careers (You can see the list of speakers on the site). Overall, I thought they gave out practical and usable advice.  Here are some points I think are worth sharing.

  • As graduate students, we aim to know it all and fear being the dummy, this results in us becoming risk adverse. Don’t.
  • Academia reacts slowly. Any change will come from and is coming from students themselves. 
  • Start making a list of “transferable skills” as soon as possible. Keep it up to date like your CV. This will make resume writing easier later.
  • Even if you leave academia post docs are seen as needed/advised. Unless you want to be a data scientist in the Bay Area. In that case learn to code in all the languages.
  • Turns out certain companies hire from a small set of labs. If you want to work for that company, it helps to get in that lab first.
  • Figure out how to talk about your collaboration and communication skills. Skills you build in journal club and lab meeting.
  • On top of having an elevator pitch, have a “brand”.
    • Take ten minutes and think of words that describe yourself and that make you unique. Then group them into four themes. Lastly, pick a word from each theme and make a sentence.

If you can and are considering a change in your career trajectory, I recommend attending the conference next year.

PS new resources have been added to the Resource page

Beyond Academia Conference

Beyond Academia Conference

The vast majority of PhDs seek careers outside of academia. If you are interested in other options and can get to Berkeley, check out Beyond Academia’s conference Feb 20-21.

List of speakers is here.

Beyond Academia is a career education conference that exposes UC Berkeley PhD students and postdocs to career options outside of academia. Panels on a variety of career tracks give attendees the opportunity to interact with successful and creative professionals, while workshops and networking events allow for discussion in an informal setting.

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.

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

The UC Davis Center for Neuroscience invites you to the
First Annual E.G. (Ted) Jones History of Neuroscience Lecture


Presented by Pasko Rakic, M.D., Ph.D.
Monday, March 25, 2013

Lecture at 4 p.m.
Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center
530 Alumni Lane Davis, CA 95616
Reception to follow

Please RSVP to Jacqueline Smith at by Wednesday, March 6.