PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience
Jamie works as researcher at Aarhus University
What is your job description?
I am a PhD student at the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University. My research examines how the responses of the human retina are essentially preprocessing input for the occipital cortex.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
That I keep to get doing research! Specifically, the research that we are doing is exciting to me because it is basic science. By basic, I mean that the research asks a question about a basic neurological function rather than a higher order concept (e.g. emotion) and also doesn’t require a patient group.
How did your master thesis influence your career?
Because in most European Universities a Master’s thesis is a prerequisite for entry, a trend that may be changing, my Master’s thesis was immensely influential. As regards the content, perhaps less so, but most certainly the process of producing and collating ideas and supporting research into a single document has been a great practical help.
How closely connected is the theme in your thesis with your current position?
To provide a number, I would say 25%. In my Master’s thesis I rely on the theory of predictive processing to help explain some of my results. This rather broad theoretical topic is also relevant in my current research, but other than that the topic of my current research and the research I did for my Master’s are focused on different subjects.
What courses in the program did you benefit the most of when thinking about career possibilities?
The methods course was the most helpful. It is almost a prerequisite of most of today’s PhD programs that an applicant is able to write code. If, alternatively, I had decided to go into the private sector, then the ability to write code would also be extremely beneficial for my CV. Because of these considerations the Methods course is, to me, the course that has opened the most doors.
How did you get the job?
Networking. Although it can be seen as a negative aspect of academia, the reality is that who you know and how many people you know greatly enhances your options. In my particular case a researcher that I was working with had previously worked with a professor who was looking for PhD students; I reviewed his work and decided that I was interested. After the initial introduction though, what sealed the deal was that we had a common connection from another professor and that I was able to write code.
What are your best advice for students who want your type of job?
Find a research group that is doing exciting to you work as soon as you possibly can and attach yourself to them. Intertwine yourself into what they are doing (be a bit pushy) and read as much as you can on your topic of interest. Lastly, if you haven’t already, learn one programming language. Currently the most versatile language is Python, but R or Matlab are also fine languages to learn.