I was fascinated to find out my co-worker Caitlin earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience. Until then, I didn’t even know neuroscience was a major and never considered how people got into the field. Some of my questions were answered on Tuesday evening at the “I Am Science” event at The Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event was part of The Story Collider series, which brings people in the field of science together to illustrate science’s impact on our daily lives. It was the second anniversary of this event. (Tweets related to the event can be found by searching for the hashtag #IAmScience.)
Joy Hirsch (see photo below), a professor at Columbia University, was the first “storyteller.” Hirsch took the academic track to science. A pioneer in developing human brain imaging, Hirsch’s career began as an assistant professor at Yale University. She left Yale to become the head of the fMRI laboratory at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and eventually left to teach at Columbia and head its neuroscience lab. Although it happened 10 years ago, Hirsch became emotional when recalling the story of how she was initially denied tenure at Columbia. At the time she was devastated, but her love of science and working in the lab swayed her to stay. “Stick with what you love and everything will turn out okay,” she told the audience. Eventually she was granted tenure, and she’s worked on brain mapping, chronic pain, and neurosurgical procedures.
The next speaker was Joe LeDoux, a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member, neuroscientist, and musician. LeDoux talked about his childhood in Louisiana, where he became interested in the brain while assisting his father, who was a butcher. LeDoux, a professor at New York University, said he would dissect animal brains and learn the different parts and functions on his own.
He had a love for music at an early age—he formed a band in high school, became a radio DJ as a teenager, and even tried to build his own transistor radio. LeDoux went on to college where he majored in marketing, and then continued his marketing studies as a graduate student at Louisiana State University. It was there that he took a class in the science of brain mechanisms and realized he was interested in the field. “I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. Under the supervision of Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, he was able to get hands-on training and decided to obtain a doctorate at Stony Brook University.
LeDoux is also a member of the band The Amygdaloids, composed of four scientists. The group performed songs from their upcoming album All in Your Mind, such as “My Mind’s Eye” and “Map of Your Mind.”