A look back and a look ahead

Conference, Science, Travel

As the crisp autumn air starts to close in on the last summer days, I wanted to take a moment to recap the last several months and set goals for the coming months.

In March, I successfully completed my ACE (Admission to Candidacy Exam) to become a Ph.D. candidate. The weeks leading up to the exam were challenging but I learned a lot about myself in terms of my abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. I read (seemingly never-ending) research papers about human brain development and gained a deep understanding of the questions I hope to answer with my research in the next few years.

I took a trip to Rome in June for the annual Organisation for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) Conference. Apart from presenting my poster, I was able to make new friends, meet with researchers in the field, and eat endless amounts of pasta and pizza across different parts of Italy. I also participated in my very first Hackathon (OHBM Brainhack) and competed in the MIT Algonauts project.

In July, I travelled to Boston to attend the MIT Algonauts challenge workshop where I was able to meet with researchers doing exciting work at the intersection of neuroscience and machine learning. I learned a lot about visual processing, computer vision, and neural networks and am excited to apply some of the methods to my work.

Later in July, I visited UPenn in Philadelphia where I gave a talk at Ted Satterthwaite’s lab about sex classification using temporal dependence of brain signals. I was able to get valuable comments on my research and learn more about what a potential career in academia may look like.

In August, I went down to Weill Cornell Medicine to teach a class about Acetylcholine at the Neuroscience Boot Camp for incoming graduate students. Last year, my friends and I organised this boot camp for the first time as a way to provide a general introduction to neuroscience for incoming students and create more teaching opportunities for current students. It was great to see that it was well received by last year’s incoming class and that they chose to keep it going for this year.

Throughout the summer, I also spent a lot of time hiking and kayaking in Ithaca. Having lived in large metropolitan areas my whole life, I didn’t know what to expect when I was making the decision to move to Ithaca last summer. However, after spending the year really challenging myself to spend a lot of time outdoors and immersed in nature, I’m so glad I made that move because I absolutely love every aspect of it.

Looking forward to the fall and winter, I have a few key goals I aim to accomplish.

Over the past several months, I’ve been working on a manuscript that looks at sex differences in the self-similarity (i.e. temporal dependence) of brain signals. I’m currently finishing up a second draft of the manuscript and aim to submit it to a journal soon.

Earlier this summer, I also started looking at how functional connectivity can be used to predict an individual’s cognitive abilities across a wide range of domains. Sarah, a brilliant summer student in the lab, worked on this project over the past couple of months and we’ve got some interesting results. I’ll be attending the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in October to present this work and I aim to complete a draft of the manuscript this fall so we can get it published.

This fall, I will have my first committee meeting (!!!). I’m super excited to share the work I’ve done so far with my mentors and talk about next steps so I can be on track to finish my Ph.D. in the next 2.5 to 3 years.

In October, I’ll be participating in a Data Science Challenge where the goal is to design a model that predicts shelf life of snack foods. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about potential career opportunities after graduate school and I’m starting to explore opportunities to get an understanding of what different career pathways may look like.

This fall and winter, I plan on getting more involved with extracurricular activities including teaching/mentoring, science outreach, and taking on leadership roles in science organisations/communities. Leadership and community involvement was a huge part of my life at McGill and I genuinely miss it so I’m excited to get back into it!

Lastly, I want to write more. I’ve always wanted to become a more avid writer but struggle to write on a regular basis. I’m hoping that with this post (and all those to follow), I can develop and maintain a habit of writing regularly.

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