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Clara sava-Segal

Clinical Research Coordinator Associate, Stanford University 

 

Let the human brain work its magic... you can learn anything!

What do you do?

"We are able to functionally map their brain."

I’m a research assistant and a lab manager for a cognitive neuroscience lab. We explore how different networks in the brain operate and interact with one another using a combination of techniques. I work with patients that have medically refractory epilepsy. These patients are surgically implanted with electrodes in order to identify the onset of their seizures. Using recordings from these electrodes during cognitive testing, we are able to functionally map their brains. 

Why did you choose this field?

Since early high school, I knew I wanted to go into research, but the type of research was a mystery. Every summer, I picked a new type of lab to work in. I started off in plant genetics, but eventually realized I wanted to work with humans so I transitioned to a social psychology lab looking at morality with both behavioral and brain imaging methods. Recognizing I missed biology, I slowly transitioned towards cognitive psychology and neuroscience exploring how the environment and experiences we have (language, our bodies, our cultures) influences cognition in one lab and attention mechanisms in another. I prefer cognitive neuroscience because you study very tangible behaviors (e.g. math), but look at actual brain signals to decipher processing.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

My parents were immigrants to the United States, so I didn’t really speak English well when I started out in school. However, over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten as involved as possible with science communication as both an editor and a writer. It’s crazy that I went from having a really hard time with the English language to being able to edit it for others. I’d tell my younger self to stop getting frustrated and to let the human brain work its magic … you can learn anything! 

Why do you love working in STEM?

There are never-ending questions. Even if we can’t answer something now, someone is bound to build the technology for it soon enough.

Best advice for the next generation

Do not let people tell you what is a more “important” or “noble” field to get into. Especially when you start specializing in college, people will claim that their field is better than yours or “more important.” Any field can learn from another.

 

As they say, chemists are applied physicists, biologists are applied chemists, psychologists are applied biologists and so on… this doesn’t mean one is better than another, one just helps the other.

Role model 

When I applied to college, one of the questions was which woman in history dead or alive would you want to have dinner with? Back then I said Queen Elizabeth, but now it would probably be Michelle Obama.