Marina R. Picciotto

Charles BG Murphy Professor in Psychiatry, Deputy Chair for Basic Science, Professor of Neuroscience, of Pharmacology and in the Child Study Center, Yale University

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A career in academic science is compatible with being a real human and having a family.

What do you do?

Most of my job is overseeing the research in my laboratory focused on the role of acetylcholine and its receptors in brain function and behaviors. I supervise postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, undergrads and other trainees in the lab and give lectures in neuroscience courses in several different programs. I also founded our departmental faculty mentoring program and facilitate the work of laboratories carrying out preclinical research in the Psychiatry Department. Finally, I am the editor in chief of the Journal of Neuroscience and oversee its editorial processes.

Why did you choose this field?

I do not have scientists in my family, so I did not really know what a scientist did when I was in high school. I thought that if you liked biology, you went to medical school. My high school required us to do an internship during our senior year and, somewhat by chance, I was able to work in a neuroscience lab for a year. I learned a lot about science, and also about what graduate school was about. I then worked in labs as a work-study student in college. I didn't decide to apply to graduate school until the end of my junior year, when I was still thinking of applying to medical school, but realized I didn't want to take the time outside of the lab to study medicine.

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

I want everyone to know that science graduate school to get a PhD has no tuition and you get a stipend to live on. I was so surprised when I found this out and before that it never occurred to me that I could afford to go to grad school.

Why do you love working in STEM?

It is still amazing when our lab finds out something surprising about neuronal function and we realize that no one knew this before!

Best advice for next generation?

A career in academic science is compatible with being a real human and having a family. In all the discussions about the hard work and difficulties of scientific research, I think we don't talk enough about the flexibility and the ability to choose different paths.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves." Marie Curie

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