Megan Hastings Hagenauer

Assistant Research Scientist, University of Michigan

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There are so many different types of STEM jobs out there, and some of the most interesting jobs are the ones that you never hear about.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I use computer programming and statistics to navigate large datasets characterizing brain function. Our goal is to find a needle in a haystack - a set of genes or proteins that contribute to psychiatric illness.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

Back in high school, I started to experience pre-menstrual changes in mood and became fascinated by the fact that my cognition could be so blatantly influenced by my physiology. At that same time, I had several friends struggling with anxiety and depression, and I remember wondering how physiology might also be contributing to their experiences.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I didn't learn to code (write computer programs) until I was in my 30's.... and I absolutely love it. It feels like I am being paid to do puzzles or play logic games all day long. And it is soooo powerful. I can do work now in a matter of minutes that would have taken me months (or years!) to complete in the past. Learning to code also redefined the nature of my job - after I became a computational neuroscientist, I had so much more flexibility in my life. I have been able to work at home while my children are young, and I do not worry about funding or employment because there is a shortage of people with computational skills.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

The joy of being a scientist is being paid to learn and ask questions (and maybe - just maybe - discover the answers!).

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Start exploring different careers early - informational interviews, career fairs, job shadowing, internships. There are so many different types of STEM jobs out there, and some of the most interesting jobs are the ones that you never hear about. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask people about their career paths - I have always been amazed by how happy people are to take time to teach others about their careers. Every time that you talk with someone, ask who they would recommend that you talk with next and ask for an introduction.

INSPO / FUN FACT

"Ah, I am wandering. Strange how the brain controls the brain..."
-Sherlock Holmes in The Dying Detective
(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

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