These past three weeks have been a blur of plane flights and long car rides (which I'm no longer used to as a newly-adjusted New Yorker). I was invited to speak at three universities this month: University of Iowa, University of Notre Dame, and Wesleyan University, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit each of them!
First up, I returned to Iowa, where I received my PhD in 2015. I was asked to come back to speak at the retreat for the Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Training Program. This program is part of a training grant in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences for students who do biomedical-focused research. I wasn't a part of this program during my PhD, but was on a similar training grant for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience. I really can't speak highly enough about the training I received at Iowa, and I felt incredibly supported as a graduate student during my time there.
For the retreat, students in the training program requested that recent alumni return to speak about their experiences in graduate school, challenges they faced, strategies they found useful, things they would have done differently looking back. I was part of the alumni panel with five other Iowa PhD grads.
The retreat provided dedicated time to discuss issues that graduate students usually face on their own, or maybe discuss in private with a few friends. We discussed burnout and how important it is to take time for #AcademicSelfCare. One student approached me afterwards to say the fact that I admitted "I get really burned out sometimes" was reassuring to her. We talked about how we find (or struggle to find) the illusive work-life balance, and how this has changed since starting our postdoc. Again, I think it's critical to bring these issues out into the open and applaud the Iowa BBIP program for creating a venue to do so.
Next up was a visit to the Notre Dame Psychology Department. My friend and fellow CNS Trainee Association organizer, Tony Cunningham, invited me to speak at their cognitive psychology colloquium. For my talk, I gave an overview of my research - I discussed my work from Iowa focusing on neuropsychological studies of music, emotion, and memory, as well as my current work at NYU looking at aesthetic responses to paintings, poetry, and music.
If you're really curious, you can see the video of the talk here. I was impressed by the number of undergraduates who showed up (the extra credit they were offered may have influenced them a bit...) and the interesting questions they asked afterward.
Overall, I really enjoyed getting to see the beautiful Notre Dame campus and meeting some of the psychology faculty. Plus we spent the day on Saturday doing some tailgating, which is a classic Notre Dame activity!
My last visit was to the Wesleyan University Psychology Department. Being only a couple hours away in Connecticut meant that I had to drive (!!) for the first time in a while. I'm glad to say I made it safely and remembered how, under the right conditions, long distance driving can be pleasant. And the tree-lined highways in Connecticut are quite different from the scenery in Iowa (although I find corn fields beautiful in their own right!).
I was invited to speak by Psyche Loui, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan, who does really awesome work in all sorts of areas of music cognition and neuroscience. The nice thing about having two talks in quick succession is I was able to re-use many of my slides. The main difference between this talk and the one I gave at Notre Dame is that I focused entirely on my music-related projects, since this was more of interest to the Wesleyan group.
As someone who went to a liberal arts college, it was fun to be back in that environment. I met with several undergraduate students working in Psyche's lab and was really impressed by the work they're doing. A couple projects include EEG sonification in patients with epilepsy and differences in brain connectivity between classical and jazz musicians.
Overall it's been a pretty great September. I've really enjoyed getting the chance to meet students and faculty and see how different psychology departments function. And while it's been fun, I'm excited to be back at NYU for a while and focus on getting stuff done for my next presentation at SfN. I'm sure November will be here soon enough!