New SfN Series Reflects on Notable Careers
Notable Careers: Reflections on Science, Leadership, and Community, a new series on Neuronline, features five retired neuroscientists from the United States, France, and Argentina: James Townsel, Connie Atwell, Michael Oberdorfer, Marie-Françoise Chesselet, and Osvaldo Uchitel.
This five-part interview series, a first for SfN, follows the careers of esteemed neuroscientists, highlighting how they found their place in and shaped the neuroscience field and how community-building and transitions impacted and guided their trajectories.
Join these neuroscientists as they offer a glimpse into their personal and professional lives and the careers they built through scientific discovery and personal connections. They discuss their hopes for the future of the field while reflecting on their own accomplishments and challenges and offering advice to neuroscientists at any career stage.
Just some of the topics they touch on include training and working abroad, collaborations, building programs, workplace environments, mentoring, and resilience.
Osvaldo Uchitel focuses on what it was like to conduct high-quality science and rebuild a neuroscience community in Argentina despite scarce funding and a volatile political climate. “My environment was not easy. We didn’t have a lot of resources, but with highly motivated students, we still kept our science at the highest level,” reflects Uchitel.
After being asked to start a brand new program in at NSF in developmental neurobiology, Michael Oberdorfer had to learn as he went along, and he relied on his experience of collaborating with others to get the job done. Oberdorfer remarks, “I had to pull together a panel of people — similar to an NIH study section — who would evaluate the applications and make funding recommendations based on the discussion of the panel.”
Deciding to uproot from her home country of France to the United States, Marie-Françoise Chesselet found collaboration both inside and outside the lab to help her navigate a new culture. “I was lucky there were French postdocs in Boston who had been there for a year or two and Americans who had been postdocs in France,” explains Chesselet.
Moving across the country led Connie Atwell to reevaluate her academic career and helped her find a new career direction in conducting research administration. “I felt I made a big difference in many people's scientific lives. It was rewarding working with applicants to help them get grants,” shares Atwell.
James Townsel reflects on how an unlikely beginning to his career in the military led to a meaningful scientific career and what driving forces helped him stay resilient while building a neuroscience program from scratch. “We were the first minority-serving institution to ever receive [the NIH Research Centers at Minority Institutions] award, and I was very proud of that. Our neuroscience program turned out some very productive young scholars who went on to achieve so much,” recounts Townsel.
Read their stories and reflect on what inspires yours.