Writing the acknowledgment section of my PhD thesis felt like a reward at the end of a long journey: taking the time to highlight everyone who contributed, and appreciating the importance of humanity in science. While there is no such thing as a postdoc thesis, it feels just as significant to wrap up the last 2.5 years of my life and career. Since I’m a sucker for end-of-year lists and reflections, these December days of 2020 (what a year it’s been) seems like as good an opportunity as any to reflect on the many people who shaped my postdoc years. Here goes.
Anne, thank you for being an incredible mentor during these formative years of my academic career. You (seemingly effortlessly) combine scientific vision, eye for detail and appreciation of academia’s many difficulties with a great sense of humor, generosity and genuine care for the people working with you. From denoising an ephys rig to communicating science to a wide audience, from creative lab meeting formats to grant writing tips, and from strategic career choices as a woman in science to the importance of always having a jar of peanut butter (+ spoon) at your desk: you’ve been a role model to me in many more ways than I could have imagined. I feel very lucky to have been ‘the other Anne’ in your lab for a few years; thank you for your support both professional and personal, especially in the last insane year.
To all my fellow Churchland-labbies, thank you for being a wonderful and supportive group of people (with slightly different composition over the years). Ashley, thank you for immediately making me feel welcome as a newcomer in the US and at CSHL, for introducing me to the wonderful world of Neuropixels recordings, and for being a living proof that successful scientists can also be awesome people. Simon, thank you for sharing your joy of tinkering in the lab, and for co-writing our COIN piece. Sashank, thanks for the many fun discussions about behavioral modeling and for inviting me to come camping in the desert. Lital, thanks for teaching me about rodent surgery, yoga sessions, and for the amazing work you’ve done with WiSE. Farzaneh, thanks for your insights into writing review papers, for introducing me to paint night and for entrusting me with bird-sitting your pets. Richard, thanks for imparting your neurosurgery wisdom and for always being calm in the face of lab mishaps. Steve, James and Chaoqun, thanks for the many discussions and lunches at the round table. Joao, thanks for selflessly helping me out with spontaneous experimental whims, for bringing a bit of Portugal to Long Island, and for the summer runs to the beach. Anup, thank you for sharing your impressively consistent cheerfulness and enthusiasm, for teaching me everything I know about wet lab biology, and for helping me pull off a massive data collection push in the last months of my postdoc (which would have certainly been doomed without you).
To the CSHL (neuro-)community in Hillside, Marks, Freeman and beyond: thank you for showing and teaching me the best of what science can be. While I won’t even hope to do science at CSHL-levels of quality/intensity for the rest of my career, I’ll forever take these inspiration and insights with me. Thank you for spirit of collegiality and the willingness to drop everything to brainstorm a solution to an experimental problem, discuss an exciting paper or just hunt for that one piece of equipment somewhere in Marks. I’ll fondly remember our many bagel tabel discussions, the in-house lunches and brunch parties, walks to the beach, the open mic nights and ski trips. Even scattered across Long Island, St. Louis, Providence, LA and back in Europe, I hope we’ll keep our conversations going.
Thanks to everyone in WiSE for your never-ending energy to make academia a fairer place for everyone, for being a listening ear and for having me as a speaker on the retreat. Thanks to everyone in the CSHL sustainability committee (especially Randy, Nick and Ben) for joining and keeping up the fight. To all the folks I sailed, acted, gardened, crafted, did frisbee and yoga, camped, swam, and had beers/ice cream in the sun with: thanks for all the good times.
I’ve always felt like I had two postdoc labs: one local and one global. It’s been immensely fun and rewarding to have been part of the growing International Brain Lab team over the years. Anup, Valeria and Chris, it’s been great to be part of our local CSHL-IBL team and to work together on debugging rigs, optimizing surgeries and sharing the ins and outs of optimal mouse behavior. Josh, I never thought I’d get this excited about experimental hardware: thanks for everything you taught me (I’m very happy I can now solder things). Fanny, Inês and Valeria, thank you for being great co-authors: I’m very happy that what started out as a little methods pilot became my first postdoc paper. Gaelle, Guido, Alejandro and Miles, thanks for the many discussions on standardization, mouse behavior and data sharing as we’ve pushed our first platform effort to an (almost resubmitted) paper. Lauren, thanks for your unwavering drive to understand the social experiment that is IBL, and for shaping my thoughts on publications, careers and team-science governance.
Thanks to all the IBL researchers who’ve made our virtual collaboration feel (at the risk of forgetting some names, I won’t attempt to list everyone). I’ll fondly remember the spirit of discovery and collaboration, the Slack jokes, discussing science over drinks in Paris, London, Lisbon and NYC, our early-Covid Discord hangouts, respectful disagreements (and some heated arguments). Thank you to all the IBL PIs, for your mentorship over the years, for walking the walk and making this crazy team science project work. Matteo, thanks for your leadership of the behavioral WG, and for being an excellent teacher of scientific writing. Tony, thanks shaping my ideas about rodent behavior and for always-stimulating discussions at the Marks table. Alex, thanks for hosting me in Geneva and for sharing your honest insights into the darker corners of science funding and politics. Hannah, thanks for your leadership and human touch in keeping the whole project together. Joining the IBL and getting to work with all of you has been one of the better career choices I’ve made, and I hope this won’t be goodbye.
Science wouldn’t be half as fun without all the great people you get to meet. Thanks for great times at the computational vision Banbury course (and beyond), the SCGB NY talks and dinner discussions, the virtual book clubs and NMA slow-pod, and for the many LIRR trips to NYC for science, art and entertainment. Thanks to the global community of scientists who’ve made the world feel much smaller, despite/especially in this pandemic year.
Postdoc life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I went through a pretty rough patch where I very seriously considered abandoning ship (that’s for another blogpost). Thanks to everyone who talked to me about their different career paths and helped me regain some confidence and sanity: Anouk, Joram, David, Rebecca, Iris, Rosanne, Simon, Tomas, Alexandra, Marike, Flora, Louise, Marlieke, Daan, Annelinde, Jeremy, Leslie and mostly Jackie. If you struggle with mental health in academia, know that you’re not alone and that there is always help.
Scientists are fantastic people, but they have the habit of leaving for greener pastures just when you think you’ve made a friend (I’m guilty of this too). Which brings me back home: thank you to my family and friends for your support and love, even (and especially) when time zone conflicts were hard and I was struggling with life abroad. I feel very happy to be back in the country, and I can’t wait for normal life to resume post-vaccine and bring some much needed relief.
Sander, Mariska and Guido, thanks for taking a chance on having me on the team just 2 years into my postdoc. Thanks to all my new colleagues in Leiden for welcoming me over the last month, especially in these strange times of working from home. I look forward to getting to know you better, and to the exciting science we’ll do.
This became quite long; have some photos to wrap it up.