Avid traveler and restless seeker

GSN Podcast Episode 5 – Scientific Success across Cultures and Disciplines with Dr. Roßkothen – Kuhl


Dr. Roßkothen – Kuhl is a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical Center of the University of Freiburg.


If anyone can claim to bridge gaps between explanatory levels, it is Dr. Roßkothen-Kuhl, her work on hearing development and loss spans molecular, cellular and  physiological levels.


Her attention to detail and meticulous care in conducting comprehensive experiments has merited many stipends, grants and awards. Among them, Plester Preis awarded to mark her excellent dissertation on the synaptic plasticity and gene expression changes in the rat central auditory system after they received a cochlear implant.


Based on her extensive experience applying for grants, Dr. Roßkothen – Kuhl shares her best advice on how to draw the committee’s attention. Listen out for those tips!


As always, for people who, like me, cannot bear the sound of my voice and prefer a pleasant visual experience instead, here are the answers Dr. Roßkothen – Kuhl gave to our closing questions

     1)Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

Research skills are important, of course, but bare in mind that you can’t learn everything at the same time, and think in terms of the timeline of your entire career. At the PhD stage,I would pay special attention to ‘soft skills’  – how to write a paper, how to supervise students

     2) What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

None. We still know very little about the brain. We need to go circuit by circuit, conducting careful basic research. Only then we can move onto large scale simulation projects.

     3)  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

Data Dr. Roßkothen-Kuhl collected with her supervisor Prof. Schnupp, showing that the rat is a good model organism to study binaural hearing. Beyond her own field, Dr. Roßkothen-Kuhl is fascinated by the burgeoning field of glial research. Specifically, studies shown the ‘house-keeping’ functions glial cells perform while we sleep.


Happy listening!


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud



GSN podcast – Episode 4 – The Best of Both Worlds with Prof. Hans op de Beeck


Prof. op de Beeck is a Group leader of Human Brain Imaging and Rodent Visual Cognition at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.


We discuss the skewed proportion of PhDs to Postdocs and the progressively narrowing funnel leading to tenure.


We also touch upon how to balance high throughput analyses of ‘natural’ behaviors with training animals to perform more sophisticated – and, admittedly, artificial – tasks.


Prof. op de Beeck reflects on the difference between the American and European Academic environments, and notes how Europe is still plagued by provincialism. Tenure is mostly likely to be awarded to the native nationals. In the US, foreign-born faculty is a more common practice, but such position is not without drawbacks.


For those with limited supply of either time or attention (or both), here are the answers Prof. op de Beeck gave to our closing questions:

     1)Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

Programming. You can never have enough basic programming skills in different languages.

     2) What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

Bayesianism. Despite being quite general it manages to deliver specific predictions, unlike, Predictive Coding, which is too broad.

     3)  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

All the trends with curated Big Data repositories.


Happy listening!


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud

GSN Podcast – Episode 3 – Navigating the Brain’s Complexity with Prof. Kenneth Harriss


Prof. Kenneth Harriss is at the Institute of Neurology at the University College London. Prof. Harriss is yet another exile from the rigorous field of Mathematics, who found a refuge under the cushy wing of the fuzziness of the Neurosciences.


Together with a more experimentally-minded Matteo Carandini, he runs the ‘cortical processing lab’, which developed the now famous Neuropixels probes.


As a theorist, unconstrained by the trivialities of failing experiments and the need for constant practice to develop technical skills, Prof. Harriss gingerly moved between topics as diverse as auditory cortex coding, hippocampal assembly dynamics and the mechanisms controlling sleep spindles.


Arguably, though, Prof. Harriss’ most recent work is the most exciting. His lab is leading the way in understanding how the animal’s state influences the ongoing sensory coding in different modalities.


You can also read more about the International Brain Laboratory (IBL), and their efforts to develop a standardized decision-making task for mice and perform high-density in vivo electrophysiological recordings.


For those who are interested in the ‘bottom line’ only, here are  Prof. Harriss’ answers to the closing trio of questions:

     1)Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

Many, it is hard to say. (But, pointedly, Prof. Harriss does not regret learning biology later, when he was well into his academic career).

     2) What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

Hodgkin-Huxley (again!) When pressed, Prof. Harriss conceded: the Neuron Doctrine.

     3)  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

Papers coming out of the RNAseq revolution.


For those interested to know more about the way single cell RNAseq is changing the way we think about cell types, this paper may be a good place to start.


Happy listening


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud

GSN podcast – episode 2 – treading the line between theory and experiment with Dr. Julija Krupic


Dr. Julija Krupic has started investigating spatial navigation in the lab of the Nobel Prize Winner John O’Keefe at the University College London and now continues to pursue this interest in her own lab at the University of Cambridge.


Indulging in a bit of superficiality, it is hard not to be impressed by Dr. Krupic’  enviable publication record, including 4 Science papers at this early stage of her career. Of course, this is only natural, given the quality and depth of her research.


Dr. Krupic’ outstanding theoretical sophistication, stemming from her training in Physics, allows her to put vertiginous interpretative spins on electrophysiological data from fairly simple behavioral paradigms. Just look at the ‘force field’ figures in her most recent paper.


In this episode, Dr. Krupic reveals how she managed to become an imaginative experimentalist, while having her feet firmly planted in theory, who she will be hiring for her new lab and why she is venturing into Alzheimer’s research.


Happy listening!


On ITunes:


Or SoundCloud

GSN podcast: State of Minds –  episode 1 – time travel in rats with Prof. Redish

Prof. Redish is at the Department on Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. His lab is interested in the mechanisms underlying decision-making and spatial navigation.

Prof. Redish is no stranger to podcasts. He has given several excellent interviews. You can find them along with a complete list of publications and on his lab’s website


Listen to the episode on iTunes or Soundcloud

Here are some of my favorites

  1. M. Wikenheiser, A. D. Redish (2015) “Hippocampal theta sequences reflect current goals” Nature Neuroscience 18:289-29
  2. Johnson, A. Fenton, C. Kentros, A. D. Redish (2009) “Looking for cognition in the structure in the noise” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13(2):55-64.
  3. P. Steiner, A. D. Redish (2014) “Behavioral and neurophysiological correlates of regret in rat decision-making on a neuroeconomic task” Nature Neuroscience 17:995-1002
  4. D. Redish (2016) “Vicarious Trial and Error” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 17:147-159

In this episode, Prof. Redish discusses his metamorphosis from a theoretical computer scientist into a full-fledged experimental neuroscientist. He explains why we should all read Homer, regardless of our thesis topic, and gives insight into the thinking process behind his innovative task designs.

For the impatient once among us, here are the answers Prof. Redish gave to our common closing rapid-fire questions.

  1. Which skills you wish you had picked up earlier on in your career?

People management and time management.

      2. What is the most successful theory in neuroscience today?

Hodgkin-Huxley model of the action potential.

      3.  What is a recent piece of data you are most excited about?

Many studies pointing to just how much of our decision making is subconscious and the implications for legal and ethical questions.

Practise what you preach

The recent US election brought home once again the reluctance of large swathes of educated population to accept the ‘theory’ of evolution. A mere passing mention of the ceaseless creationist vs evolutionist debate triggers a stereotypical reaction from anyone who considers oneself even remotely related to scientific circles (graduate students, for example): a sigh, an awkward little laugh and apparent willingness to change subject, or – if you are lucky – a feat of righteous wrath and an impromptu lecture on the dire necessity of ‘educating the masses’. Continue reading “Practise what you preach”

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