Alumni careers  

Project Manager, Frankfurt

Dr Sarah Gierhan

Dr. phil. Sarah Gierhan works as a project manager for Hertie Foundation and is responsible for their web project www.dasGehirn.info. She was a member of doctoral cohort 3 (2009–2012).
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What are you doing at the moment?
I work as a project manager in the Neuroscience department of Hertie Foundation, one of the big charitable foundations in Germany and the biggest private funding body supporting brain research in Germany. There, I am currently leader of the web portal www.dasGehirn.info. For example, I am checking out service providers for our school expansion, supervise our website relaunch, communicate with responsibles of possible third-party funds or control the budget of our editorial office.

What do you like about your job?
I like the charitable aspect of my job: doing something meaningful and helpful is not only fulfilling but also motivating and satisfying. Furthermore, this creates a great working atmosphere in an organisation that is open for new ideas, appreciates people and their work and thus is innovative and effective.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
I sent an unsolicited application to my current boss introducing me and my motivation for working at Hertie Foundation. I was lucky that I could cover the parental leave of a colleague at this very moment. During this, I set up projects and got the go of our managing board to further work on these projects at Hertie Foundation.

Interview: June 2016

Assistant Professor, Chicago

Professor Dr Thorsten Kahnt

Dr. rer. nat. Thorsten Kahnt is Assistant Professor in Neurology at the Ken and Ruth Davee Department at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He was a member of doctoral cohort 1 (2007–2010).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
After I finished my doctorate, I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow with Professor Philippe Tobler at the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research at the University of Zurich. In June 2014, I started my own lab at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL. Here, I joined the research faculty as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in Neurology investigating the neural representation of food rewards and how these representations change with learning.

How did you get your postdoctoral positions? 
I met my previous PI several years ago at a conference. Because our research interests overlap we stayed in touch. When he started his new lab in 2010, he suggested I work with him as a postdoctoral researcher. To get the job at Northwestern University, I went through a two-day interview process, which included a job talk and a number of meetings with members of the faculty. This is standard procedure for faculty searches in the US and gives the applicants and the faculty a chance to get to know each other.

Research Group Leader, Berlin

Dr Myriam Sander

Dr. phil. Myriam Sander is a Minerva Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. She was a member of doctoral cohort 1 (2007–2010).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I was on maternal leave for about one year after my doctorate, and am now continuing my line of research as a postdoctoral researcher in the “Cognitive and Neuronal Dynamics of Memory Across the Lifespan Project” (ConMem) at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

What is your biggest hope for science as vocational field?
Science can be tough. Short-term contracts, the necessity for unconditional mobility and, ultimately, the vague evaluation criteria for your work make many scientists, particularly, female scientists, afraid of even wanting to have a family. The decision to have a child was not easy for me, either. With the prospect of maternity leave, you will be confronted with many obstacles, the fear of the publication gap being one of the most prominent ones. I hope that scientists with children and a healthy family life will become the norm, replacing the forlorn ivory-tower scientist. At the end of the day, science is a job. Why shouldn’t it be possible for both male and female scientists to work as scientists on a part-time basis?

Postdoc and Spin-off Founder, Berlin

Dr Nikos Green

Dr. phil. Nikos Green is project director at the Department of Education and Psychology, Affective Neuroscience and Psychology of Emotion, Freie Universität Berlin. He was a member of doctoral cohort 1 (2007–2010).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I am in the process of starting a scientific spin-off project on e-mental-health, which I have been planning together with colleagues. Additionally, I am still working as a postdoctoral researcher.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
I got the research job that supports my income by applying for it. The spin-off project came to be developed by brainstorming with colleagues about the possibility of transferring our basic research findings into applied solutions. We had identified some problems (related to our field of study) in the healthcare sector and came to the conclusion that one can improve those problems by combining basic research findings and methods with modern digital technology.

Professor, Lübeck

Professor Dr So Young Park

Dr. phil. So Young Q Park is Professor for Social Psychology and Decision Neuroscience at the Institute of Psychology, University of Lübeck. She was a member of doctoral cohort 2 (2008–2011).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
After my doctorate, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory for social and neural systems research at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 2014, I started setting up my own lab of social psychology and decision neuroscience at the University of Lübeck in Germany.

How did you get your first postdoc position?
The Berlin School of Mind and Brain offers a mentoring program among various other soft skill courses. I participated in the mentoring program and requested Professor Philippe Tobler as my mentor. After a few meetings and discussions about science and a scientific career, he offered me a job in his lab as a postdoctoral researcher, which I accepted.

What were your career ideas — before and after the doctorate?
Before the doctorate I wanted to do research. During my doctorate, the school provided a very valuable platform from which to pursue this goal. And it was fruitful both in science and in areas that enrich a scientific career. I had great opportunities to present my work at conferences and meet international scientists with whom I could collaborate. After the doctorate, I was even more confident about my future career in science.

Postdoc and Lab Manager, Bonn

Dr Holger Gerhardt

Dr. rer. pol. Holger Gerhardt is a postdoctoral researcher at the CENs – Center for Economics and Neuroscience, University of Bonn. He was a member of doctoral cohort 1 (2007–2010).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) and the lab manager of the Laboratory for Experimental Economics (BonnEconLab) at the University of Bonn.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?

When I was still a doctoral candidate at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, I was invited to give a talk at the CENs. Visiting the CENs webpage in preparation for the talk, I came across a posting for the job of the lab manager of the BonnEconLab and decided to apply for the position.

Postdoc, Konstanz

Dr Anna Czypionka

Dr. phil. Anna Czypionka is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Linguistics, University of Konstanz. She was a member of doctoral cohort 2 (2008–2011).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. RRead the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
I knew about my new department because my doctoral project was partly based on their earlier work. During the final stages of my doctorate, I heard that the Linguistics Department at the University of Konstanz was looking for a postdoc. I talked to my advisors and to other people, applied for the position, and got it.

What were your career ideas — before and after the doctorate?
The same: science, preferably psycholinguistics. 

Postdoc, London

Dr Ryszard Auksztulewicz

Dr. rer. nat. Ryszard Auksztulewicz is a postdoctoral researcher at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Imaging Neuroscience and Theoretical Neurobiology (Professor Karl Friston FRS), University College London. He was a member of doctoral cohort 3 (2009–2012).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London. When I came here in 2013, I started with designing experiments. This mostly involved talking to new colleagues, learning more computational methods, getting some experience with magnetoencephalograpy, etc. I’m also trying to get used to the often hectic pace of life in London.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
It was a combination of things. Karl Friston, in whose group I’m doing my postdoctoral research, has been publishing some of the most inspiring and influential papers in the whole of neuroscience, so his lab seemed like a great working environment. I met him at a small MPI/UCL symposium on computational psychiatry and a few weeks later sent him a project proposal which he seemed to like. Then I applied to the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a scholarship which I luckily received. My supervisor’s encouragement and some coincidences did the rest. 

Scientific Coordinator, Potsdam

Dr Christine Schipke

Dr. phil. Christine Schipke is the scientific coordinator of the research focus Cognitive Sciences at the University of Potsdam.
She was a member of doctoral cohort 2 (2008–2011).
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What did you do after you finished your doctorate?
After my doctorate, I immediately started a two-year position as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig. In addition to pursuing my own research there, I was responsible for organizing a part of a larger EU-funded research group. Afterwards, I took a break to rethink again what kind of job I would like to do.  

And what are you doing at the moment?

I figured for myself that on the one hand I enjoy research and the proximity to novel scientific ideas very much while on the other hand, I realized that I have very good organizational and structuring skills, which I would want to accentuate more.
Thus, I started to apply for positions in science coordination and/or science management. Luckily enough, I am now employed at the University of Potsdam as the scientific coordinator of the Research Focus Cognitive Sciences.

What do you do at your job and what do you like about it?

My job encompasses a large range of activities from administrative duties, as e.g. financial organization, committee work, participating in larger funding applications and involvement in actual research projects. Exactly this variety of activities with an emphasis on coordination is what I like about my job.

Interview: August 2015

Trainer and Coach, Dortmund

Dr Jan Prause-Stamm

Dr. phil. Jan Prause-Stamm is a coach, communication and behavior trainer with Impulsplus and works with doctoral candidates and interdisciplinary research groups. He was a member of doctoral cohort 3 (2009–2012).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
I just decided to do it — that’s the beauty of being self-employed.

What were your career ideas — before and after the doctorate?
I always wanted to become a professor — before the doctorate. Then I decided to do something else. And right now I am doing exactly the job I wanted to do after the doctorate.

How did you profit from being a member of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain?  
I profited in several ways: I got some money for traveling and books; when I tell people they think “wow, that sounds cool”; I learned a lot about interdisciplinary dialogue and its limits; I was able to participate in the mentoring program — that was really useful for me. 

Postdoc, Berlin

Dr Vera Ludwig

Dr. rer. nat. Vera Ludwig is a postdoctoral researcher. She was a member of doctoral cohort 4 (2010–2013).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I have a postdoctoral position funded by the Berlin School of Mind and Brain working in Professor Walter’s Division of Mind and Brain Research at the Charité University Medical School for one year. I’m filling in for a colleague who is on maternity leave and leading her research team on the topic “Volition and Decision-Making” this year. I’m also teaching in the Berlin School of Mind and Brain’s master program.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
I did my doctorate here, supervised by Professor Henrik Walter. So I basically just continued in his group.

Is there any advice you want to give to current and future doctoral candidates?  
For your studies, choose a topic that you feel really passionate about.

Postdoc, Zurich

Dr Christoph Korn

Dr. phil. Christoph Korn is a postdoctoral researcher at the Comparative Emotion Group, Psychiatric Hospital, University of Zurich. He was a member of doctoral cohort 3 (2009–2012).
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The following Q&A are a cutout from an interview from September 2014. Read the full interview in Newsletter 7 “An Alumni Issue” here.

What are you doing at the moment?
I am currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Zurich in the Comparative Emotion Group led by Dominik Bach. My overall research interest and approach have remained the same as during the doctorate. But the focus has broadened from social decision-making to decision-making in general.

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
During the last year of the doctorate I contacted a few Principal Investigators by e-mail. At that time Dominik was working in Berlin as a visiting researcher in Ray Dolan’s Einstein Visiting Fellowship group at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain. So I was also able to meet him in person a few times to discuss possible projects.

What were your career ideas — before and after the doctorate?

Before the doctorate I had a vague idea I could work as a postdoctoral researcher afterwards. During the doctorate this idea became more and more concrete. I really like the fact that neuroscience is such a diverse and interdisciplinary field. So, postdoctoral research — even more than a doctorate — really offers the chance to learn more things and to draw on research from a wide variety of fields. 

Postdoc, Leipzig

Dr Sophie Herbst

Dr. rer. nat. Sophie Herbst is a postdoctoral researcher in the Auditory Cognition group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. She was a member of doctoral cohort 4 (2010–2013).
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Interview: December 2014

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
In January 2015 I started working as a postdoc in the Auditory Cognition group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. I contacted the group on my own initiative because I found their work very interesting and relevant to my previous research. I was invited to give a talk, and in the subsequent discussions I was offered a position there.
Before that, I was on a Berlin School of Mind and Brain postdoctoral scholarship for six months. This is a great offer by the School allowing candidates to bridge the transition between the doctorate and a first postdoctoral position while finishing projects, preparing for the disputation, and applying for grants or jobs.

What were your career ideas – before and after the doctorate?
Since my Master’s I wanted to combine doing research and teaching, which is why I think an academic career seemed the best option for me. During the doctoral studies I also became aware of the difficulties in the system, like short-time contracts and enormous pressure. For now I am still optimistic about my chances and I love what I am doing, therefore I continue on this path.

How did you profit from being a member of M&B?
Mind & Brain was a great environment for doing my doctorate. I really enjoyed having a peer-group, especially in more difficult times. There were lots of additional helpful offers at the school, like soft-skill courses. The school puts big emphasis on empowering women and facilitating the combination of an academic career and a family, which was very valuable to me. Last but not least, I liked working with colleagues from different fields, and recently organized an interdisciplinary workshop together with a colleague from philosophy. 

Trainer, Berlin

Dr Malte Engel

Dr. phil. Malte Engel teaches seminars on critical reasoning and logic for undergraduate students, doctoral candidates and managers. In 2013 he founded the Institut für Argumentationskompetenz. He was member of the doctoral cohort 1 (2007–2010).
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Interview: October 2014

How did you get the job you are doing right now?
After finishing my doctorate I worked for several NGOs in Berlin. At one point I had the idea to give a seminar for colleagues and friends on a logical approach to argumentation, the kind of approach that is common in philosophy. Later on I had the opportunity to give a series of seminars for managers in a large insurance company. There I decided that this was actually something I could do to make a living. So I founded my own training institute, and I am overwhelmed with how well the idea of my seminars is received, especially among graduate schools. As of autumn 2014 I am cooperating with 12 universities in Germany and Switzerland, and the number is growing constantly.

How did you profit from being a member of M&B?
I profited in many ways. What is most important is that I as a philosopher got an impression of how young investigators in the natural sciences work, what kinds of things trouble them, what matters to them, etc. This is important for my work now, since I meet people from all kinds of disciplines in my seminars. In general I feel that my degree under the auspices of M&B provides an excellent reference, and it helps me a lot in my acquisition of new clients. I shouldn’t forget to mention that the Berlin School of Mind and Brain was the first academic institution that offered me the opportunity to give a seminar for doctoral candidates.

Is there any advice you want to give to current and future M&B students?
I think it is very important to plan your career while you are still working on your doctorate, especially when you are thinking about starting your own business outside academia. This is important, among other things, because there are several funding opportunities that you have access to only as long as you are still inside academia or only a limited time after having left, for example the EXIST program.–

Postdoc, Marburg

Dr Bianca van Kemenade

Dr. rer. nat. Bianca van Kemenade is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Philipps-Universität Marburg. She was a member of doctoral cohort 4 (2010–2013)
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Interview: November 2014

What were your career ideas – before, during and after the doctorate?
During my MSc I became very interested in doing research. This interest in research has only grown during the doctorate. As a doctoral student you are much more into the field and the work itself than an MSc student, so you have a better idea of what a career in science would look like. I really like how diverse and variable your work is. As a postdoctoral researcher, the variety increases even more. Through supervision you may work on several different projects in parallel, and you include other tasks such as grant writing, workshop organisation, etc. I'm very excited to be able to have such a great job, and am certainly intending to continue my career in science.

How did you profit from being a member of M&B?
Being a member of M&B has certainly helped me in my career. It's not just the excellent courses and workshops that have been an advantage. What was specifically important to me was the great support network that I was provided with through contact with the other students, with the staff, and through the many events organized by M&B. This has provided great opportunities for networking, help with practical issues, and general support.

Is there any advice you want to give to current and future M&B students?
Make sure to use the options that are offered by M&B, and be aware that there is a lot more possible than you think! M&B encourages students' initiatives, so if you feel something is missing or you just have a great idea, just ask about the possibilities and organize that certain workshop/seminar/etc. yourself!

Lab Manager, Berlin

Dr Evgeny Bobrov

Dr. rer. nat. Evgeny Bobrov currently works as a lab manager at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine Berlin. He was a member of doctoral cohort 4 (2010–2013).
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Interview: October 2014

What were your career ideas – before and after the doctorate?
Before I started my doctorate, I did not have a very clear idea of my career. I was considering staying in science, but wasn't really sure, whether that would be the right thing for me. I was also interested in science publishing and journalism, but this interest remained rather theoretical. During the doctorate I realized that for all the exciting aspects of science, I in fact didn't want to work as a scientist myself. Also, journalism seemed a very vague prospect, and I hadn’t sufficiently pursued this course during my doctorate. Rather, I saw that I was good at organizational tasks and working with texts, whether writing, proofreading, or translating. This led me to my current job as a lab manager, but I also considered working for science societies, graduate schools, or the DFG.

How did you profit from being a member of M&B?
The soft-skill courses were very useful, and are now helping me to manage a lab, with the diverse tasks that are involved. For example, the “grant application writing” course is helping me now to write applications of different kind, putting myself into the position of a busy reader, who is not an expert in the field. I also attended additional optional courses, and amongst there the conflict management course gave me useful insights. Through M&B I also had access to the mentoring program, and through my mentoring relationship with a ministry official I learned a lot about strategic science planning and the day-to-day work in science administration.

Is there any advice you want to give to current and future M&B students?
For me, teaching is a very important aspect of a doctorate, both fun and educative. Try to pursue this, even if time seems pressing to do research. Similarly, I think it's very important to take time for soft-skill courses, mentoring, public outreach, or journalism, and only this way one can find out about one's own strengths and weaknesses, and possible future careers. Of course, this takes time, so try to get this time, and discuss funding for the period after the three years are over with your supervisor right away. There are people who finish in three years, but still I think this time pressure is something to be avoided, not just for work–life balance, but also for the sake of good science.

 
This page last updated on: 06 September 2016