We always want to project into the future as the best possible version of ourselves. But we often fall into the trap of setting our goals based on what we’ve been told we should aim for, or what we see our neighbors aiming for. A big part of enjoying our time in graduate school depends on being in tune with our personal values, our strengths, and with what  makes us tick. This week, Falisha Karpati shares how she came into science and how the transitioned from a PhD in neuroscience to an altac position doing what she loves most.

Falisha Karpati is a skills development professional with a background in neuroscience currently based in Montreal. She completed her undergraduate studies in neuroscience at the University of Toronto, then a PhD in the Integrated Program in neuroscience at McGill University. Combining her passions for science and the arts, her PhD research investigated brain structure in musicians and dancers. She explored the field of skills development during her grad studies through part-time work designing and facilitating training activities at McGill, and jumped into this full time right after completing her PhD. She now works as a Program Officer at the Healthy Brains, Healthy Lives initiative at McGill University, where she manages a training program for students and postdocs with an interest in neuroscience.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • What you can gain by becoming a work/study student in terms of experience and networking
  • How you can expand your skillset and your network by working or volunteering in university programs or in student government
  • How important it is to determine what your strengths are as a graduate researcher to start planning on what you’ll do after your degree
  • What types of skills and training may be important in preparing you for your #withaPhD life

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“Working or volunteering with organizations on campus, they’re very understanding of the needs of grad students, so if I say I can’t come to a meeting because I need to do my lab work or I need to give a presentation, they were fine with that.”

“If you want to know what it’s like to work in a particular field, send them an email and ask for an hour coffee meeting – people are pretty happy to do that. But if you are going to do that, make shure that you go in prepared, because if you go in and somebody is giving up an hour of their time for you and you’re like ‘so… tell me something’ it’s not going to work. But if you have a few questions and have just a casual discussion with them, that’s a great way to learn.”

“I think that’s also coming from a time where there were a lot less people doing PhDs, it was less accessible, there may have been less people interested in it, so the percentage of people going from PhD to academic research was extremely high. But at this point that’s not the case at all – there’s a lot of people pursuing PhDs because they’re passionate about the research and they want to know more about that particular topic, they want to contribute to the knowledge or treatments, or policy in that particular field.”

“I feel like really, the only failure is doing something because you feel that you have to or because you feel pressured, not because you actually want to. And if you pursue whichever career path you feel most comfortable in and that fits best with your interests and what you want to accomplish, then it is absulotely never a failure.”

Falisha’s links: McGill.ca/HBHL; Twitter: @HBHLMcGill 

You might also like the following episodes:

Adriana Bankston – Science Policy: PapaPhD.com/12

Cindy Hovington – Education Specialist: PapaPhD.com/22

Emily Roberts – Graduate Financial Coach: PapaPhD.com/8

Inês Campos Costa – Career advisory: PapaPhD.com/41

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