My name is Vicky Kanta, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers-Newark. I grew up in Athens, Greece, where I developed my passion for science and research.
Ever since I was in my first biology class in middle school, I knew I wanted to study neuroscience. I was fascinated by how neurons work and was amazed at how much we don’t know about our brain. I could already envision myself working in the lab and attempting to answer great questions. When I reached college, however, I learned that majoring in neuroscience is not offered in Greece. Instead, I chose to study biology at the University of Athens. This was actually a blessing in disguise, because studying organisms in their entirety made me appreciate the complexity of human and animal physiology.
In my junior year of college, I started doing neuroscience research for the first time. I worked at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, under the supervision of Dr. Irini Skaliora. My research focused on how cannabinoids interact with the brain to affect memory and anxiety, which was studied through the use of rodent models. During my two years in Dr. Skaliora’s lab, I learned how to design, perform, and analyze behavioral and pharmacological experiments. Most importantly, I became absolutely certain about my next step, which was to apply for Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience.
Although I was very lucky to have worked in a wonderful and engaging research environment in Greece, I always knew I wanted to experience research and education abroad. This is what brought me to Rutgers University-Newark, where I started my Ph.D. research in 2013. I currently work in the lab of Dr. Denis Pare, and my research focuses on neuronal oscillations and their role in memory consolidation. I still work with rodents, but I have learned many new skills since my previous research, such as how to perform electrophysiological recordings and how to code and analyze complex datasets.
It’s no secret that being a Ph.D. student is hard work, but I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance and keep up with my favorite activities. I enjoy watching movies and TV shows and love listening to podcasts, as well as spending time with my family and friends.
Now that I am close to the finish line, it is time to think about my next steps. During my time at Rutgers, I have realized how important it is to share experiences with other graduate students and postdocs and learn from other people’s career trajectories. This is what led me to participate in iJOBS events and volunteer to write for the iJOBS blog. I am really looking forward to being part of this team and hope that I can encourage other young scientists to explore the wide variety of opportunities that a Ph.D. can give us!
Edits and contributions to this post were made by Eileen Oni and Paulina Krzyszczyk.