My name is Monal Mehta, and I am finishing the 4th year of my PhD in Neuroscience at Rutgers University. I have actually been contributing to the Rutgers iJOBs blog since 2017, but am just now finally getting around to writing a post introducing myself! Time has really flown by since I arrived at Rutgers in 2015.
My interest in the brain was sparked when I was young, before I even knew the field of neuroscience existed. I was fascinated that humans all had the same organ – a brain – but everyone was so different, from their thoughts, experiences and memories, to their likes and dislikes. From there, I had a deep desire to learn more about how the brain works and wished to gain insight on how an organ makes you who you are.
Before coming to Rutgers, I did my undergraduate work at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey studying neuroscience. I quickly got involved in Alzheimer’s research, studying the insulin deficiency that is often seen with the disease. Because my liberal arts school was very small (no graduate students or post docs), I was able to gain an immense amount of hands on experience. I learned how to dissect embryos from pregnant rats, plate primary cortical neuronal cultures, and different cell viability assays. It was here where I fell in love with bench work. I enjoyed mastering new techniques, caring for my cells, and thinking of new ways to combat neuronal death in the presence of an insulin deficiency. By the time I was close to finishing my degree, I knew I wanted to continue doing research and go to graduate school.
After graduating, I came directly to Rutgers to begin my PhD in Neuroscience. I went from researching neurodegeneration to researching neurodevelopment! Now my research questions involve figuring out the developmental differences between individuals with and without autism. Specifically, what is going on in brain development that leads to this disorder? To study this, we use patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), an approach that is coming out of its infancy and possesses great power for personalized medicine.
So what do I plan to do after graduate school? Not sure! You might think a student finishing their 4th year would have an idea, but that is not the case. I have many interests, and it has been hard to narrow them down. I love bench work, so I could potentially be happy doing a postdoc, or transition to the industry/biotech world. However, I am also interested in the overlap between business and science, so maybe consulting, or venture? I am looking forward to attending more iJOBS events and opportunities during my final years of graduate school in hopes of discovering my passion. For now, I remain undecided, but am excited to find a career path that brings me joy and is stimulating!
I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts, and coming along with me on this journey through graduate school to figuring out my career!
Edited by Eileen Oni and