Advice for girls

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During one of my visits to a Girls Who Code group, one of the students asked me what advice I have for the next generation of girls. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to get some really good advice. So I thought I’d pass it on and also share some things I’ve learned myself.

 

gemstone_aquaMake your own mistakes

This was advice given to me by my amazing PhD advisor, Eve Marder. If you don’t make your own mistakes and you let someone else make them for you, you will become “bitter and twisted”. Mistakes are OK, they’re part of being human and part of our learning process. But if you let others dictate your path and allow them to make choices for you, there is nothing to learn. Don’t rob yourself of the personal growth that comes from holding yourself accountable for your choices – even if you’re wrong. Make your own mistakes and make them with courage and conviction!

 

gemstone_pinkValue your personal talents

Sometimes you’ll be tempted to assume that what comes easy to you is easy for everyone. Don’t overlook your own talents simply because you have to expend minimal effort to pull them off. It’s especially easy to neglect the things you’re good at when you don’t receive enough encouragement or recognition for them, so when someone complements you for a job well done, don’t write it off as a fluke. You might have a gift that is worth nurturing.

 

gemstone_greenFake it till you make it

I’ve heard this many times, from many people, and it never stops being good advice. At every stage of your life and career you’ll find yourself doubting your own abilities. It doesn’t help that there will be people who will help to seed that doubt (most without even realizing it). You’re not alone in thinking that you’re not qualified enough, or smart enough for whatever it is you deserve a chance at – it happens to the best. In those times, all you can do is fake it until you convince yourself. If you push on, there will come a point where you realize that you’re drawing on real knowledge and brainpower to “fake” your way through a situation. Confidence can be worn like a coat, and you shouldn’t leave home without it.

 

gemstone_goldDon’t take any opportunity for granted

Sometimes you’ll want to coast through a task because you’re just doing it for your college applications or to check some box somewhere. Other times, you’ll wish you could walk away from an insurmountable challenge or you might be too intimidated to even try in the first place. Yet these are all opportunities to do something awesome, to learn about yourself and the world, and to gain skills or knowledge that you didn’t have before. Don’t take them for granted. You’ll be better off if you make the most out of the experiences and the challenges you take on, so go all the way!

 

About BiasWatchNeuro

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The goal of this site is to track the speaker composition of conferences in neuroscience, particularly with respect to gender representation. The progress of science benefits from diverse voices and ideas. Conference panels that are diverse with respect to gender, race, ethnicity and national origin help advance this goal. Homogenous conference programs are generally not representing their field, missing out on important scientific findings, and are one important factor contributing to the “brain-drain” of talented female and minority scientists from the scientific workforce. As a group, BiasWatchNeuro has formed to encourage conference organizers to make every effort to compose programs that incorporate diverse panels.

Bias is often unconscious and unintended. Indeed, most of us are biased, but with appropriate awareness, many people are now successful at overcoming their biases. The purpose of this site is to provide data and other resources to facilitate that effort, and in particular, to raise awareness of any gender bias in the selection of conference speakers, so that these disparities can be addressed. See “how can I help” for more information.

Send information about conferences, seminar series or other scientific programs to biaswatchneuro@gmail.com

Source: About

Hello world! I’m a girl who codes!

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This summer, I volunteered to be a guest speaker at Girls Who Code and it was an amazing experience! Girls Who Code is an organization that teaches high school girls the fundamentals of writing code while they work through some really neat projects. They start from “Scratch” and work their way up to Python – an impressive course load for a summer program.

Programs like these are crucial for getting more women into STEM fields where they’re currently underrepresented. I had the privilege of telling them about my research and about my path to becoming a computational neuroscientist.

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I highly recommend these kinds of outreach opportunities to any of my friends and colleagues. It’s definitely worth making time for because just a couple of hours out of your busy schedule can influence the trajectory of someone else’s life. It’s so important for the next generation of girls to see examples of other girls who entered a field they had never seen themselves in. And it’s even more important for girls to know that the women who’ve made it were just as intimidated and unsure when they were girls themselves. Another reason I recommend doing this kind of outreach is because there is something cathartic about reflecting on how far you’ve come from when you were their age. Lighting up another girl’s path is the ultimate reward for all the obstacles and battles with self-doubt you’ve endured in reaching for your own dream STEM career.

P.S. Girls Who Code just started a fundraiser to continue offering this spectacular opportunity to learn to code to more girls. Check it out!

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Perfect Pitch

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Today I competed in the Perfect Pitch 2016 competition at University of Washington – and I won first place in my division!

This competition brought together students and researchers from four different institutes that are affiliated with the Washington Research Foundation (WRF). Participants were expected to describe their research in under a minute and a half with the aid of just a single powerpoint slide. The idea was to communicate your research to a general audience by clearly and succinctly describing the problem or scientific question that your research seeks to address, what you’re doing to try and solve that problem, and what kind of impact your research might have.

Communicating about science is a difficult task, and trying to do it in under 90 seconds without using jargon is an even greater one. I found the challenge very instructive and exciting, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to give it a try.

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How to build a spiking predictive coding model

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These notes are the first of many illustrated notes about my research, and science in general, that I will post.

This is An illustrated primer on constructing a circuit from optimization (click the link for the pdf). It details the approach I’ve used in my most recent research while I was a postdoc in Sophie Deneve’s lab at the Group for Neural Theory in Paris, France. I was working with Sophie’s predictive coding network with spiking neurons, so if you’re interested in the work from her paper (Boerlin, et al, PLoS, 2013), this closely follows their machine-learning-inspired approach to constructing a neural network of spiking units.

Good news

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Today, I found out that I was awarded a WRF Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neuroengineering. I’m going to Seattle, WA to be a postdoc at University of Washington and I couldn’t be happier!

Also, I’m going to the Cosyne 2016 meeting and workshops. I hope to catch up with many of my friends and colleagues – and to also do a little snowboarding.