Case study

Cognitive neuroscientist — Jazmin Morrone

Jazmin used her passion for STEM and building collaborative partnerships to find and develop her role as research scientist

How did you get your job as a neuroscientist?

I work as both a research scientist and a laboratory technician within the Faculty of Sport, Technology and Health Science department of St Mary's University. My pathway into this role involved several steps.

As an undergraduate student, I found inspiration for physics and mathematics and enthusiastically supported initiatives that would enable me to share this with others.

Working actively both as a student ambassador and widening participation ambassador, enabled me to represent my programme and share my experience by engaging with prospective students.

This swiftly led to me conducting workshops for various STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, and then supporting wider outreach initiatives within the faculty.

While studying for my Masters, which was neuroscience research driven, I was asked to support the teaching of STEM-based modules for several degrees. These activities led to my involvement in some expansive research projects.

How relevant is your degree to your neuroscience job?

My undergraduate degree provided me with a fundamental understanding of the practical principles of physics and mathematics. This knowledge helps me in my role every day, to make sense of the data we extract from the brain, in applying principles, using equipment effectively and implementing mathematical-based tools, models, and techniques.

Completing a Master of Research taught me the essential analytical, technical, and research-based principles I need to perform scientific research.

What are your main work activities?

Working as a research scientist and laboratory technician, I am involved in supporting and conducting research, and teaching, throughout various degrees and departments within the faculty.

In my neuroscience research role, I use virtual reality and neuroimaging techniques, as a means of detecting and monitoring neuronal markers associated with various parameters, environments, and/or neurocognitive states. This research is aimed to be used as a means of optimising human performance, particularly within specialised populations, such as athletes.

A typical day begins early, and I spend much of the time researching, reading, and preparing content for the day. I then head to campus where my day is a mixture of teaching, laboratory support, meetings, brainstorming, planning, researching, data collection, analysis and writing.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My main career ambition is to work on high-impact projects that help improve the quality of people’s lives.

I hope that by continuing my neuroscience research, I can provide new insight into our understanding of the brain, in a way that can be used for practical purposes. More specifically, with the aim of optimising performance, supporting rehabilitation initiatives, facilitating against cognitive decline, and/or supporting injury prevention.

What do you enjoy about working in neuroscience?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job is seeing how ideas, concepts, and theories come to life. It often takes a lot of time, hard work, and perseverance for a seed of an idea to transform into an integrative project. But being a part of this process and experiencing the evolution is invaluable.

St Mary's University is renowned for its facilities and the work we do in human performance. This stems across multiple disciplines, such as physiology, biomechanics and neuroscience. This means that, not only are tools, techniques, and equipment inevitably shared across departments, but so too are knowledge and ideas.

What are the most challenging parts of your neuroscientist role?

I would say the biggest challenge is the amount there is to learn in this field, and yet it is also the thing that makes it so rewarding.

There will always be new technology to explore, techniques to learn, models to test/implement, structures to re-evaluate and optimise and published works to read and learn from.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Identify the key element you want to take away from a Masters degree. Since it allows you to explore specific aspects of a field in greater depth, it can be extremely advantageous if you’re interested in working in a highly specific or niche field.

Alternatively, your choice of Masters may be driven, like it was for me, by a fascination in the exploration of knowledge. In my case, knowledge through research in the field of neuroscience. The MRes route offered me the chance to  develop my knowledge and skills relating to scientific practice and the standards associated with research.

Any words of advice for someone who wants a career as a neuroscientist?

Gain experience, either through a student internship or some form of work placement. Laboratory experience is extraordinarily valuable. Understanding how to integrate textbook knowledge into a practical application is something only achieved with practical experience.

Be persistent, scientific research, can be both physically and mentally demanding and things do not always go how we anticipate them. So it’s important to keep reminding yourself of your end goal.

Put yourself out there, ask questions, register for conferences, go to talks, attend events. Networking will allow you to explore the field to a greater depth and broaden your horizon of opportunities

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