Working as a postdoctoral researcher

OT  speaks to neuroscientist Sam Strong about working as a postdoctoral researcher, her passion for the human brain and having a work/life balance

Sam Strong

What is your professional passion?

I’m really passionate about the human brain and how it permits us to perceive moving visual scenes without any conscious effort. I’m particularly interested in two small regions of the brain called TO-1/MT and TO-2/MST, and I like to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate their function.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to make opportunities for yourself. If you want something, ask for it and work hard to get it. I think when I was younger I was more fearful of being honest about what I wanted. I know better now.

What is your most cringe-worthy career moment?

I was once giving a lecture and the lectern was positioned on a little stage. As I began talking quite animatedly about the brain and how cool I thought the visual pathway was, which perhaps is embarrassing enough, I took a step back to exaggerate a point and proceeded to trip backwards over a bundle of cables and stumble off the stage. Mercifully I stayed on my feet but loudly exclaimed “WH-OA” down the microphone, which I’m assured only added to the hilarity. The cringe is real.

What is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

This is an easy question: My colleagues. They inspire me, keep me grounded, challenge me, and best of all, make the workplace an incredibly enjoyable place to be.

How do you maintain your work/life balance?

I’m usually a fairly organised and laidback sort of person so I’m happy to put the work in, but also don’t feel too guilty about enjoying a social life. If I have to take my work home with me on the odd occasion or work extra hours then that’s fine. Likewise, if I have to get to work late because my cat has decided to hoard an unduly amount of house spiders and block the exit, that’s fine too.

What do you do to unwind?

I love being busy so unwinding usually involves undertaking a slightly different project; for example, in my spare time I’m a freelance illustrator (including for OT) and I host live music events in Bradford once a month.

You have won the OT lottery. What are the first three things you would do with the £1m jackpot?

  1. Buy a rolling lifetime supply of teabags 
  2. Sponsor a bursary for research students to fund travel to conferences, providing they agree to give a talk in fancy dress
  3. Probably a long holiday, potentially Vietnam.  

Do you have your next holiday booked? Where are you going?

I’ve not got anything booked at the moment, but when my £1m comes through…Vietnam, here I come.