A seventh year Ph.D. student in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience, at McGill University.
Anastasia is currently training in Dr. V. Gracco's lab, and her research focuses on the brain, language and sound.
Research was only one of the many possible paths in my life. I have strongly identified myself as both a scientist and an artist, with creativity and logic holding equal importance.
During my undergraduate studies at Colorado State University, I was a flute player considering a career in music therapy, but I had also been fascinated by neuroscience since middle school. I wondered, "how could I pursue a job that intertwined both music/art therapy and neuroscience?" I knew that budding art therapy practices needed scientific grounding; they required studies to support techniques that worked, and critique of ineffective techniques. I wanted to conduct research in a field related to music therapy, so that I could eventually help build that scientific knowledge base. I began working in the lab of Dr. Carol Seger, where we performed fMRI studies on musical expectation. One day, Dr. Seger told me: “If you want to keep doing this kind of research, you should go to Montreal.” The thought of studying and training at the same institution as well-known neuroscientists, like Dr. Wilder Penfield and Dr. Brenda Milner, was enticing. I knew that Montreal was, and continues to be, a hub for researchers studying auditory processing, and the city’s unique synergy of French and English was attractive. Hence, I decided to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience in the IPN.
Since I wanted my research to combine auditory neuroscience, health, and a little bit of music, Dr. Vincent Gracco’s research on stuttering was a great fit. I took on a thesis project studying auditory-motor integration in individuals who stutter, inspired by my musical background to make some tweaks to the experiments. I’m grateful for having received funding for my project from FRSQ. I began to see science itself as exercise in creativity. My graduate experience has taught me that innovations don’t just appear out of thin air: they come from applying a technique developed in field A to a problem in field B; they come from reading suggestions for future studies in already-published articles and imagining the possibilities; they come from encountering practical problems in the lab and brainstorming solutions as a team. I have learned that advances come in small steps, taken by many researchers, in an interconnected web of thought.
Apart from my thesis project, I’ve been applying my creativity in other ways. Building an elegant, concise line of code to do what I want elicits a sense of triumph. I also enjoy finding ways to make neuroscience accessible to the public. Communicating with people unfamiliar with my research forces me to adapt to them by using terms they can understand. I love teaching neuroscience to fourth-grade students through BrainReach, and being invited as a panel speaker for stuttering awareness events. I continue to perform music, write poetry, and sometimes even facilitate roleplaying games.
With graduation nearing, I realize that research is, again, one of the many possible paths that lie ahead of me. Attending IPN’s non-academic career panels have made me realize that my job prospects post-graduation are not limited to academia. Regardless of what the future holds, I am confident that I will always bring along my creative spirit.
Published on May 14, 2019
If you are an IPN student or Principal Investigator, and would like to be featured as part of the #IamIPN narrative series, please e-mail Dhabisha Kohilanathan at projects.ipn [at] mcgill.ca.