Rebekah Corlew, PhD
Degree(s): B.S. Neurobiology, B.S. Psychology, Ph.D. Neurobiology
Graduate School: University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Undergraduate Institution: University of Washington
Current Position/Univ.: Research Coordinator for the Department of Functional Architecture and Development of the Cerebral Cortex at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
In my science career I have always followed the "shower test" philosophy:
pursuing the projects that I am so excited about that I think about them
all the time - even in the shower. And I've been lucky enough to also be
able to make scientific and educational contributions and balance having a
I was a born scientist, as I believe we all are - even from our early hypotheses about what will happen when we toss rice cereal from our high chairs (with an N of at least 3). But by the age of 18, a dysfunctional education system had me believing that I hated science: memorizing facts I would never use, reading about old or dead guys that I would never have anything in common with, and earning Ds for it. It didn't even help that my dad was a science teacher. What he did was make rum with his 8th grade class, set off rockets at lunchtime, and take nature walks to explore botany and animal habitats. Not "real" science according to administrators.
Then in college, a neurobiology professor showed me something new. I asked a question and he said "I don't know, I don't think it is known, you should do the experiment to find out". Science was ALIVE! For the next 9 years, I fervently followed the questions that most excited me in school and at the bench.
At the end of graduate school there only seemed to be one path - Tenure. During my postdoc, however, I found that although I had many of the qualities necessary to achieve this next step - creativity, passion, intelligence, mentoring ability and a pretty good CV - I was missing one required ingredient: confidence. I told my postdoc advisor that I just didn't have the guts to make the transition to PI. As a new mother, I wanted to enjoy my family and my job so I asked if I could stay on as his lab manager. He was disappointed but supportive, and wanted me to do a little more than manage the lab. He was taking on a role that required much more administrative responsibility in a brand new institute and he needed someone to keep the lab running in the right direction. So for the past two years I have been "Research Coordinator" for his lab. I've learned so much running a large lab and contributing to the building of a new institute, and in the process, I've also learned more about what in science excites me most.
Since rediscovering science in college, I've always been involved in outreach and education efforts. Like my dad, I get excited about making science fun and accessible to people of all ages. My favorite thing to say is "I don't know, I don't think it is known, you should do the experiment to find out". I've been heavily involved in mentoring programs and have initiated Brain Awareness Week programs at the Universities that that I've been at, taught undergraduate neurobiology classes, worked with local libraries to put on educational programs about neuroscience, and planned and participated in many other types of outreach events. I love to help scientists find their hidden talent for education and inspire (push) them to communicate their neuroscience knowledge to the public. Although my job at the institute is not outreach or education, my advisor has supported me in pursuing my other interests on the side. I still really enjoy running the lab and the appreciation I get from the scientists when I put out fires for them, but I find that outreach and education are what I am usually thinking about in the shower. At the moment, I am exceedingly lucky to have a job I like and a hobby I love.
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