Notable Careers: Series Introduction

Notable Careers Reflections on Science Community and Leadership

These are the stories of five retired neuroscientists who built a life’s work through scientific discovery and personal connection.

In this interview series, Connie Atwell, Marie-Françoise Chesselet, Michael Oberdorfer, Osvaldo Uchitel, and James Townsel reflect on how they found their place in and helped grow a developing neuroscience field, what influenced them throughout their career, and what advice they have for neuroscientists at all stages.

Though each of their paths were unique, all had to navigate change.

When Connie Atwell moved across the country with her family, she made the transition from running a lab to conducting research administration. She discusses how she reevaluated her academic career and found a new direction.

Marie-Françoise Chesselet also tackled a big transition. After deciding to move from her home in France to the United States, she looks back on finding “cultural translators” in the lab and elsewhere to help her adapt.

The value of collaborations also came up in every interview.

Michael Oberdorfer describes them as one of the reasons why his career was so enriching. As he walks through his story, he reflects on his many collaborators and how they influenced him.

They all persevered through challenges and have wisdom to share from their experiences.

As Osvaldo Uchitel progressed in his career, his home country of Argentina was under a dictatorship. He had the chance to go abroad to open his lab, but was determined to stay. He shares how he relied on his global connections to overcome not having any funding, and help rebuild the scientific field.

As they all advanced, they looked for opportunities to strengthen the field around them.

James Townsel reflects on how his experience as an underrepresented minority motivated him to use his influence to mentor and provide institutional support to minority trainees. As the department chairman at Meharry Medical College, he successfully developed a strong neuroscience training program there that didn’t previously exist.

And these are only a few highlights.

These neuroscientists offer a glimpse into their professional and personal lives, reflecting on their accomplishments and challenges, providing their hopes for the future of the field, and offering applicable advice to neuroscientists at any career stage:

  • Know that success comes in waves, so have confidence to persevere and try again.
  • Don’t take feedback personally. Focus on the science and the big picture.
  • Welcome the community around you.
  • Find a lifelong mentor.

Read their stories and see what inspires yours:

A Former NIH Research Administrator on Transitions and Success

Connie Atwell

Navigating Cultures and Collaborations for a Dynamic Career

Marie-Françoise Chesselet

The Story Behind this Former NIH Program Director’s Career

Michael Oberdorfer

Inside a Career Built on Perseverance, Curiosity, and Seeking Opportunity

Osvaldo Uchitel

Why Supporting Underrepresented Minorities was a Driving Force for This Neuroscientist

James Townsel

Look at what people are saying...

Sparking Global Conversations Around Neuroscience