Marlou Perquin (@mnperquin) is from the Netherlands, where she did a Bachelor in Psychology and in Philosophy, as well as a Research Master in Cognitive Neuroscience and Master in Philosophy at Leiden University. Afterwards, Marlou moved to Wales for a PhD project in cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University. She is currently halfway through her project, and is now analysing and writing up the results of her first study on variability within individuals, as well as planning a second study in which she will use an MEG scanner: A non-invasive machine that can record the electrical signals that occur in your brain during activity. Marlou’s talk at Soapbox Science 2017 will be on behavioural and neuronal variability between and within individuals. Specifically, she will talk about what happens when we perform repetitive, boring, tasks, and how we may improve our own performance and variability. You can catch Marlou on her soapbox on June 10th in Cardiff when she will give a talk called: “Can we improve our performance on boring, repetitive tasks by having more task-control?”
SS: Marlou, how did you get to your current position?
MP: I was doing my Research Master in the Netherlands and was actively looking for a PhD project in cognitive neuroscience. I found my position online while browsing through different projects, and immediately loved it! While applying, I never thought that they would actually hire me… but if you don’t apply, you’ll never get it! They did invite me for a Skype-interview and although I was really nervous, I had so much fun during the interview. A few days later, I got an e-mail and the first 6 words were enough to make my heart skip a beat: “I am pleased to inform you…”
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
MP: Not sure if I can name a specific what or who. I was quickly drawn to research after starting my Bachelors, as it encompassed what I was always drawn to: reading, analytical thinking, picking apart and building larger theoretical frameworks, writing… I decided quite early on that I wanted to do a Research Master – which specifically prepares for a PhD project/scientific career. Doing this program felt like finally coming home to where I belonged, and confirmed that science was the right path for me.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
MP: The human mind itself, of course! But aside from that, what fascinates me is how science can bring people together. I work in a big building with a lot of people who all do their own projects, and on a day-to-day basis, our work is very independent. But in the end, we are working together towards one large goal: Entangling the human brain and mind. There is something – something about science – that unites us.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science Cardiff 2017 in the first place?
MP: I love how Soapbox Science literally brings science to the streets and to the people. Science and knowledge should not be kept in the universities; they belong to everyone in society. I also think it’s great that Soapbox Science shows that scientists come in any shape, way, gender, or form, and not just in old-man-with-beard style.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
MP: Engaging! 🙂
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
MP: I think we need to step away from the idea that good science is about publishing ground-breaking results in high impact journals. Not only is this leading to all sorts of (ethical) problems within research, it also makes us underappreciate good (but boring) science – such as replication studies. Let the focus be on good methods, and let the results be the results.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
MP: Only do it if you love it, otherwise it’s not worth it. Science makes for a great, interesting, fun, and engaging job, but only if you have a genuine love for your topic and your research – because on a daily basis, science can often be tedious and frustrating, and on these days, you need to be able to have the larger picture in mind.