Meet-the-Alumna │Jiyun Shin A04 Postdoc

Name: Jiyun Shin
Currently at: New York University School of Medicine
Position: Postdoctoral fellow
Graduated: December 2020
Degrees: MSc, PhD
Graduate studies: Neuroscience


  • Tell us about yourself. What do you currently do?

I’m a postdoctoral fellow at Lucia Mellon and Orrin Devinsky’s lab at New York University School of Medicine. My current research focuses on hippocampal and cortical mechanisms of human memory using intracranial recordings in epilepsy patients. Intracranial recordings are typically performed in drug-resistant epilepsy patients during clinical monitoring for surgical interventions and provide a rare opportunity to record direct cortical signals from the human brain. One of my postdoc projects involves investigating cortical layer-specific responses and network underlying auditory prediction using electrocorticography (ECoG) and laminar probes. In addition, I’m collaborating with Dr. Liu at NYU, examining human single-unit and ECoG recordings to improve detection methods for distinguishing between physiological oscillations (e.g., sharp-wave ripples) and pathological high-frequency oscillations (e.g., fast ripples).

  • How did your work in the lab of A04 help in your career(s) after graduation? And involvement in the SFB1315? 

During my PhD at Matthew Larkum’s lab (A04), I investigated hippocampal-cortical circuits and cortical layer-specific mechanisms of associative memory using in-vivo electrophysiology in rodents. My current PI has an NIH grant using cutting-edge laminar probes in the human cortex to examine cortical layer-specific perceptual and memory signals. My expertise in electrophysiology and research interest developed during my PhD closely aligned with the objectives of this project, and granted me the current postdoc position.

Moreover, I had a great honor to be the first co-recipient of the Brenda Milner award named after one of the scientists who influenced me and my research the most. Brenda Milner award not only highlighted my scientific achievement but also provided me a financial support for the last month of my stay at the A04 lab. I’m very grateful to the SFB1315 for highlighting women in science and I wish to be an inspiration to many aspiring female scientists as Dr. Brenda Milner was for me.

  • How did you conduct your job search after leaving A04?

Like many PhD students, a postdoc was the first choice of my next step after my graduation, although I was not sure of being a tenured professor. I started looking for a postdoc position ~1 year before my graduation. My husband first got an offer from Buzsaki lab at NYU so I mainly searched for the labs in New York. Fortunately, New York has a huge neuroscience community and I found a few labs that interested me. I made a list of labs that I would like to apply for and sent emails to the PIs along with my CV. These labs included both animal and human labs since I was considering to switch my research field to human systems neuroscience. Some PIs did not respond but some did, which led to virtual interviews.

However, I actually found my current position from an unexpected source. At the time, a visiting postdoc (Jaan Aru, currently a PI at the University of Tartu) was based in Matthew’s lab who came from the human cognitive neuroscience field. I naturally asked him about human neuroscience labs in New York and he recommended his previous supervisor Dr. Lucia Melloni and connected me with her. After a few virtual meetings and on-site meeting at her lab, I was offered my current position.

  • What advice would you give undergraduate students in neuroscience?

Neuroscience is a fascinating discipline that combines diverse theoretical and experimental frameworks. Therefore, it requires vast multidisciplinary knowledge and research techniques. This might be intimidating for many students at first, so did I. Although one does not have to master all these skills and knowledge, I think there are a few essential ones. First, a growing number of projects generate large amount of data and require advanced data analytic skills. I recommend undergraduate students who would like to do an advanced degree in neuroscience to start learning a programming language, either Python or Matlab. Programming is a transferrable skill that can be used for non-academic jobs as well, so it’s very useful. Second, science is all about communication. You might be very surprised to learn how much time your PI spends on writing and presentations. You will start from writing your thesis and as you advance your academic career, the time you spend on writing will increase. Fortunately, scientific writing is quite standardized, which means that after learning a few rules it will be easier to do than for example creative writing. Also, most graduate programs offer science communication courses, such as poster presentation, paper writing, peer-reviewing and grant writing. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Another piece of advice I would like to give to undergraduate and also graduate students is to really reflect on your career as early as possible. During your PhD is the best time to learn about yourself – what you like or do not like to do, what you are good at and what is important for you. This will help you realize if an academic career is right for you or not. Also, be aware that an academic career is in fact not the major career path for PhD graduates and, therefore, be open to opportunities outside of academia, as well. Nowadays, many graduate programs hold career fairs and invite panels from and outside of academia, which will help you understand what opportunities are available.

Finally, when choosing a lab, what is as important as choosing a research topic is the mentorship of your advisor and the lab atmosphere. You will work with these people for at least 3-4 years so it is very important to check if you will get along with your PI and lab members. The best way to find out is to talk to people as much as possible including lab alumni. Current members of the lab might not be able to be fully honest to you. Also check how long usually it took for alumni to graduate and what they did after their PhD. This will give you a hint as to whether the lab will be able to advance your career of your choice.

  • How important do you think mentoring was and is for your career development, and would you be willing to mentor a student in our consortium?

I received a lot of advice during my PhD, not only about research but about life and career in general. Mentoring and/or menteeing sound very formal but do not have to be. Especially, your mentor doesn’t have to be your PI only. Anyone who can be supportive and understand your problems can be your mentor, including your lab members, friends and family.

And yes, students can reach out to me via email and I would be happy to talk to them.

>>> To connect with Jiyun, contact SFB Coordinator Marylu Grossman

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