Joseph Chen

Joseph is a PhD candidate who is researching the areas of neuroimaging and psychopharmacology. Postgraduate study was a chance for him to step out of his comfort zone and explore a career in academia.

My inspiration

“Having been inspired by affable neuroscientists throughout my undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Auckland, I was curious to find out more about the brain – perhaps our most personal organ. On the other hand, I witnessed many peers suffering through depression and anxiety. Current treatments for depression work pretty well, with on average two in three people getting better over a few weeks. However, that still means that of the 280 million suffering from depression globally, one in three would not typically improve using currently accessible treatments.

“Combining my inspired curiosity about the brain, and a desire to help my fellow ‘frolleagues’ (friends/colleagues), I wanted to contribute to the research to better understand the biology of depression and to improve depression treatments.

“I completed a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) and a Postgraduate Diploma which helped establish a solid foundation of current knowledge of the brain and introduced me to a broad range of research areas currently in focus at the University of Auckland. I proceeded to complete a Masters which focused on brain imaging techniques including electroencephalography (i.e. electrical signals of the brain) and functional MRI (which measures brain function). This set me up well for my current PhD studies which includes topics of neuroimaging and psychopharmacology.”

“The University acts as a hub fostering the best minds and leaders of the future. To be able to interact with these people has been an immense privilege.”

New opportunities

“I was given an employment opportunity in my second year of undergraduate study to be a teaching assistant in a first year course. This was an exciting opportunity and I really enjoyed supporting the students’ learning. I also participated in other University life activities such as student clubs, student advocacy, public events and other service activities.

“Alongside this, in trying to find a career I might enjoy after my Bachelors degree, an academic career seemed to be a good fit. The three traditional tenets of an academic career are teaching, research and service. In realising I was personally interested in teaching and service, research remained the elusive aspect I had not yet tried. I pursued postgraduate study to see whether research would be a good fit for me and also to potentially get started on an academic career.

Why I chose the University of Auckland

“University is a great place to meet likeminded people who are passionate about similar topics. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best researchers, student advocates and teachers; cultivating a thriving atmosphere where we can improve each other’s research, teaching and advocacy skills.

“The University acts as a hub fostering the best minds and leaders of the future. To be able to interact with these people has been an immense privilege. It’s important to proactively reach out to these networks and if you are an introvert (like me), you should be prepared to step out of your comfort zone to reach out and make the most of your opportunity.

“Postgraduate study can occasionally feel quite overwhelming, so it’s important to have financial and social support. Whether it’s a part-time job, or dipping into savings, it’s important to get this aspect sorted before starting. Social support is important particularly in solidarity with other postgraduate students around you. Many students experience similar things (e.g. imposter syndrome, failed experiments, difficulty maintaining productivity for long stretches) and it’s important to get a core group of “frolleagues” (friends/colleagues) close for social support.”