What to know before you apply, and what to expect during your training
- An exciting research program with the opportunity to share in our lab’s vision
- A lab culture that allows us all to work efficiently and harmoniously: we value good communication, collaboration, and cooperation.
- Mentoring, non-intrusive supervision, career development, open-mindedness consistency, honesty.
- Flexibility and appropriate independence in selecting research directions
- Stable funding
- Excellent environment with many adjacent labs and the opportunity to collaborate and interact with basic and clinical scientists
Our laboratory is devoted to one of the main research themes in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI). The HBI is an integrated research unit made up of >50 clinicians, >100 researchers, >150 trainees whose unifying theme is neuroscience. Friday is the meet and discuss day of the week with both a basic/translational seminar series at the Health Sciences Centre and a clinical science Grand Rounds presentation at the immediately adjacent Foothills Hospital. Speakers include both local and visiting faculty from all over the world. Trainees have opportunities to meet with them and are encouraged to do so. We also have Friday afternoon Journal Clubs and at least a monthly lab meeting to discuss progress by each member.
We have both animal and human labs immediately across the hall from each other. Two electrophysiology rigs equipped for extra- and intracellular recording and voltage clamp exist in the animal lab. The human lab is equipped with an electrophysiology rig for recording and off line analysis of EEG, EMG, single unit and field potential recordings. We share facilities for immunohistology and microscopy. Networked computers and laptops provide access to almost any software program required for data acquisition, analysis and presentation as well as online library access.
Research trainees are expected to attend the weekly Neuroscience seminars and to give seminars to other trainees in the neuroscience graduate program. Post-doctoral research and clinical fellows should plan to present their research at an HBI seminar or Grand Rounds for the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, respectively. Research trainees may or may not attend the Clinical Neuroscience Grand Rounds depending on the relevance of the topic. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows (PDFs) also participate in Systems and Circuits (previously Somatomotor) Journal Club on Friday afternoons. Trainees are encouraged to interact with and become acquainted with personnel in nearby Neuroscience laboratories who will be using complimentary techniques or asking related questions. Graduate students register in the cross-departmental Neuroscience Graduate Program which has been in existence since 1970. Students take appropriate neuroscience courses including one or both of Cellular Neuroscience (I) and Systems Neuroscience (II) as well as other courses recommended by their supervisory committee. Generally, our Neuroscience graduate program emphasizes research experience rather than coursework and formal coursework will only comprise a small fraction of your time. All members of the laboratory also participate in monthly lab meetings where recent progress is presented. They are also encouraged to attend yearly career planning seminars offered by the Faculty of Medicine.
Science is international and an important part of our research program is to communicate our findings to colleagues at various scientific meetings. Trainees in their first year go to one local meeting without presenting; after 1st year they are expected to present and if doing so the lab will pay for one North American/International (usually Society for Neuroscience or Canadian Association of Neuroscience) and one local meeting per year (usually Alberta Motor Control meeting/NeuroHike). Those trainees with their own salary grants, which include a research allowance may also attend specific specialty meetings if appropriate. Thus they will begin to develop a network of mentors and scientific colleagues that will support with them even after leaving the laboratory.
No one gets anywhere without this. It is mainly achieved by a good relationship between two individuals who can speak honestly and openly about professional development, teach technical skills, give advice about the political aspects of science, and suggest networking opportunities. Mentors generally provide help with finding one’s own way, not dictating direction. While much of this sounds like a friendship, it must remain more objective than that, and cannot offer advice on personal matters. Emotional issues may be relevant to one’s work, therefore empathy and moral support can be offered, but without judgment.
Lab members have access to internal webpages providing advice about career development.
The city, university and surrounding regions
The University of Calgary is one of the youngest universities in Canada yet already has >27,000 students. The Faculty of Medicine has a biomedical research budget of >130 million per year (based on 2005-6 annual report).
Calgary is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, with a population of >1 million. The university is located a 1 hour drive from Banff National Park and 45 minutes from Kananaskis Provincial Park. These offer some of the most beautiful scenery and best outdoor recreational activities in North America. The dry climate, with a surprisingly mild winter, proximity to mountain parks and other nearby attractions make it a great place to live. Calgary is the only city in Canada within a 3 hour drive of 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In fact of the 15 sites in Canada, 5 are located in Alberta. To learn more visit Travel Alberta.
The old joke was: “the only culture in Calgary was agriculture”. However with symphony, dance, opera and several theatre companies, numerous summer festivals, an excellent university music and theatre program and proximity to the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts, this can no longer be said. Sports facilities are excellent within the university (legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics) and elsewhere in the city (Calgary Olympic Park). The population is highly loyal to the professional hockey, football and semi-pro baseball teams. Calgary boasts a highly educated population, great medical care and education, and one of the lowest tax rates in Canada. Housing has become more expensive in the past few years with the oil boom, and is approaching other larger city levels. However, the quality of life remains exceptional.
Links to areas of interest in Calgary & Alberta