Spotlight: Eilidh MacDonald, Neuroscience with Psychology Undergraduate at University of Aberdeen
Tell us a fun fact about yourself
I grew up in California, so studying in Aberdeen is a big change (I’m enjoying when it snows, though)!
Tell us about your career journey so far
When I was about 11 years old, I was really into a TV show ‘Bones’, about a forensic anthropologist and an FBI agent. For a long time, I was dedicated to becoming a forensic scientist to aide authorities in catching criminals. When I got to high school (age 14 in the US), I began to change my mind as to what I wanted to achieve with my life. While putting criminals away is a positive and fulfilling career, I found that it really wasn’t for me anymore.
In my last two years of school, I began to nurture an interest in Psychology and Genetics. This hobby quickly became more of a passion, especially when I began taking two courses: AP Biology & AP Psychology (equivalent to A-levels). Through my final year of school, I became more and more immersed in the subjects. It quickly became clear that no matter how much I learned about the topics, I could never get enough. That is when I decided that I had to pursue these topics in University.
Over the Thanksgiving break during the fall of my final year of school, my father graciously took me on a tour of several universities in the UK so that I may assess my prospects. As soon as I set foot on the University of Aberdeen campus, I fell in love. It felt as though I was coming to a place that was perfect for allowing me to grow and become the type of person I wanted to be. Once I got an offer and fulfilled the conditions, I was admitted and began my first year in the fall of 2019.
Now, I am adamant that this was the right choice for me. Here, I can pursue any line of research or topic I wish to know more about. Being here has really nurtured my interest in Neuroscience, the perfect crossroad between biology and psychology. Soon, I hope to gain experience in a professional research setting, either through an internship or as an undergraduate researcher aiding professors. Following that, I wish to have a career in the research sector, although I am unsure of whether that will be academic or corporate research.
What was your favourite subject in school and why?
In school my favourite subject was biology. I loved understanding how the natural world works, as well as the similarities and differences across organisms. It’s just the subject that was consistently engaging my mind, regardless of subtopic or the passing of time.
What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?
I would say that widely, an inquisitive and dedicated person can study neuroscience. Skills that help include a base knowledge/understanding of biology (especially cell biology), an understanding of statistics, and reasoning skills. The more you know about the topics that underly this subject, the easier it will be to understand and retain the information you learn as a student of neuroscience.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
My favourite thing about being a student are the opportunities. Everywhere I go there are opportunities to be involved in research, opportunities to collaborate with others, and opportunities to learn new things. I am a dedicated life-long learner, which makes my daily life so fulfilling.
What is a normal day in your role like?
A normal day in my role, pre-COVID, would include lectures throughout the morning and early afternoon, followed by labs in the afternoon/evening. I was constantly interacting with my professors, grad student assistants, and classmates, all of which led to endless opportunities to learn something new. Now, my schedule is much more subdued. I typically begin my days by watching lectures and taking notes. After lunch I move on to assignments and/or revision. Some afternoons/evenings I will have in person labs (depending on the situation) and others I will use to freely learn about hobby topics I am passionate about.
Suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?
An activity that I find to be interesting is available at BrainFacts.org. This website hosts a fully interactive 3D model of the brain. This is not only useful for those who must know the anatomy of the brain, but also entertaining for hobbyists or as an interactive activity for a science class. The model includes all anatomical terms and will display the corresponding definition in response to the user selecting an area on the model. Additionally, the website includes information on brain function, neurological conditions, and lab resources on tabs along the title bar. This website is an amazing resource for those who wish to learn more about the brain altogether or people like me, who wish to cement their knowledge through interactive learning.