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Building the Lab Around Interest

Posted on February 18, 2013

Susanne Ahmari (bio) describes how she selects researchers for her lab.


What I like is to try, and so far it seems like this has been the case, is gather a group of people together who all are sharing common values and common goals in terms of what they're interested in and what they want to get out of their work.

For me that really starts from a central core goal of I am interested in mental health and in trying to understand more about the brain in the service of mental health. How can we understand brain circuits that are not functioning properly, and how can we get them back on the right track so that people aren't suffering as much? And specifically I'm interested in doing this for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

So it's not that everyone who comes into the lab has to have a specific interest in OCD, but they have to have some kind of fundamental interest, I think, in furthering our understanding so that we can make people better someday, hopefully, because to me that drives me and because it's not always going to work out. The science isn't necessarily going to work. Your funding isn't necessarily going to come through, and it's hard when that happens, when you've put a lot of time and effort into something and it just doesn't turn out to be that interesting.

And so for me, my fallback is that I know that this is ultimately for an overall bigger purpose. So that gives me the strength to face all of the negative data, basically, and I want to convey that to the people who are working for me. And it helps if they have that in there somewhere already. And it's not just a job for them. We have a goal.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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