How Does a Scientist Juggle Neuroscience & Children – While In Confinement?

How Does a Scientist Juggle Neuroscience & Children – While In Confinement?

Taryn Aubrecht, PhD

Taryn Aubrecht, PhD

We talked to Taryn Aubrecht, PhD a member of our Translational Science team working to accelerate diagnostics and treatments for brain disorders, to see how she was handling the pressures of working on her neuroscience projects while caring for two toddlers at home. Taryn admits that the pandemic has tested her but also shares insights into how she’s learned to manage the extra stress, all within the boundaries of her own home.

Tell us about the research you’re doing for CVB – what do you find most exciting about your current projects?

I am currently working on a number of basic landscaping efforts: human blast in traumatic brain injury (TBI), sleep in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), monitoring stress continuously in rodents, and translating genome-wide association data into animal models. Additionally, I am conducting a bake-off between two planar cytokine arrays for mouse and rat samples. This bake-off will inform a number of ongoing preclinical g projects.

From your experience working from home with kids as a scientist, what insight or advice might you offer others in the same position?

I would say that time management skills and flexibility for work and home are essential when working on neuroscience programs. I also believe that we need to be really honest with ourselves re: what we can and cannot achieve on our own and plan from there. For example, my husband is able to keep things afloat when I’m entrenched in an intensive project.

As a working mom, how are you coping with COVID-19? 

I think I am coping pretty well with some days better than the others. There are definitely times when anxiety or tempers are high. It is hard to spend most of your time confined in 1,400 square feet with another adult and two toddlers. I think we all have gotten better at expressing our needs and frustrations, which helps limit parent and toddler meltdowns. Trying to juggle multiple roles is an ongoing challenge. There is never enough time or energy to get everything done and I have to accept it and stop feeling guilty and unfit. Nobody suffers if I leave the dishes until the morning and spend the evening watching TV instead. 

Why did you decide to study the brain and enter the field of neuroscience?

In high school, I felt like I was fine at every subject, but not amazing at any of them. Then, I took a college introductory psychology class my senior year of high school and it just clicked. I loved learning the material and it all made sense to me. I also spent a lot of time wondering why people made the choices they did so when I discovered neuroscience the following year as a freshman in college there was no turning back! Admittedly, my neuroscience journey never took me to understanding people better because I found happiness in preclinical research and bench work. But, I am hopeful that my contributions to science will help other people even if I still do not always understand them.