Meet our alumni
We hope this page gives you a good overview of the variety of careers that past students with us have gone into after studying with us!
ainslie johnstone (2015-2019, DPHIL IN CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCES)
DATA JOURNALIST, THE ECONOMIST
Although it may seem like a bit of an unconventional path, I think studying for a DPhil at NDCN was great preparation for a role in data journalism. My job combines researching interesting topics, coming up with hypotheses, testing them using data, and then writing about it. In many ways it’s very similar to the process of being a scientist. Every day I get to use skills that I learnt while I was at NDCN, and during my short post-doc at UCL.
One of the best things about studying at NDCN - second only to the fun, friendly and inspiring people - was the opportunity for training and development. I took courses on all manner of topics, from coding and analysis, to public engagement. I was also encouraged to develop my writing skills. I wrote articles for the university’s Medium page and entered a science writing competition. This gave me the confidence to take some risks and try something new!
caroline nettekoven (2016-2020, DPhil in clinical neurosciences)
postdoctoral research scientist, western university (ontario, CA)
I completed my DPhil at the WIN with Professor Charlie Stagg, researching physiological changes in the cerebellum while people move their hands. We used a novel neuroimaging technique in the cerebellum to show for the first time that GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, changes in concentration while people learn to move their hands more accurately. During my DPhil, I picked up advanced technical skills in neuroimaging and brain stimulation and learned how to rigorously construct a research question and go about answering it. But I also learned how to establish links with other scientists, draw on their knowledge and support their projects with my expertise.
This was crucial for my next step, when I started a postdoc position at the University of Cambridge. In Cambridge, I pursued a research direction that was quite different from my doctoral research: Having worked for three years on motor learning in healthy humans using brain stimulation and Spectroscopy, I switched to studying language in schizophrenia using graph theory.
But at Oxford, I had learned how to easily connect with other researchers inside and outside my lab and how to immerse myself into a subject, so I was able to come up with solutions to the problems my project faced quickly. My time at Oxford had trained me to work independently, but also recognize the moments in which I needed input to get to a solution. These lessons helped me immensely in driving the project forward and enabled me to develop a toolbox for the analysis of language in schizophrenia patients within 12 months.
I maintain tight links with my collaborators and mentors at Oxford. The neuroscientific leadership in Oxford have created a fantastic scholarly environment which fosters brilliant research – and I’m lucky to collaborate on several projects with my Oxford colleagues. I love bouncing ideas off them and whenever I’m back in Oxford and meeting up with the lab, it feels like I never left.
During my time at Oxford, my thinking about research as a career developed massively. While I always knew that I wanted to be a researcher, the department made me realise how much of the job is about bringing together the right people at the right time. It taught me that scientific leadership and the environment that is fostered in a lab, a department, and a university, is the key ingredient in not only making the job fun, but in determining how well each and every one can do their job – and ultimately, the science that comes out of it.
TOM SMEJKA (2018-2020, MSC (RES) CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCES)
PHD STUDENT, MAASTRICHT UNIVERSITY
Doing a Master’s by research really helped to prepare me for life as a PhD student. The structure of degree is very similar but on a shorter scale, so it also worked nicely as a trial for whether a PhD would be something I would enjoy. Getting to choose the research field was also really important for me as I had a developed a specific interest in researching sleep after brain injury during my previous work as a research assistant.
Having had experience with experimental design, data collection, analysis and writing during the MSc, starting the PhD felt like a natural next step rather than the daunting leap it had seemed in the past. Further to the research skills I gained during the degree, my department organised a number scientific skills workshops that have noticeably helped me as a scientist. These workshops covered topics such as giving presentations, interview skills and handling the publication process – all of which have been relevant in my first year as a PhD student.
Joining a network of people at Oxford can seem inherently intimidating given the prestige of the university, but my experience with the staff and students at NDCN was a central highlight of my time in Oxford. The group are diverse, passionate, friendly and generally just great people to work with so I would highly recommend this department as a place to study.
dr priya maharaj (2016-2018, msc in sleep medicine)
psychologist (developmental/clinical) and research consultant, trinidad
I graduated from the first cohort of the Oxford Online Programme in Sleep Medicine (OOPSM) in 2018. I am a psychologist (clinical and developmental) in independent clinical practice. I also do research work in the Caribbean centering on violence against women and children. I am an advocate for good mental health on all fronts. I have always been acutely aware that sleep disturbances are inseparable from mental distress and before completing the Programme I was able to treat with these in a more ad hoc way, primarily with mental health as the gateway to treating sleep disturbances; not as an afterthought, but more specialised training was required
Following from my OOPSM dissertation, along with my dissertation supervisor and colleagues, I wrote a chapter on sleep disturbances and intimate partner violence in a major violence handbook. It has been very well received. In people who have experienced or are experiencing interpersonal violence, sleep disturbances are universal. This has always been the case. Now though, treating sleep disturbances has become essential and routine in my trauma care. More recently, I have been involved with a Caribbean project dealing with the sexual abuse of children under the age of 5. I am now able to advocate for The Right to Sleep for victims of violence (emerging from my dissertation), and as a fundamental concept in any violence research I am involved in. I can now build sleep into the violence research agenda. Since the pandemic began, we have seen a surge in violence against women and children, globally. There is no time like the present to scale up mental health and sleep services for these increasingly vulnerable groups.
DR YOUSSEF AL HADDAD (2018-2020, PGDIP IN SLEEP MEDICINE)
PULMONARY AND CRITICAL CARE DOCTOR, LEBANON
I was looking to do a sleep diploma because I was caring for patients who were morbidly obese and suffering mainly from obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome. Although I had some knowledge in sleep disordered breathing from my training in medical school, I always felt that there is something missing. In addition, many of the patients I treat were also suffering from other sleep disorders which I knew nothing about.
I started my PGDip and I didn't know what to expect because I was busy between my clinic, hospital and family. But soon enough I realized that I made the right choice. The course is very well designed and I had time to view all the online lectures and presentations because they are accessible all the time.
Overall it was a great experience not only because of the high academic level of the lectures, teachers and information provided. I really felt how much the people involved in this course were enthusiastic about teaching and caring for us as students to improve our knowledge and understanding of this complicated domain. Furthermore, the course doesn’t only teach you about sleep disorders, it gives you a way of thinking and a special approach to tackle complex issues that helped a lot in my clinical career.