Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour
McMaster Integrative Neuroscience Discovery & Study



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Would you like to join our team?

The lab currently has openings!

If you would like to join as an undergraduate student, graduate student, or postdoctoral researcher, see below. The science that we do is challenging and fun. Our lab members come from varied backgrounds, but those with strong backgrounds in neuroscience, mathematics, and physics will receive the highest consideration.  Read why we value a background in physics.

If you're interested in joining our team, please email Dr. Goldreich to inquire about positions.


Undergrads

The lab has periodic openings for thesis (e.g., PNB 4D09) and research study (e.g, PNB 3QQ3, HTH SCI 3H03, SCI 3RP3) students.

Characteristics of the ideal applicant: Although we do not apply a grade cut-off, a high cumulative average is a definite plus. Highest priority is generally given to students with excellent grades in neuroscience (e.g., PNB 2XB3), math, and physics courses. The more math and physics that an applicant has, the better. For the thesis, we are looking for students who are able and willing to commit to the 9-credit option (PNB 4D09). In addition, applicants should work well as a member of a team, readily accept constructive criticism, pay careful attention to detail, be self-motivated, and not shy away from challenges. In general, we are more interested in accepting students who are considering a career in science than those who are considering medicine. (By the way, if you're considering medicine, do make sure this is really what you want to do and not merely what someone else wants for you: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/08/forcing-your-child-to-become-a-doctor-could-be-the-worst-parenting-decision-you-make).

To apply: Email Dr. Goldreich your unofficial transcript, a brief description of your academic background, and your reasons for wanting to join the lab. Please use "thesis request" or "independent study request" as the subject line of your email, as appropriate. In your email, state which aspect of the lab's research most interests you.
 Upon receipt of your email, we will make a preliminary evaluation, and if you seem to be a potentially suitable candidate, we will email you back with a series of questions. These questions will involve considerable work on your part. For instance, you will be asked to read a particular research article that the lab has published and to answer questions about that article, so that we can evaluate your ability to think creatively and critically about the sort of research that the lab pursues. After we receive your responses, we may contact you to arrange an individual meeting.


Grad students

The lab currently has openings for graduate students.

Characteristics of the ideal applicant: The ideal applicant will have undergraduate training and research experience in at least one of the following fields: physics, mathematics, neuroscience, biology, psychology. All applicants - regardless of their undergraduate major - must show evidence of achievement in mathematics and physics (i.e., at a minimum: grades of B+ or higher in first-year calculus, in at least one math course beyond first-year calculus, and in first-year physics). The more math and physics that an applicant has, the better. Computer programming skills and knowledge of Bayesian inference are also desirable. The ability to communicate correctly and effectively, in both speech and writing, is essential. In addition, applicants should be cooperative team players, readily accept constructive criticism, have a positive attitude, pay careful attention to detail, be highly motivated, conscientious and responsible, and rise to challenges.

To apply: Email Dr. Goldreich your unofficial transcript, your CV, and a statement of your research interests.


Postdocs

We welcome postdoctoral applicants. At present, the lab is unable to fund postdoctoral fellows, so the successful candidate will bring their own funding.

Characteristics of the ideal applicant: Applicants of diverse backgrounds will be considered, but the ideal applicant will have a strong background in computational neuroscience, mathematics, and/or physics.

To apply: Email Dr. Goldreich.


The importance of physics
by Daniel Goldreich

More than any other science, physics speaks not through words but through the language of mathematics. There is something almost indescribably beautiful about the equations of physics. They are elegant yet powerful. Concisely expressing relationships among variables, these equations encapsulate a distilled wisdom from which an amazingly diverse and accurate understanding of nature springs forth. From Newton's laws of motion, all of classical mechanics can be derived, phenomena as diverse as the swinging of a pendulum and the orbits of planets. Maxwell's equations hold the same explanatory power for electricity and magnetism. Newton's, Maxwell's and Einstein's equations are among the crowning intellectual achievements of humanity; they are awe-inspiring. No other field of science has come close to explaining so much in so few lines. Physics is in this regard clearly the most successful of all fields of science, and its example provides scientists working in other fields a goal to strive for. For this reason, an understanding of and appreciation for physics is an essential component of scientific literacy.

At the same time, physics underlies all other sciences, including the life sciences. All living organisms function in accordance with the laws of physics. Biology and other life sciences are fundamentally the study of complex physical systems. Knowledge of physics, then, is extraordinarily useful to life scientists: it deepens our understanding of the life forms and processes that we study. For example, a neuroscientist with training in physics can fully appreciate the means by which electrical impulses course rapidly through the nervous system, the remarkable optical properties of the eye that bring light rays into focus on the retina, and the exquisite transformation of acoustic energy into vibration of sensory receptors in the inner ear. Students aiming for careers in neuroscience should consider majoring in physics or biophysics; at the very least, they should take as much physics as they possibly can.

My undergraduate physics training was excellent preparation for my subsequent studies in neuroscience as a grad student and postdoc, and it continues to inform nearly every aspect of my research. In my lab, physics - particularly mechanics and electricity and magnetism - plays a central role in the design of equipment, the delivery of tactile stimuli, and our understanding of the skin's response. Equally importantly, we are inspired by the example of physics as we strive to understand conscious perception. An ultimate goal of our research is to formulate mathematically accurate models of perceptual inference that have the predictive power and elegance of the equations of physics.