Meet Our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2021 Highly Commended Nominees: Raul Ramos
It's time to meet another of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2021 Highly Commended nominees! Raul Ramos of Brandeis University, USA, was nominated in the Lab Scholar category by his colleague Brian Cary who praised his earnest dedication to science, and also highlighted his outstanding youth mentoring and community work.
Raul Ramos is a Neuroscience Ph.D. whose dissertation research, performed under the guidance of Dr. Gina G Turrigiano, focused on how different forms of synaptic plasticity cooperate within the cortex to govern the balance between memory specificity and generalization. After receiving his Ph.D., Raul was awarded the Kathryn A. Day Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship Award by The Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the University of California at Berkeley, to study how psychedelics impact touch sensory perception in the peripheral nervous system. This work will take place in the SENSE lab, under the co-mentorship of Drs. Ellen Lumpkin and Diana Bautista.
We chatted to Raul about his career so far, his typical day in the lab, and his hopes for the future, and more!
Congratulations, Raul! How did it feel when you found out that your colleague had nominated you as their Lab Hero?
It made me feel proud because Brian Cary (my nominator) is an amazing guy, but more importantly, he holds those around him accountable for their actions, the good and the bad. Brian is a leader in his own right, and to read what he had to say brought me a great sense of fulfilment.
How did it feel when you found out our judges had chosen you as 'Highly Commended'?
I felt happy. I strive to be a positive influence in the lab and to be recognized for that is amazing.
Why do you think it’s so important to celebrate life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
It is important to celebrate life science researchers because our endeavors are often mentally, physically and emotionally taxing. Positive reinforcement in our line of work is rare. While most people are advised not to become personally invested in their work, this is for most pretty much impossible. However, it doesn’t hurt anyone to celebrate those around them that are currently “in the trenches”. You can high-five someone in your lab right now and make them feel seen. It's important to let your mentees (and mentors) know that they are doing a good job.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and if so, why?
I went through many phases as a child, the closest one to scientist was that I used to remark that I wanted to be a herpetologist. This is primarily because I’ve always loved animals and Steve Irwin got me super invested in reptiles.
What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
The freedom to pursue my ideas, working with students, and always learning new things.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on in the lab currently?
I am currently taking time off between my PhD and the start of my post-doc position. I would recommend to anyone searching for post-doc positions, that when interviewing, you talk candidly about some paid time off.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
First, I get cold brew coffee, black. I drink it quickly on an empty stomach and then work as much as I can until I’m hungry and lightheaded. At this point, I stop for lunch. I don’t like to have lunch alone, so I usually gather a quorum to eat with me. After lunch, I finish whatever I need to do so I can leave the lab at a reasonable time. I’m a morning person, so I tend to frontload my day and get as much done when I’m firing on all cylinders.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists at the moment?
There are many challenges, but I think one many can agree on (at least in the US) is that our pay is inadequate and often does not match the labor (hours worked). Pay us more. Raise the NIH minimum for post-docs. Pay your graduate students livable wages.
How do you see your career developing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be 5 years into running my own lab. I love the work that I do, from top to bottom. I love reading, writing, mentoring, learning and doing science. I love talking to people about science, and hearing from others about what they are working on. I love the community that I have found, and I hope to open that door for others.
Which scientists working today do you admire the most?
I have the utmost admiration for women in science, particularly my mentors Gina Turrigiano, Ellen Lumpkin, and Diana Bautista. I often reflect on all the garbage they had to deal with being up-and-coming women in science at a time when the career was more male dominated than it is now. I have a substantial amount of respect for them. I also admire those women in science at a more junior stage. Specifically, I want to highlight Wei Wen (@WWenNeuro), Sonali Mali (@sonalimali6), Yasmin Escobedo Lozoya (@neuromixologist), and Jasmine Quynh Le (@jplayshooky).
What’s your favourite science quote?
It’s not a science quote, but it is my favorite quote and I have it framed above my desk. It is: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” – John F Kennedy, September 12, 1962.
And finally... is there anything else you would like to tell us, eg. specific issues or initiatives in science that you are involved with or are passionate about?
Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted most of my science outreach efforts. I am currently going through a phase of reflection with respect to how I want to engage in science outreach as a postdoc. I have some exciting ideas, but nothing I can share now. Instead, I would like to bring attention to some organizations that I find amazing. Be sure to keep an eye on Black In Neuro (@BlackInNeuro; blackinneuro.com) and Cientifico Latino (@cientificolatin; cientificolatino.com). Both of these organizations are doing fantastic work that I think has the potential to shape future generations of scientists.
Thank you so much for speaking to us Raul! And congratulations once again on being highly commended! We look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your career as it progresses.
Connect with Raul:
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