Michael Schartner

Researcher in Computational Neuroscience
Science, research and development
BSc Theoretical Physics and Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics organised peer-to-peer teaching sessions, which were highly enjoyable first teaching experiences.  

Hamilton Prize 2010, De Brun Prize 2010, Stokes’ Prize 2008
Member of the Swimming Club.

The class of my mathematics/physics course was very small, hence I had nearly, after each lecture, the chance to further discuss the course material with the kind and competent lecturers. We all became quickly familiar with each other and enjoyed an inviting and open learning experience and exchange of ideas. 

Studying mathematics and physics taught me to think analytically and logically, which was crucial for my further activities as a researcher and curious human being. Being taught in English further helped me strongly in the international world of science.

Maynooth may not boast the cultural diversity of a big city such as London or New York, however, if your aim is to first study basics of a field without much distraction, easy logistics and friendly and helpful staff, Maynooth University is perfect. 

After finishing my BSc in mathematics and mathematical physics at MU, I went on to study a MSc in physics at EPFL (Switzerland), doing my thesis at the University of Edinburgh. After a break when I worked as a baker, I completed a PhD in consciousness science at the University of Sussex. Given that cognitive neuroscience has exciting questions but from my perspective, less interesting methods, I started a postdoc in systems neuroscience, where the questions are less exciting but the methods are very rigorous. Currently, I am a researcher with The International Brain Laboratory, an international collaboration of neuroscientists aiming to set standards of reproducibility and transparency in systems neuroscience.   

I am currently developing robust solutions for the extraction of behavioral information from videos of head-fixed mice. These methods involve markerless tracking of mouse features - such as a paw - using deep learning. This behavioral information can then be compared to neural recordings in order to help identify neural mechanisms that encode action planning and execution, adding to our understanding of decision making in animals and humans. 

The International Brain Laboratory comprises 21 neuroscience groups in the US and Europe, using some elements from industry (such as working groups with official roles, information exchange via slack chat and video meetings) while keeping the freedom of academic research and flat hierarchies. The broad diversity of skills and interests is both, challenging and an exciting opportunity to set new standards for the whole field of neuroscience.     

My current lab - which I joined in order to learn their methods - was crucial to the development of the research collaboration of which I am now part. 

When planning a career in science, it is crucial that your are curiosity-driven. Make sure you pick a field that reflects your interests, ideally something you can never read enough about. Once you have identified scientific writing that you find fascinating, try to contact the authors directly in order to explore PhD/Postdoc positions.