Can Mental Health Challenges Influence a Career in Neuroscience Research?

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In summary, the conversation revolves around an undergraduate student from India who wants to pursue research on neurological conditions but has a history of mental illness affecting their executive functioning. They are currently on medication and receiving help, but still doubt their ability to become a successful scientist. They are interested in human physiology and saddened by the pain and suffering caused by disorders of the nervous system. The student is considering specializing in genetics, but is unsure if their mental illness will pose challenges. They are seeking advice on which branch to specialize in and are open to computational biology and chemistry. The conversation concludes with reassurance that the student can achieve their goals and they should not hold themselves back. It is suggested to consult with an academic advisor and talk to their doctor for further guidance
  • #1
DrTherapist
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Hi all. I am an undergrad (BSc) student from India. I want to perform research on neurological conditions, however I have a history of mental illness that has obviously affected my executive functioning. Although I am on meds and I am receiving help, and I am not bad as I was once, I still doubt I'll be successfully be able to become a successful scientist, at least a successful pharmaceutical scientist.

Now, my interest lies in human physiology. I am awed by the fact that there's still much more to discover. But I am also saddened by the fact that there's so much pain and suffering in this world caused by disorders of the nervous system, which hopefully can be effectively treated with the help of a better understanding of the pathology behind them. I also frequent on a mental health forum and I just feel depressed to know that people suffer. All due to our lack of knowledge.

Although I am fine with botany and zoology benchwork, I have a feeling I'll face problems at the MSc level if I choose to specialize in genetics (which, by the way, is the key to understanding mental illness; not sure if it's also true for neurological conditions) So I am having trouble understanding, in which branch I should specialize. Is theoretical and computational biology suitable for research on diseases of nervous system? There are a few institutions that offer an MSc in that field here in India. Is computational chemistry also fine?

It is not to say I am completely unable to do chemistry lab work, I just feel it's not for me. And I am not limiting my area of interest to drug development, understanding the pathology and physiology and genetics behind the illness can work as well.

Any advise is appreciated. Thanks.
 
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  • #2
Welcome to the PF. :smile:

I'm very glad that you and your doctor have been able to titrate your drug treatments to stabilize your condition. That is a very big step in getting on with your life.

Have you talked with your academic advisor about your future plans and aspirations? Hopefully they will be able to give you some good advice about your best options for matching up your goals with your abilities and avocations. If the advisor you currently have assigned to you is not being of much help, you might consider asking to transfer to a different advisor who may be able to help more (like one with more life experience in dealing with disabilities and challenges while still striving to achieve great things).

Also, have you talked about this with your doctor? He/she may have some insights that can help you, since they are familiar with your condition and have a fair amount of experience in biology/bio-chem/lab work.

Best wishes to you. :smile:
 
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  • #3
DrTherapist said:
I still doubt I'll be successfully be able to become a successful scientist

You certainly have motivation, but this is holding you back. Focus on what you can do, and do it the best you can. If you can get good grades as an undergrad, you can get through grad school. If you can get through grad school, you can be a scientist.

I once had a undergrad college roommate with (I forget exactly what) who did not take his meds. The bricks in the wall talked to him, there were real people trapped inside the TV set, and once he tried to get the electricity out of a wood door with a hunting knife. But he was really good at math, was holding down two part time jobs, and the grad students asked him for help with their math.

You do not need to make any decisions until after you finish your BSc degree. Use that time to learn more about what options are available. Spend some time hanging around with grad students and talking to faculty in your areas of possible interest.

Go for it. Full speed ahead. Do not hold yourself back.
 
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  • #4
berkeman said:
Welcome to the PF. :smile:

I'm very glad that you and your doctor have been able to titrate your drug treatments to stabilize your condition. That is a very big step in getting on with your life.

Have you talked with your academic advisor about your future plans and aspirations? Hopefully they will be able to give you some good advice about your best options for matching up your goals with your abilities and avocations. If the advisor you currently have assigned to you is not being of much help, you might consider asking to transfer to a different advisor who may be able to help more (like one with more life experience in dealing with disabilities and challenges while still striving to achieve great things).

Also, have you talked about this with your doctor? He/she may have some insights that can help you, since they are familiar with your condition and have a fair amount of experience in biology/bio-chem/lab work.

Best wishes to you. :smile:
Thank you. I appreciate that.

While I have talked with many of my professors multiple times, they say either zoology or chemistry is fine. I think I am being picky and neurotic when it comes to choosing 'best specialty' for research, whenever I think about what they tell me. One of my professors told me I am fully able and I can do anything I want (although due to my depression I highly doubt that) and that she tells me I should wait first before deciding, which I believe is frankly quite true but my illness gets the worst of me many times. So I am left wondering "Chemistry or zoology? What about grad school? What about doctorate? What about research institute?" at the age of 18. It's very heartbreaking.

My professors have frankly told me only one thing multiple times - I should wait. I was checking if it's the only way.

My doctor has also told me to wait. But I am impatient...

Thanks for being graceful, once again. :)
 
  • #5
jrmichler said:
You certainly have motivation, but this is holding you back. Focus on what you can do, and do it the best you can. If you can get good grades as an undergrad, you can get through grad school. If you can get through grad school, you can be a scientist.

I once had a undergrad college roommate with (I forget exactly what) who did not take his meds. The bricks in the wall talked to him, there were real people trapped inside the TV set, and once he tried to get the electricity out of a wood door with a hunting knife. But he was really good at math, was holding down two part time jobs, and the grad students asked him for help with their math.

You do not need to make any decisions until after you finish your BSc degree. Use that time to learn more about what options are available. Spend some time hanging around with grad students and talking to faculty in your areas of possible interest.

Go for it. Full speed ahead. Do not hold yourself back.
Thank you. I will try to focus on my current situation despite my depression, because everyone tells me there's no other way than standing the test of time.

I appreciate the story. It's a very inspiring one.

Yes, I should focus on finish the second year first with maximum grades, before thinking about the third year (where you choose your specialty) But my brain likes to ruminate.

Thank you, I will certainly try! My depression and psychosis certainly are a big deal, but I can cope. Thank you.
 
  • #6
DrTherapist said:
Yes, I should focus on finish the second year first with maximum grades, before thinking about the third year (where you choose your specialty) But my brain likes to ruminate.
In case it helps, I can tell you about a good friend's daughter who I tutored for a while during her college years. She suffered from several medical issues (including depression), and unfortunately her doctors were never able to fully diagnose what was going on with her. They tried a number of drug therapies and counseling, but she would still go through very large mood swings and times of incapacitation. This was all aggravated by the fact that she had very difficult veins to access for the medical blood draws (for all of her various tests), so any trip to the doctor's office was doubly-stressful for her.

She is also a very bright kid, with a wry sense of humor. I (usually) enjoyed tutoring her in undergraduate math and engineering courses. Her initial major was "something in engineering", since she didn't have to declare until the end of her 2nd year. But near the end of her 2nd year of undergrad, she realized that even though she was doing farily well in her engineering and math courses, it was taking an extra toll on her in terms of stress. After some soul searching, she realized that she was actually much more interested in Forensic Anthropology, and she switched majors and has been doing *much* better since then. So even though she was pretty sure she wanted to get into the technical field of engineering, in the end her being able to find a course of study (and employment) that fit her acual interests better has had a huge positive impact in her life.

So I guess I'm also saying that a little waiting can be a good thing, especially if you take the time to look around and sample some of the other career paths that you could pursue. If you find something that truly interests you, it could help to ease the stress and depression you are feeling.

Be well. :smile:
 
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  • #7
berkeman said:
In case it helps, I can tell you about a good friend's daughter who I tutored for a while during her college years. She suffered from several medical issues (including depression), and unfortunately her doctors were never able to fully diagnose what was going on with her. They tried a number of drug therapies and counseling, but she would still go through very large mood swings and times of incapacitation. This was all aggravated by the fact that she had very difficult veins to access for the medical blood draws (for all of her various tests), so any trip to the doctor's office was doubly-stressful for her.

She is also a very bright kid, with a wry sense of humor. I (usually) enjoyed tutoring her in undergraduate math and engineering courses. Her initial major was "something in engineering", since she didn't have to declare until the end of her 2nd year. But near the end of her 2nd year of undergrad, she realized that even though she was doing farily well in her engineering and math courses, it was taking an extra toll on her in terms of stress. After some soul searching, she realized that she was actually much more interested in Forensic Anthropology, and she switched majors and has been doing *much* better since then. So even though she was pretty sure she wanted to get into the technical field of engineering, in the end her being able to find a course of study (and employment) that fit her acual interests better has had a huge positive impact in her life.

So I guess I'm also saying that a little waiting can be a good thing, especially if you take the time to look around and sample some of the other career paths that you could pursue. If you find something that truly interests you, it could help to ease the stress and depression you are feeling.

Be well. :smile:
Thank you. I am interested in lots of things but I am stuck with pure sciences for university norms reasons. Anyway, I'll try my best! Thank you for sharing your story with me.
 
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