“I woke up from a nightmare and decided to study neuroscience that morning.”

Ben Rein, a neuroscience PhD candidate at SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains why he has set up a free networking platform for students called Aspiring Scientists Coalition, and how talking to professors helped him on his journey to becoming a neuroscientist….

Science is an incredible field, and there’s no doubt about it, a successful career in science can be tremendously exciting and rewarding. I can’t imagine a more satisfying way to spend my life, than studying the brain and its diseases, working to uncover information that may improve the welfare of others. The only problem is, science can be a bit confusing. As I’ve made my way through my bachelors & PhD degrees, I’ve found that students in science seem to face many more difficult questions and major decisions than those in other fields. Choosing the right major, finding research experience opportunities, figuring out which grad programs are right for you, understanding the available career options – it can be a real whirlwind, and very few students get everything right the first time. But in my experience, the students that consult the resources around them (professors, clubs, etc.) and actively seek guidance as they face these challenges are the ones that do the best.

As an undergraduate student, I was majoring in psychology until I literally woke up one morning and decided to study neuroscience. The truth is, I awoke from an unbelievably vivid nightmare, and was totally amazed that my brain was powerful enough to generate such an incredible experience. I had three semesters until graduation, and had to find my way. I joined clubs, volunteered in research labs, and sat down with as many of my professors as I could. I found that I walked away from every single conversation with a few more valuable pieces of information. I’m now in the 5th year of my PhD in neuroscience, a few months away from graduation, and I am incredibly grateful for my mentors and colleagues that have helped shape my trajectory. I’ve learned firsthand that in order to answer the many questions that science poses, you have to speak with those who have stood in your shoes, and progressed to the next step.

In order to address this issue and provide this same guidance and advice to the next generation of scientists, I’ve created a free, online organization called the Aspiring Scientists Coalition (ASC)! ASC is designed to connect students interested in science with professionals in the field, to ask questions, build their scientific network, and gain valuable guidance and mentorship. It’s totally free to join, and all are welcome. Currently, our group has nearly 300 members from 17 countries worldwide! By becoming a member of ASC, students gain access to online meetings that rotate between Q&As, networking sessions, and scientific presentations to help members identify their passions and interests. Especially in the age of COVID, where it is even more difficult to form these connections and have these conversations, we want to make information accessible. We hope to unite the next generation of scientists, and shape science into a more collaborative field. To sign up, please visit our site: ASCscience.com – and if you have questions or would like to get involved in an administrative role, please feel free to contact me directly!