Faces of NeurotechEU: Empowering the Future: A Journey through NeurotechEU and Beyond with Julia Spielbauer from Karolinska Institutet

In the faces of NeurotechEU series, several people in the NeurotechEU alliance are interviewed to learn about their experiences and insights. 

Julia Spielbauer is a fourth-year PhD student in Karolinska. She works in the neuroscience department and is a student representative from the Student Council. We were talking about NeurotechEU from a student’s point of view.

Since we all come from different fields and countries, many ideas exist. It’s exciting to work together on solutions for these challenges and dream up the future of neuroscience.

Julia Spielbauer

Working in a lab often seems like a job for introverts. However, you also hold a position at the Student Council, which needs the opposite. Did you pick this double role on purpose?

Absolutely! I was seeking something distinct, something more diversified. While working on a PhD project, it is easy to get absorbed. You’re super focused, but expanding the horizon and connecting with more than just your research is equally important. Having a mix of things beyond academics is crucial. I thought about gaining different skills that traditional academic courses or research endeavors might not offer.

So, how did you end up in the Student Council? It sounds like a big change from lab work.

Although I had no prior knowledge of neurotech, I thought it was exciting when I saw the position. I read the description and spoke with the previous student representative. She was so excited about how the project aimed to connect neuroscience across Europe that her energy rubbed off on me, and I thought, ”I want to be part of this!” Facilitating connections and bringing all students together sounded amazing.

You’re also part of WP3. What do you find most captivating about it?

WP3 is like a future-oriented brainstorming group led by Karolinska Institutet. We envision the challenges we might encounter in 2040, discussing topics ranging from neurological diseases to the impact on healthcare, innovative therapies, and advancements in neuroscience. What’s truly remarkable is that we’re tackling these issues from diverse perspectives. Hearing insights from experts across various regions about the future is incredibly captivating. Since we all come from different fields and countries, many ideas exist. It’s exciting to work together on solutions for these challenges and dream up the future of neuroscience.

What’s the most exciting thing for you in NeurotechEU?

Creating a big network of neuroscience across Europe. Given their geographical dispersion, the challenge of connecting people within various universities is considerable. However, pooling resources and expertise from across the continent makes perfect sense. Each university has its areas of strength, so together, we can offer students a comprehensive and multifaceted education. It’s way better than just learning from one place. Plus, this collaboration extends to research, leveraging the collective expertise available.

And what’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in this project?

Getting everyone on the same page is challenging. We all have different opinions, motivations, so finding common ground takes time. Organizing and communicating are the real struggles.

Does NeurotechEU help people think outside the box?

Definitely! You get stuck in a bubble when you’re stuck on one thing. You talk to people in the same world. But here, we have all sorts of people from different places. It makes you think in new ways. 

What’s your advice for other students thinking of joining the project?

This project gives you skills beyond what traditional academic courses can provide. And having a supportive community is crucial. We all face the same challenges as students. Talking to someone with different perspectives about it is super helpful. The chance for international travel and exposure to diverse cultures is a unique aspect of the project. For your career, it’s a win too. Building global connections now could be instrumental for future endeavors.

Are there any successful practices your Student Council does that others could try?

Maintaining transparency is essential. Our structure is open and lacks a rigid hierarchy, enabling honest conversations. This approach encourages open dialogue without feeling intimidated. Being a student often entails feeling less authoritative compared to others. Ensuring students feel empowered to voice their opinions and that they are equally valued regardless of hierarchy is incredibly important.

Lastly, how do you see NeurotechEU in the bigger picture?

It’s crucial to consider NeurotechEU as a unified concept rather than perceiving universities as distinct recipients of these contributions. Adopting this perspective would be highly beneficial. Although it might initially appear counterintuitive, this was the original vision.


By: Krisztina Csiba, University of Debrecen

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