Give a Cog Psych grad student a direction in life!
November 3, 2009 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Nearing the end of grad school (one hopes) and am trying to figure out what I can actually DO with this degree. Need interesting job suggestions outside of academia for Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience PhD.

My goal is to graduate this May with a PhD in Cognitive Psychology with a Neuroscience bent. My current research uses behavioral and fMRI techniques to look at visual short term memory and visual attention capacity limits (ie. how many things can you remember/pay attention to at once), thus I know a bunch about human attention and short-term memory, a decent amount about human vision, and have a general knowledge of a variety of cognitive disciplines. I know that I can go on and teach college or get a postdoc position in research with my PhD, but am interested in what else might be out there in industry and what not for someone with my skills. Where would my education be useful?
posted by katers890 to Work & Money (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered a career in human communications interaction? Technology works only when it is accessible to everyday users.

Think Apple. :)
posted by jchaw at 9:36 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everything I've read on here and LJ's gradschool forums is that you need to network early to get on the radar of industry.

People will pop in here and say 'zomg, you should do X for cool company Y' but if you didn't get into their world through internships and conferences.

I'd talk to your advisor if s/he is open to non TT work. Talk to your campus career people.

'Round here, a May graduate would have already been applying for jobs, FWIW.
posted by k8t at 9:52 AM on November 3, 2009

There are several possible avenues, more if you don't mind leaving your field of research.

Concerning how much stuff people can visually pay attention to, this seems like a problem that would be of interest to military, aviation or industry control personnel. How many gauges or measures can an individual monitor simultaneously? What is the system that underlies this response? If you have a top-down hierarchical model of priority, does that shift the attentional response of targets at all? Linearly or non-linearly?

I'm assuming since you're into vision that you're doing a lot of psychophysics and have some quantitative skills. How good are you at hypothesis testing and statistics? Have you delved into information theory and efficient coding in the visual system at all? If you got the math chops you can pretty easily find a job as an analyst somewhere no problem. Finance, industry, government, wherever.

Really, as a phd your prime asset is that you've learned how to think. You can pick most any job you want, and you'll be more than adequately equipped to do it. I'm finishing up my grad career in neuroscience right now, focusing on decision making and difficulties in choice between multiple objects, somewhat similar to your stuff. I'm going to this conference in a few weeks; if you want me to ask a panel something specific feel free to ask me/post the question and I'll post it back here when I get the answer.
posted by scrutiny at 9:53 AM on November 3, 2009

In injury litigation it is relatively common for either side of a case to obtain a neuropsychological assessment of the plaintiff if they are claiming damages for such issues. This typically entails the neuropsych examining the plaintiff, reviewing the medical records, and preparing a report opining on the nature, extent and cause of the plaintiff's injuries from a neuropsychological standpoint.

Unfortunately I have no idea how one goes about getting into such a specialty. I do notice that many of the neuropsych reports I've seen appear to be from those in practice of some sort, but I could be mistaken.
posted by AV at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2009

You could look into human factors and usability, as those often deal with visual attention. Some companies exclusively focus on this work, while other big companies need it for their products -- including banks (for their websites/software), car companies, aviation as scrutiny suggested. The military also has research centers with diverse projects. One example is the Office of Naval Research.
posted by knile at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2009

Google has loads of cogsci folks running HCI experiments. Here's an example of an open position in their main Mountain View, CA campus right now (I just randomly picked one of many available).
posted by mathowie at 8:43 AM on November 4, 2009

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