Help me find some job prospects in SF in neuroscience/psychology?
October 15, 2013 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Hello, I'm a recent Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, and it appears I'm not massively employable. I live in San Francisco and am not able to relocate.

I've decided I no longer want to work in academic research, so no Stanford/Berkeley/UCSF research for me.

Ideally, I'd like to work in product/marketing for a company that's producing useful solutions for people's well being. Alternately, I am also happy to work as part of a science team for a relevant product for a year or a few years, but ultimately would want to move forward onto product side, so it would have to be a great team and a great product.

My top interests are: neurofeedback, meditation, mood, psychotherapy, cognitive enhancement, human behavior, personalized medicine

To give you an idea of the kinds of places I've been interested in and am already looking into: Lumosity, Posit Science, Emotiv, Neurosky, Neurovigil, Neuropace, Neurofocus, UX research at places like Facebook/Google, OK Cupid labs,

I'm learning python but I can't really code quite yet. I have decent multivariate stats skills but I'm not a statistician (so no data science team at Google, etc).

I guess my questions are:
1. Given the range of my interests, are there other places you'd think I should consider?
2. do you have advice about how to reach those places or contacts/recruiters you'd suggest?
3. Are there entire categories of options I'm not thinking of?
4. other?

This is really a shot in the dark, I know this is unlikely to give me solid answers, but it can't hurt.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a little unclear, are you looking for specific companies to target? I know that is here in SF. I love their app!
posted by radioamy at 5:05 PM on October 15, 2013

How much cognitive neuro did you have in your thesis? Do you have EEG experience, or better yet, ECoG? Playing up the hard-neuro side of it will be what lands you places like Neuropace (which is mostly epilepsy, or it was the last time I checked). Other than the UX positions, it's the neuroscience that most of the companies you list are probably after. "BCI" or "BMI" are definitely the hot keywords, though those companies could be years away from cognitive enhancement-type projects that you might be best suited for.

It's not in your list of interests, but cognitive/academic evaluation companies might be the best industry bet for someone coming from cog psych academia. I've been doing an EEG project with ETS recently; they funnel quite a bit of money into integrating "hard" science into testing.

Have you done a postdoc? Hear me out-- I know you want to get out of academia, but a year or two of postdocking will pay a living wage (well, not sure about Bay Area), and might be the best way to pick up/improve skills like ECoG/EEG/other electrophys, fMRI, and coding that are going to make you a top prospect in your areas of interest.
posted by supercres at 5:29 PM on October 15, 2013

Also: maybe look into consulting firms? OKCupid et al probably contract with them rather than keeping people on in-house.
posted by supercres at 5:32 PM on October 15, 2013


Your background is at the intersection of a number of interesting trends in business/technology, and you're looking in the right place for a job of that kind.

How are you marketing yourself?

Are you going to meetups, networking events, cocktail parties, etc. in SF & Silicon Valley? There are probably dozens of companies in that general area that could find a role for you.

How committed are you to finding a job that makes use of your academic training? Lots of companies are interested in hiring PhDs under the general assumption that PhDs are (for the most part) smart people who can quickly get up to speed on the job.
posted by dfriedman at 5:42 PM on October 15, 2013

OKCupid et al probably contract with them rather than keeping people on in-house.

I don't know if it is still the case, but OKCupid did have an in-house research team before they were bought out.
posted by dfriedman at 5:47 PM on October 15, 2013

I agree, start going to meetups, if you aren't already. Lots of them, on all sorts of subjects. Talk to people. After a while, some people will start to look familiar. Some of them will be chronically un/under-employed, you will soon realize why. Others will be looking for their next gig. Talk to them over coffee and tap into their experience and perspective. Still others will be actively or casually recruiting. Talk to them too, to learn about what they do, where they do it, and what they are looking for.

Also, while you might not have the chops for Google and Facebook's data science teams, you may well have the chops for "etc's" data science teams.

WRT Python, rather than focusing on learning to code, focus on using python to solve data-related problems. I'd suggest exploring iPython notebooks and other parts of the SciPy suite, particularly Pandas, NumPy and perhaps Sci-Kit learn. In addition to the data-munging and reshaping tools provided by Pandas, you'll also want to get into Regular Expressions, and passing functions as arguments to the "apply" and map method provided by pandas. Up to this point, R is probably as good or better than Python, but if you work out from there you'll start benefitting from Python as a general programming language.
posted by Good Brain at 6:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you interested in testing at all? There are a couple of testing companies in the Bay Area.

When I was in a similar position, I looked for UX just about anywhere, and also applied to some game companies for QA and some other positions.

Memail me for more info (relating to the job I ended up in, specifically, as well as what kinds of places I was able to land interviews, etc.).
posted by freezer cake at 9:30 PM on October 15, 2013

Have you hit up market research firms?
posted by discopolo at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2013

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