Featured ‘Day in the life of’: Vanessa, a PhD student researching Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC

I study the role of metabotropic glutamate receptors in neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. My lab employs a new cutting edge tool that allows for specific spatiotemporal control of these receptors using light. With this technology, we can ask new questions about how glutamate and the receptors activated by this neurotransmitter modulate different areas of the brain, and where this goes wrong in different diseases.


You can follow me on Instagram at @brain_kween . I am trying to build a platform where I can communicate my science in a relatable and funny way to millennials using analogies, including lots of Starbucks and Tinder jokes 😉. When I’m not studying brains I love cooking in my tiny NYC apartment and rock climbing!

9AM: Up and walking to work. I live 7 blocks away from my lab which is super convenient especially on lazy mornings! Surprisingly a nice day in NYC for spring.


9:30AM: Lab work in the hood. Checking my cell health and transfecting cells with DNA. We use HEK293T cells in the lab (pictured in the eyepiece).


10AM: Necessary morning coffee while organizing my schedule and figuring out everything I need to do for the day and for the rest of the week.



11AM: Animal behavior. I am not allowed to take pictures of the mice (they need their privacy), but as a neuroscientist we commonly run animals through tests to answer questions. This is a box we allow the mice to run around in while we test them and record their behavior.


12:30 PM: Lab birthday lunch! One of our graduate students had a birthday last week so we went to my favorite UES Thai restaurant to celebrate with yummy pad see-ew


2PM: Back to behavior. Figuring out the concentrations of a compound I need to use and how much to give to each mouse. Lots of small calculations.



4PM: Imaging the brain under a microscope. I have samples I placed on a slide with different fluorescent stains, and I am taking images of them for my research. I’m going to have to count each dot in these images (…this may take me awhile…) or figure out an automated way to analyze it.


6PM: Post lab student break. Weill Cornell has a very active student community, and today they happened to be hosting an open mic night featuring the schools acapella group and jazz band. Enjoying the music in the student lounge!


8:30 PM: One of the best perks of being in NYC is all of the events available to you. I went to see one of my favorite podcasts (RISK!) live at a downtown bar with an old friend from the previous lab where I did my research technician work. So nice to take a break and catch up.


11PM: Closing out the night with some reading for tomorrow, but mostly getting through 1-2 paragraphs and then calling it a day. Sometimes reading science journals before bed helps me fall asleep (😂).

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