Name + social media handles
Sarah Treit, PhD @figures.first
Your job title
Research Associate (University of Alberta) and Founder – Figures First Consulting
PhD Elevator Spiel
I completed my PhD in Neuroscience in 2015. My research used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain development in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Specifically, I conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal studies using structural MRI and cognitive testing to study how trajectories of white matter development relate to cognitive development and dysfunction in this population.
What have you done since finishing your PhD?
I have continued my research in neuroimaging, though now with a broader focus on lifespan brain development in healthy/typical populations (from childhood to late life aging) and how this differs in various neurological disorders (e.g. epilepsy). Since finishing my PhD I have also had 2 children (now 4 and 2 years old) and I’ve started a consulting company called Figures First.
How do the skills learnt in your PhD assist you in your current role and what are your future plans?
I am excited to grow my business, which aims to help academics to create more effective figures and data visualizations. This has been a passion of mine since I started in academia. Figures play a critical role in making results understandable and memorable, yet learning how to make impactful figures is not usually included in graduate training. To help fill this gap I offer workshops to graduate students, post doctoral fellows and other trainees, which will soon be launched as a self-paced e-course. I also offer consulting services to PIs to help them improve the clarity, readability and impact of figures in their grant proposals, manuscripts and other outputs. My graduate training provided me with so many essential skills that I use daily in this business, most importantly the ability to read and critically evaluate scientific writing in a range of disciplines, how to pull out the important take home messages, and how to optimize the communication of these key findings through data visuals.
If you could give one piece of advice to new PhD students, what would it be?
Don’t underestimate the connections you make in grad school, and follow opportunities that you are passionate about. It’s easy to develop a narrow focus in grad school on what (and who) seems most relevant or important to your degree, but try to keep an open mind because you truly never know what directions your research and career will take you. Sometimes the experiences and connections that you’d least expect will become the most important down the road. This isn’t to say that you should follow every opportunity that comes up, but if you feel strongly about something, explore that!
Anything else you would like to share
Academia gets a lot of flack, especially on social media. As much as academia has some undoubtedly problematic aspects to it (being intensely competitive, underpaying and overworking trainees and HQP, etc.) it is also a truly magical environment in many ways. Working in academia surrounds you with a unique group of the most curious, determined and innovative people out there, who are literally changing our understanding of the world through their work. For me, this is an incredible source of inspiration that is worth embracing.
academia, academic blog, career blog, Careers, careers after phd, consultancy, phd blog, phd survival guide, post phd, science, women in stem