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A Day in the Life of a Neuroethicist: Laura Y. Cabrera

Laura Y. Cabrera is the Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Neuroethics Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics Associate Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics Associate Director Neuroethics and Engagement, Center for Neural Engineering Senior Research Associate | Rock Ethics Institute, at Pennsylvania State University.

1. What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

It depends, sometimes I join a meeting or check my to-do list of the day.

2. What’s your work routine like?

I do research, catch up with the literature on topics I am passionate about, analyze and interpret data (one of the best parts of the job!), work on manuscripts and grant submissions, prepare presentations for events where I am invited to give talks, have meetings with my collaborators and students about specific projects or to develop new projects I do teaching- that involves prepare my class, grade assignments, look into innovatives ways to present a topic I do service for my professional organizations- that involves leading committees, work on submissions for events, prepare presentation related to those organizations, or work on tasks/projects related to my professional organization service. I also do service for the university and larger community, that involves reviewing applicants for a program, reviewing grant proposals and manuscripts, serving in a hiring committee I mentor students and junior faculty.

3. Are you involved in the theoretical, investigative, or the practical/translational aspect of neuroethics? Describe your research area briefly.

I would say a bit of all of those....but most of my work is at the intersection of using empirical methods to investigate a relevant topic in neuroethics and then work on the practical/translational aspects of it.

4. What’s a challenge that you face on a daily basis as a neuroethicist?

Too many exciting things to cover!

5. How do you determine what questions deserve the most focus and attention in your work?

Questions that intersect my passion for a given topic with the practical impact it can have for communities and society.

6. What do you wish more people understood about being a neuroethicist? Whether it be from a schooling, interest, or day-in-the-life point of view? Describe neuroethics in your own words.

I wish people didn't equate ethics with law or trying to create barriers to those doing neuroscience or developing neurotechnology.

7. What skills or training do you most frequently use in your work and how do you suggest more people gain these skills if they want to contribute to the field?

Qualitative and quantitative methods, and critical thinking.

8. What do you love most about your work? What keeps you motivated?

I get to work with amazing colleagues from so many different disciplines, learn new things constantly as part of those collaborations and as part of the data gathered.

9. What’s one thing you wished you did differently in your career trajectory?

I am not sure, I feel my career trajectory has taken many interesting turns, and I have tried to learn from each of those turns.

10. What’s one thing you could advice the next generation of neuroethicists?

Be a constant critical thinker, and be aware of falling into hyping topics or solutions.

11. What’s the last thing you do when you leave work in the evening?

There is no one single thing, each day is a bit different, it can be checking/answering emails, make a to-do list for next day, or a note to myself on where I am stopping so i can continue next day.


This post is part of the Neuroethics Today blog series 'A Day in the Life of a Neuroethicist' where we bring you answers to questions by junior and senior neuroethicists about a day in their life to give you a better idea of what neuroethicists do, what have they learned throughout their trajectory, and ways that you can do it too.

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