2015 Science Career Panel

Meet our 2015 Scientist Panel:

Jason Christie, Max Planck Florida Institute for NeuroscienceJason Christie, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator – Mechanisms of Synaptic Signaling and Computation

Dr. Jason Christie’s research focuses on the fundamental aspects of neurotransmission at synapses, the point-to-point connections between neurons. In particular, his research group studies how the strength of synaptic transmission becomes stronger or weaker due to preceding neuronal activity.

Dr. Christie joined the Max Planck Florida Institute in July 2010 as Research Group Leader in Synaptic Signaling and Computation. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Christie conducted research at the Vollum Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, where he completed his doctoral and post-doctoral work. While at the Vollum Institute, he was awarded a National Research Service Award. He currently serves as an ad hoc editor for the Journal of Neurophysiology and the Journal of Neuroscience.


Nicole Holstrom, Max Planck Florida Institute for NeuroscienceNicole Holstrom
Mechanical Engineer – Mechanical Workshop

Nicole Holstrom’s work primarily includes machining and building specialized scientific equipment that will be used by the scientists to further their research. She programs and operates 5-axis CNC milling machines to make these one-of-a-kind parts that will be used in experiments. The parts are predominately made out of aluminum, titanium, or plastic.

Nicole joined the Mechanical Workshop at MPFI in December of 2014. She graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Chemistry. She then attended Santa Barbara City College where she received her Automotive Technician Certificate, and this is where her interests shifted from the research side of science to the support side of science. She obtained her machining experience at the College of Engineering Machine Shop, UCSB, where she worked as the Student Shop Supervisor. Life then moved her to Colorado where she worked in a small job shop. Her move to MPFI has allowed her to reconnect both of her passions of science and machining.


Tavita Garrett, Max Planck Florida Institute for NeuroscienceTavita Garrett
Post-Baccalaureate Fellow – Neuronal Signal Transduction

Tavita Garrett works in MPFI Scientific Director, Ryohei Yasuda’s lab where she uses two-photon microscopy to investigate the role of insulin receptors in hippocampal learning and memory. Her experience in the PRE program at MPFI gives her the opportunity to gain more research experience and see research science from a new perspective.

Tavita joined MPFI in May 2015 as a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow. Tavita attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA and graduated in 2012 with  B.S. degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology. A few months after graduation, Tavita accepted a post-baccalaureate research position at the Center for Structural and Functional Neuroscience at the University of Montana-Missoula. The lab’s interests focused on the role of inhibitory neurons in learning and memory. Tavita presented her work at Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meetings, where she first learned about MPFI’s PRE program.


Watch the 2015 Career Panel here, or click on the links below to go to a specific topic


  1. Can you describe your educational background and what inspired you to pursue your career? (6:11)
  2. What is a Post Baccalaureate program and who typically applies to this type of program? (10:17)
  3. Can you talk about what your day-to-day activities are in the Mechanical Workshop and how have you been able to draw from your Chemistry background in that setting? (12:26)
  4. Can you define what a ‘PI’ is and what you think are the most important skills to be a successful PI? (15:45)
  5. How can a middle or high school student know that a career in science is for them? (20:59)
  6. Why is it that so many science internships only look for juniors and seniors in high school? Why not gear it towards the middle schoolers and start them small and grow bigger? (26:21)
  7. What would be the best way for a middle schooler to prepare for a future career in science? (28:11)
  8. When you choose a specific scientific focus such as neuroscience or chemistry and you work at an institution like Max Planck, are you able to work in different fields in the same area? If you work here, can do something other than neuroscience? (31:48)
  9. If computer science isn’t an actual field of science, what should I study in order to have a future career in science? (33:08)
  10. How did you get involved in the research you are doing now and can you go a little in depth as to what you are currently researching? (34:32)
  11. Are there any certain high schools or colleges that you prefer to recruit from? (38:19)
  12. What is the suggested career path for someone wanting to be a doctor (MD) in neuroscience? (41:33)
  13. How long does it take to jumpstart your career in science? (42:58)
  14. How many years of college would you take to start a career in science? (44:18)
  15. Are there Mechanical Engineer interns and if there are, when do they start? (47:16)
  16. Are you guys doing any early classes for kids who aren’t ready yet for the high school internship? (52:14)
  17. What was the biggest project each of you worked on and what was the outcome? (53:12)
  18. What courses should someone take in high school to prepare them for a college major in astrophysics and theoretical physics? (56:55)
  19. What is your opinion on requirements or preparation for a career in aerospace or environment engineering? (58:33)
  20. What are your different options for research either independent research or laboratory based in college or beyond? (01:00:08)
  21. What obstacles have you faced during your life to pursue your career? (01:01:18)
  22. What training do you need to achieve a career in neurobiology? (01:03:06)
  23. In your career, what challenges do you face in the everyday work that you do? (01:05:09)
  24. What are some of the different things that interns at the institute do? (01:06:34)

View questions and answers from our 2014 Science Career Panel here.