When Dr. Jamie O’Reilly decided to apply for an IBRO Exchange Fellowship, he was working as a lecturer and researcher at Rangsit University, Thailand, processing electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) data to build models to study sensory and cognitive neurophysiology. While most of his work was computational, the neuroscientist found it important to have access to the machines used for acquiring the data he used in his analysis, so he could better conduct his research. The issue was that his university and, to his knowledge, no other institution nearby had a MEG machine at all.
To solve problems like the one faced by Dr. O’Reilly, the IBRO Exchange Fellowships aim to enable early career neuroscientists from diverse geographic areas and scientific backgrounds to broaden the scope of their training in neuroscience by conducting goal-directed short lab stays. In addition to granting access to research equipment, such lab exchanges also offer opportunities to learn new techniques, establish collaborations, and experience different research environments. Below, Dr. O’Reilly shares his experience visiting a lab in the KIT-Macquarie Brain Research (MEG) Laboratory at Macquarie University, in Australia, as an IBRO Exchange Fellow.
Dr. O’Reilly at the host lab during his short stay supported by an IBRO Exchange Fellowship
Could you give us a brief summary of your research?
My research concerns the development and application of digital signal-processing techniques for studying sensory and cognitive neurophysiology. For example, we are currently building recurrent neural network (RNN) models of event-related neural signals observed in electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings.
What motivated you to apply for an IBRO Exchange Fellowship?
At the time when I applied for the Exchange Fellowship, I was a lecturer and researcher in Thailand, at the Rangsit University, where there were no MEG machines. One of my collaborators, Dr. Jordan Wehrman (University of Sydney), introduced me to Prof. Paul Sowman, who worked with this type of machine. Thus, the IBRO Exchange Fellowship enabled me to go to the KIT-Macquarie Brain Research (MEG) Laboratory at Macquarie University, Australia, to work with Prof. Sowman and Dr. Judy Zhu, facilitating access to and training on MEG equipment for my own research.
How do you compare the different work environments?
During my time at the Rangsit University, I continued the research I had started during my PhD training at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. In Thailand, as I only analyzed data, my lab was basically my office, while in Scotland, it was a research lab focussed on in-vivo neurophysiology research. Thus, comparing my lab in Thailand to the one in Australia, they were worlds apart, as the Australian one was geared towards collecting data from MEG research in humans. There were also many other appreciable differences between the facilities of the host institution compared with those of my home institution in Thailand.
How has the IBRO Exchange Fellowship helped you and your career?
The IBRO Exchange Fellowship helped me to establish an international collaboration with outstanding researchers who were happy to share their knowledge and expertise. After the fellowship, I moved to a new institution (King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Thailand), where I received a “New Lecturer Grant” from KMITL Research and Innovation Services (KRIS). I was also granted a scholarship to attend the 2023 ERP Boot Camp in San Diego, led by Dr. Steven Luck (UC Davis) and Dr. Emily Kappenman (SDSU), and awarded an IBRO Travel Grant to attend the IBRO 2023 World Congress in Granada, Spain, which were both brilliant experiences. Finally, the collaboration I established with Prof. Sowman and Dr. Zhu enabled the publication of three research papers.
How did you find the application process and how did you prepare for it?
I recall it being fairly straightforward. After confirming that I met the eligibility criteria, I prepared and sent a draft research proposal to my host lab advisor, who gave his approval. I asked my current advisor at the time and my doctoral advisor if they would be happy to provide a reference. I also prepared my CV using the template provided and estimated the budget for travel, accommodation, living, and research expenses. Then I accessed the online application form, populated it with my prepared answers, and uploaded the required documents.
Do you have any recommendations for future applicants for this fellowship?
Try to plan your application well in advance. Importantly, make sure to develop a compelling case for your research stay at the host laboratory. Have your advisors on board from the beginning to ensure they are prepared to provide timely recommendations. And, ideally, establish a connection with your host lab before applying.
Join Dr. Jamie O’Reilly: apply for an IBRO Exchange Fellowship if you are based in Africa, Asia-Pacific, or Latin America, or for a FENS/IBRO-PERC Exchange Fellowship if you work in Europe. Applications for the two current open calls for Exchange Fellowships are open until 15 April 2024.
If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact the IBRO Communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.